Behind-the-Artists at Jabberwocky Market: Kirsten Luckins

Kirsten Luckins_Jabberwocky Market

1. What does it mean to you to be sharing your story here at the Jabberwocky Market? 
In my experience as a punter, Jabberwocky Market is a really well-curated mixture of genuinely exciting theatre, including lots of work that incorporates or blurs boundaries with other forms of performance. It means a lot to be included on a high-quality programme. My piece is structured around poetry, so it is doubly exciting to be positioned among theatre-makers. 
2. It has been said, “People come to the theatre to see themselves.” How are you aiming to connect with people? What are you hoping they’ll take away from your show?
I’m very much here to entertain! My performance style is direct and conversational, and my show ‘The Trouble With Compassion’ is chock full of jokes at my own expense. It’s also got a fair few fun bits of audience participation – nothing scary, nothing that singles people out! But we do take a break half way through to listen to Motown and draw bad stick-figure portraits of one another! I hope people will go away feeling like they’ve laughed, and thought a little bit about how to be compassionate towards themselves and others. I don’t expect profound revelations, but I am often surprised by people who talk to me afterwards about how they’ve recognised their own behaviours  in my poems and stories.
3. What would you like us to know about you? 
You should know that there is a collection of poetry that goes alongside this show, that I’d love people to buy when the come to see me! It’s my first full collection, so it’s a big deal for me – probably less impressive for non-poets 🙂
4. How has your upbringing shaped who you are today? How have you incorporated it into your art?
I do make a joke at one point in the show about my middle-class guilt – in fact, there’s a whole poem about it, which is only partly joking. I think I’ve been brought up to be both sociable and honest, and I think this show relies on both of these qualities. <
5. What advice would you give young artists?
Say yes to every opportunity that comes your way, because there are many more of them now than there were when I was younger. I grew up pre-internet, so I’m constantly amazed and grateful at how easy it is now to find out about groups, networks, classes, performances and all those wonderful things. I’d also say that even if you think you know what kind of artist you are, for example a poet, you should never dismiss the chance to learn other disciplines. It will all influence and inform your future work, so be interested in it all.

*FOR FUN* You’re on “I’m a Celebrity Get Me Outta Here” and you get to the final three. You’ve been eating beans & rice for weeks. You order your dream meal. ANY Starter, Main, Dessert, & a Drink. What do you order? 
Oh heck – probably a roast chicken dinner, with pear and chocolate pudding afterwards. I don’t drink, so that’s irrelevant, and I don’t want to spoil my appetite with a starter…
The Trouble with Compassion
Date: Friday, September 30, 2016
Time: 7:30pm (60 mins)
Location: Liddiard Theatre
Tickets: £10 / £7 (£12 on door)
Visit to purchase tickets & for more information.
Want more on Kirsten? Visit her site at

Pay It Forward

It’s a long time now since the concept of paying it forward became a screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-08-56-42thing. The Hollywood film from 2000 captured the zeitgeist of doing something lovely for someone else, with the possibility that sometime in the future you had some credit in the karma bank.  Read loads more about it on wikipedia – a site that you could say benefits from just this kind of support.

Then a few years later the world got Suspended Coffees – some genius realised the joy a free coffee could bring to someone who couldn’t afford it, a little bit of joy in a modern world where hot drinks are a ubiquitous luxury for the majority.

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As part of Jabberwocky Market we have always been determind to find ways to make our events accessible to everyone, and we believe to our core that theatre can bring the world to our back door, explain life’s mysteries and be really fun to attend. We want to give that opportunity to anyone who wants to give it a try and one of the ways we can make this happen is the Pay It Forward tickets.

If you want to give it a go, just click our ticketing page, buy one or more PIF tickets for the concession rate of just £7 each, and we’ll do the rest.

If you would like to claim one of our PIF tickets, get in touch in one of the ways listed below, otherwise, we work with charities in Darlington to distribute the tickets.

Contact us on:
07583 655018
in person at the Jabbervan (town centre from 23-29 September)


Blogger gets her hands dirty making a theatre

Well hello there my dear Jabberwockies, your resident blogger Gemma Hirst  is back this year hoping to fill you in on the latest goings with the Jabberwocky Market events this season.

