Co-Artistic Director Hayley Greggs on filling up the cup for North West theatre-makers

I’m going to start by letting you in on something here. 

What you’re about to read is take-two of an interview with the brains behind Paperwork Theatre. The first recording, I obliterated by chucking a cup of tea all over my laptop (RIP trusty MacBook). The irony here being that Paperwork Theatre is the home of Teacup Commissions - a community-driven scheme designed to provide local artists with donation-based funds to get their project off the ground. So, whilst one teacup emptied (all over the keyboard of my computer), another was filling up elsewhere. 

When the world shut down last year, we decided to take them online so that artists could continue to meet

Fortunately, the theatre group is co-directed by two extremely lovely human beings, Hayley Greggs and Nicole Behan who were willing to tell me all about Paperwork and it’s projects déjà vu-style. We spoke about how Liverpool is a natural story-telling city due to its diversity of skills and then got stuck into how they plan to nurture platforms from which aspiring artists can leap. The perfect, physical embodiment of filling up your cup in order to give out to the rest of the world. 

That’s enough from me now though because I’m starting to sound like the Mad Hatter. Over to you, Hayley… 

Hayley Greggs Co Artistic Director Of Paperwork Theatre Group In Liverpool
Hayley Greggs, co-Artistic Director of Paperwork Theatre Group

What's the story behind Paperwork Theatre?

Hayley: The company was launched in 2014. We were working in the Everyman & Playhouse Theatre together - Nicole was working for the Community Outreach team and I was in the Literary Department. During this time, we got really good at doing the paperwork (see what we did there?) but alongside that, we both wanted to be making new work of our own. We couldn’t necessarily get on the stages at the time so we started staging our work in non-theatre spaces like red telephone boxes, disused warehouses and shopping centres. Our work has now evolved into three strands: theatre (productions on the stage or in non-theatre spaces), community such as our weekly Women’s Drama Group, and an Artist Opportunities programme. 

What do you both do there?

Hayley: We are both Co-Artistic Directors, which means that we share a lot of responsibilities like planning our programme of work and putting together creative teams. We try to play to our own strengths – Nicole is the queen of funding applications and I love a timeline. Artistically, I tend to focus on developing the work whether as a writer or as a dramaturg, and Nicole directs our work. 

Liverpool Paperwork Theatre Productions
One of Paperwork's productions

Tell us more about Teacup Commissions and your Artistic Opportunities programme

Hayley: Our programme includes Script Surgery – a chance to get bespoke dramaturgical advice on an extract of your work in progress, Play Dates – a series of skills development workshops, and Teacup Commissions. Teacup Commissions is a micro-fund to support the development of a new artistic idea for less than the price of a cuppa. Donations are made and then every time the cup reaches £200, local theatre-makers can pitch to win it to support a new project. It has all really taken off throughout lockdown. When the world shut down last year, we decided to take them online so that artists could continue to meet - which has been vital at a time when we can’t be together - to collaborate and develop skills. The good thing about taking our Artists Opps and Teacup Commissions online is that we’ve had a wider reach and we’ve seen this translate into donations from lots of lovely people.

Liverpool Artists Pitching To Win The Teacup Commissions Programme By Paperwork Theatre
Liverpool artists pitching to the Teacup Commissions programme

How can Joe Bloggs support Teacup Commissions?

Hayley: Before the world closed down, we actually had a teacup (well it was a mug) and at our workshops, we’d ask that if anyone could spare a pound or two, that they’d contribute to our Teacup Commissions and pop it into the cup. However, if you'd like to make a donation now, you can just head to our website where you’ll find a link to our PayPal page. 

What do you think the future holds for theatre in the North West?

Hayley: It is a very worrying time. We’re seeing many artists struggling to survive and so we risk losing them to other industries. It’s is taking a huge toll on mental health. We’re trying to remain positive and we know that artists are resilient and resourceful and that means that at difficult times like these, we can see some fantastic work start to emerge. But we fear there is still an uphill struggle yet. 

Liverpool Paperwork Theatres Womens Drama Group Virtual Workshop On Zoom
The group went online to carry on encouraging artists to meet during the pandemic

If you could adapt any iconic theatre script to offer your own take on it - which one and why?

Hayley: We probably wouldn’t! We tend to make all our own stuff. Although the last project we did before lockdown was kind of inspired by a book that I own. It’s called The Art of Kissing by Hugh Morris. It’s a 1930s guide to kissing for men and it’s horrendous (and hilarious). In the wake of the #MeToo campaign, it made for a very interesting subject matter. 

Follow the author of this feature Steph Whalley on Twitter

Want to get involved?

For more info about Paperwork Theatre and its community-centric programmes, visit Paperwork Theatre website. For artists looking to fund a new project and interested in getting involved, head to the website and complete the super quick Google form with a one-minute video chatting through your idea.

To donate the price of a cuppa (doesn’t even have to be the price of a Starbucks cuppa, just anything you can spare) and support the Teacup Commissions project, head straight to the Paperwork Theatre PayPal page.

Read next: From the terraces - An A-Z of outdoor bevvies in Liverpool

Read again: Plattsville Bakehouse: The rising bakery born in a terrace