Gemma & Debi getting into the Cattle Market_Photo Jade Byrne
This is me in the pink scarf, with another volunteer, Debi. Photo by Jade Byrne

For those of who you may not know me, I am a third year journalism student at Sunderland University and Culture Editor of Kettle Magazine. I used to perform but now I prefer to be on this side of the stage reviewing theatre.

Usually working behind a laptop, I decided to get my hands dirty and go to the Jabberwocky Market to help turn the Cattle Market into a suitable performance space.

It was my first time in Darlington and I was looking forward to the work that had to be done. Arriving in the afternoon, I finally met Caroline and Jade (after only conversing via email) and they introduced me to the rest of the team who would be turning this place into a fabulous venue.

No messing around the Jabberwocky volunteers like to get to work straight away. The first task on the agenda was to clean and sweep out the auction ring (theatre and auditorium) to make sure it was spik and span, after a good measure of sweeping and elbow grease the place looked fit for Shakespeare.

RA & PPB getting in to Cattle Market_Photo by  Jade Byrne
Richard, Paul and Gwyl technically creating the theatre. Photo by Jade Byrne

We here at Jabberwocky want to make sure you feel as comfy as possible when you experience a show with us, so we turned the animal pens into a cafe like sitting area- decorating it with cardboard grass, flowers, plastic bugs and of course lots and lots of bunting for you guys to relax and talk about the fun shows that we have at Jabberwocky Market.

I had not realised how hard it is to turn an everyday cattle market into a theatre, well done to the team of volunteers who managed to make it look Jabberwocky ready.

For more information on Jabberwocky Market:

Boy and wasp dancing_Image Rich Kenworthy
The finished result. This boy loved the dancing wasps.
Image by Rich Kenworthy


Announcing events for spring 2016

jms6 show collage

Sorry for the break in updates, we’ve been working on a load of new ideas for Jabberwocky Markets in 2016 and they’re really exciting, so we’ll start to tell you now.

This is the line up for shows this spring.  Each show will sit within a bespoke event, so make sure you arrive early and plan to stay after the end of the show; we’ll bring along the Jabbervan and loads of things to see and do that complement the themes.

For details click onto our official site and from there you can book your tickets (most are on sale now, the others will be in the next few days).  The first show happens in 6 weeks, on 12th March.  It’s called Grass and has it’s own minisite with activities for children.

12 March   Grass
19-20 March  Backstage in Biscuit Land
1 April   Empire of the Rats
23-24 April  Until You Hear That Bell

Coming next…

The ink is barely dry on the last Jabberwocky Market, but we already have some news about what’s happening next.

From 2016 onwards you will see a slight change.  Jabberwocky Market Festival will continue, once a year in early October, with all the things we know and love – a Scratch Night, a launch party, panel discussion and a load of brilliant shows.  As well as that, throughout the year there will be all sorts of Jabberwocky Markets – one-off alternative theatre events, each featuring one show in a surprising venue with loads of related fun stuff.

Backstage in Biscuitland

One such Jabberwocky Market event is going to feature the tourettes hero herself, Jess Thom, bringing the much lauded Backstage in Biscuit Land to a Darlington venue near you on 19 & 20 March, 2016.  We’ll tell you more as soon as we can.  In the meantime, have a watch of this video:

And one more thing.  You can see Backstage in Biscuit Land on BBC4 on Saturday 15 November (9-11pm) as part of Live from Television Centre, alongside loads of other shows from our friends at Battersea Arts Centre.  Set your telly to watch and record – it will be awesome.

Festival Launch Show, review by Robert Mooney

Parked by Flex Dance. Photo by Rich Kenworthy.
Parked by Flex Dance. Photo by Rich Kenworthy.

Jabberwocky Market festival is something I look forward to every season and their launch night surpassed my expectations.

Featuring Kate Fox, Mush and Flex Dance, much of the subject for the performances came from personal experiences, making it that bit more unique, while Flex Dance, a group of dancers with learning difficulties, told a gripping story without the need for much speech at all.

Mush, a band with an odd but tuneful mix of musical instruments, played songs written from their own experience and while not what I would usually listen to, the mix of voice, piano, violin and electric guitar worked well. While many songs built suspense and an eerie feel, this brought more drama to the performance

Mush. Photo by Rich Kenworthy.
Mush. Photo by Rich Kenworthy.

Kate Fox, a regular on BBC Radio 4 and having performed at the Edinburgh Fringe, as well as being Poet in Residence for The Great North Run, had a varied and comedic repertoire of poems, ranging from those about the North to Disability but also very random. I found that much of this was very relatable and the poems were extremely catchy, much like a song.

Flex Dance, based in Durham, told the very moving story of a man who had lost a big part of his life in his partner, however, the performance was very engaging and told a story without the need for many words. Given that the performers have some degree of learning difficulty, it wasn’t noticeable if you didn’t know already.

Overall, the launch night was extremely enjoyable and it was good to see some lesser known people getting to show their talents. A great way to launch a festival about just that.

– Robert Mooney

Performance: Thursday 1 October, 7pm at Liddiard Theatre, Polam School.
Running time: 80 minutes.

Mush and Kate Fox at the Launch. Photo by Rich Kenworthy.
Mush and Kate Fox at the Launch. Photo by Rich Kenworthy.

At The End Of Everything Else, review by Robert Mooney

At The End Of Everything Else at Mercure Darlington Kings Hotel. Photo by Rich Kenworthy.
At The End Of Everything Else at Mercure Darlington Kings Hotel. Photo by Rich Kenworthy.

“At The End of Everything Else” by Make Do and Mend Theatre, while rather appropriately being the last show of this season of Jabberwocky Market, was not the reason for its namesake. A creative and beautiful story of a girl how she copes with life after her mum dies, it uses silhouettes, made by props and a video background to tell the story of the girls journey.

Finding comfort in helping an injured bird, the girl goes on a journey round the world which will change her outlook on life. Will she succeed in finding the bird? You’ll have to see for yourself. Not only does she go to find the bird but also herself and this is what makes the story so gripping.

With great audience participation, getting the audience, including me, to ride a bike in order to power the show, this was a fun show for all the family. Overall, the story is a journey of ups and downs and will keep you interested throughout the show. While you may not be able to go and see the show in Darlington, the show will be on in other venues and I would definitely recommend seeing it.

– Robert Mooney

Performance: Sunday 4 October, 2pm at Mercure Darlington Kings Hotel
Running time: 40 minutes.

“A return to Jabberwocky Market” by Stewart Pringle

Re-posted from
See the original post from 6 October 2015 at

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It’s been 12 months, to the weekend, since I last visited Darlington, and its Jabberwocky Market. It was wet then, with Fun Palaces fighting gamely against the weather in gazebos by the indoors market, a damp walk from the town centre to Pollam High School to catch Ballad of the Burning Star, and a bizarre, stubbornly interactive take on ‘A Christmas Carol’ as the first tentative wave of tinsel and baubles appeared on the top floor of Binns department store.

This is the fifth Jabberwocky Market. It’s the fifth wave of shows transported with the help of Battersea Arts Centre, and twinned with local produce as part of the Collaborative Touring Network. Five festivals is a lot of festivals, and the project is far from over, though you sense it’s found more of its own shape, an appropriately strange and surprising shape for a festival named after a mythical mirror-beast.

Catching up with festival producer Caroline Pearce, we talk about the journey the Jabberwocky has taken over the past 12 months, the things that have worked and been built upon, and the things that have been cast aside. The latter includes a centralisation of the performances into a single space, while the former takes in what Caroline describes as the innate cautiousness of Darlington audiences. Darlington is not Newcastle, and it isn’t Leeds. It’s something of a liminal town, between garrulous Tynesiders and the more reserved Yorkshire types. It’s not the richest of towns, and has found itself and its cultural landscape in particular savaged by cuts (snicker-snack). What is surprising, and seems to have surprised Caroline and her Jabberwocky team too, is that that question of centralisation versus a more diffuse spread across the town has proven crucial to hooking in those more reluctant audiences:

‘I think there’s something much more interesting about taking shows to lots of different places,’ she tells me ‘What I enjoy about that process is thinking about who the audience are, thinking about what the shows are, and then matching them and finding a space which accommodates both of those things. And you often find that the most unexpected space is the best one.’ It’s why this year’s festival sees Jabberwocky’s most adventurous use of spaces yet, as well as its most populous and enthusiastic audiences.

North-East poet Kate Fox steals the Festival Launch Show, a bit like a non-shit Pam Ayres, but more political, her short poems and stories of ‘taking on the Southern Media hegemony one flat-vowel at a time’ are irresistible, as she describes her residences with Glastonbury and the Great North Run. There’s similarly cockle-warming work from Flex Dance, who present ‘Parked’, the story of an everyday hero, a down and out who weathers the seasons on a park bench with his suitcase of memories. A company dedicated to producing and promoting work by learning disabled performers, there’s a sly and suggestive anti-austerity angle packed in there with the fun and the whimsy. There’s an impressive control of pathos here too, in a work that touches serious subjects without ever dropping its smile.

A year ago the Scratch Night crammed itself into a function room above the Voodoo Café (dispenser of fine enchilada’s and craft beer), this year it has ballooned to fill the Liddiard Theatre in Pollam High School, with a packed audience watching and scribbling feedback for four work in progress pieces from the North East. Most polished and accomplished are Fun in the Oven, an all-female dance and physical theatre group who present a section of their latest project Munitionettes titled ‘The Canary Girls’. Taking its inspiration from the work of women in wartime factories, where the Trinitrotoluene they packed into shell casings would stain their skin yellow and expose them to horrific physical ailments. A musical grotesque, they clearly take inspiration from groups such as 1927, Kill the Beast and Les Enfants Terribles, but in their mixing of gruesome comedy, movement and a real political and social message, their work is very promising. There’s still development required to link the (often very funny) physical skits with the wider narrative, but that’s what scratch is for, eh?

Smaller but neater is Bolivian dancer Yuvel Soria’s short piece ‘Retratos’, which suggests a figure trapped in an urban environment, driven by an obsession with an elusive and complex thing that flees any attempt to grasp or unpick it. Soria blends traditional Bolivian dance with something far more local and contemporary, and whether he chases an addiction, a lost love, or an escape is never clear, but Soria’s performance is eloquent and intriguing. Neither a short episodic reflection on mother/daughter relationships by Celeste Hay nor a humorous but thematically obscure short play set in a mysterious blend of a brothel and Dignitas are as effective or complete, but that’s the joy of these evenings, and it feels like a form that Darlington’s audience are becoming increasingly comfortable and enthusiastic to embrace.

Beats North makes a stop off on its tour of the North-East to spread out across the Quaker Meeting Hall. A pair of monologues by Luke Barnes and Ishy Dinn, they take in two disaffected Tyneside adolescents, who find the identities their difficult upbringings threaten in the music that they love. Wright’s piece, performed by Tom Booth, tells the story of Jack, whose attachment to rag-doll Jade and the music of Bonnie Tyler puts him at odds with his macho father and his peers; while Dinn’s introduces us to Ali (Afnan Prince), whose relationship with posh-girl Bernie and the sparks set off by her father’s record collection creates tensions with his strict Pakistani father. Performed on a stage shaped like a 7”, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that Barnes’ is the lead single, with Dinn’s shorter and less complete piece the inessential B-side, but taken together they’re punchy and satisfying, if the presence of Mariam Rezaei’s DJ cum master of ceremonies never quite gels or boosts the energy in the way you feel it should.

It feels particularly at home in a festival which Caroline describes as ‘transitional’, both in its outlook and the audiences it’s looking to hook in. ‘A lot of the people who are coming to see these shows are people who are at a phase in their life in which things are changing for them: they’ve just got married, or just left university or retired. And they’re looking for something new. They’re not just looking for the same old routine.’ These are the windows of opportunity, the cracks in the busy schedules of individuals who might not generally consider a theatre trip, which Caroline hopes to fill with the work at Jabberwocky.

This season’s spine shows, selected by the Jabberwocky producers from a menu of recent acclaimed productions, include Danny Braverman’s warm and elegiac Wot? No Fish!! and Chris Brett Bailey’s pupil-black This Is How We Die, both playing to packed houses, the vast majority of who had never encountered these works before. Both recent darlings of the alternative theatre scene, their presence in Darlington, where Braverman reduces a school hall into gentle sobs and Brett Bailey tears through a local night-club, fulfils one of the Collaborative Touring Network’s core objectives: improving access to some of the UK’s most talked-about and vital work. After TIHWD Maddy Costa led twenty or so local residents in a Theatre Club discussion, rebadged for Darlington as the Jabbering Theatre Club, and as in Margate earlier this year, the piece found more or less blanket approval. As well as the usual comparisons to William Burroughs and the Beat poetry of the 1960’s, the discussion covered questions of nihilism versus celebration in the text, its ‘orgasmic’ structure, the identity or position of the narrator, and his complicity or otherwise in his monologue’s frequent attacks on categories, boundaries and the politically correct.

Stewart Pringle jabbering at Inside Out. Photo by Rich Kenworthy.
Stewart Pringle jabbering at Inside Out. Photo by Rich Kenworthy.

The Jabbering also opened up a few questions which have been stirring around Brett Bailey’s piece all year – namely the weight of expectation created by the show’s unprecedented cult hype, one that’s only increased by its reputation as a ‘shocking’ piece. On entry to the club, the audience were handed earplugs because it ‘gets loud at the end’, others had been told to expect something wild or wildly offensive. There was even an air of disappointment that the expected wave of revulsion and horror hadn’t arrived. It’s not the way that people usually talk about theatre at all. If it has an analogue, it’s something like the way that illicit films are passed between school-friends, or shared on the internet. It’s a VHS of The Evil Dead in 1989. It’s ‘Two Girls One Cup’ 20 years later. When it’s all over, people say things like ‘It wasn’t that bad’, ‘it was gentler than I thought’, ‘It could have gone further’. It’s the Nemesis at Alton Towers. It’s the Pepsi Max and a bungee jump and a scotch bonnet and a video nasty. While it continues to unfold as a text, it’s also still unfolding as a sensation. It isn’t touring in a normal way, to Darlington or anywhere else, it’s touring as part of the story of itself, which everyone who has written about it and Tweeted about it is complicit with. A story in which, even in an ex-railway town hundreds of miles from London, Megan Vaughan is probably the main character. How cool is that??

Eating fried fish balls in a school hall. Dancing at 3pm in a Quaker Meeting House. Chatting the erotics of death under a deserted nightclub at 9pm on a Saturday. The Collaborative Touring Network feels quite open to criticism at times. It’s at least as full of the sort of stuff that London has decided is cool as the stuff that burbles from the grass-roots, and it probably costs a heap of money. But I defy you to go up to Darlington, and talk to the people there who are so excited and invigorated to be there, and to see this work blossom on their doorstep. To talk so excitedly and enthusiastically about what they’ve seen and what they’re going to see, and not just think that this is just absolutely, utterly brilliant. They’ve got Backstage in Biscuitland is coming up for the next festival in March, and they’re not just super stoked about that (and believe me they’re super stoked), but Caroline has already started putting access at the heart of her festival’s agenda. Signed shows are planned. Large print programmes are already available. She’s moving faster, and more nimbly and affirmatively than a good half of the art scenes in bigger and more populous towns and cities with bigger and more funded and more visible arts scenes.

It’s bloody cool, guys.

Get involved.

Beats North, review by Helen Devonshire

Beats North image by Rich Kenworthy
Photo by Rich Kenworthy

Beats North is a double bill of one-man plays about growing up in the north east and how music helps/hinders that journey.

The characters Jack (played by Tom Booth) and Al (played by Afnan Prince) are assisted by DJ Mariam Rezaei as ‘musical puppeteer’; their performances are fun, energetic and full of light and shade. Both plays address teenage angst and other people’s expectations as two boys from different backgrounds explore their musical tastes and try to figure out the meaning of life, or at least how to get a girlfriend.

The first play, by Luke Barnes, is about 14-year-old Jack who has a doll that understands him and a father who doesn’t. Father and son disagree over music choices but agree it defines and inspires them. The live-mixed soundtrack provides scenery for the ears, and the imagery of Jack being beaten up at school made me believe he’d have bruises.

In the second play, written by Ishy Din, parental disappointment also looms large. Al’s pursuit of his guitar-playing dreams includes attempting to learn that riff from Smoke on the water, while trying to respect his Pakistani family’s aspirations for him.

Loads of great music is brilliantly timed throughout to evoke emotions, which is exactly what music does best.

– Helen Devonshire

Performance: Saturday 3 October, 1pm at Quaker Meeting House.
Running time: 80 minutes.

Award-winning theatre events in Darlington