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Post Date

08 July 2011


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Artichoke Hearts Newsletter: Summer 2011

Welcome to the second Artichoke Hearts newsletter of 2011.  When we launched the Hearts scheme, people told us they'd welcome news from 'behind the scenes': the inside track on what we do!  Do, please, feel free to ask if you have any burning questions, as well as letting me know what you think!

DINING WITH ALICE - Norfolk & Norwich Festival, May 2011

We were really pleased with how many Artichoke Hearts (and other followers) made the journey to Norfolk to see Dining with Alice in May, and I hope the event lived up to your expectations.   Alice was in some ways very different to the events usually produced by Artichoke, in that it was designed for a small-ish audience rather than huge numbers, and took place in a private garden rather than a public place.  But in other ways it was at the heart of what we try to do: hugely (some would say ridiculously) ambitious in scale and execution, by turns mad and magical, and living in the memory of the audience long after they’d returned to normal life. 

I do hope we achieved something special – certainly the feedback we received from press and public was, by and large, extremely positive.  We were extraordinarily lucky to have found such a beautiful location (and such willing and uncomplaining hosts) at Elsing Hall, and I’m sure everyone who visited shared our sense at having stumbled into a magical world.  But we were also very fortunate to have had so many collaborators who made the show possible: the show’s creator, Hilary Westlake, and the rest of her production team; the cast, musicians and crew; and of course Bompas & Parr, whose eccentric and delightful meal took us all straight to Wonderland.

Thank yous

Any Artichoke event is only possible thanks to the generosity of many donors, sponsors and funders who made the production a reality.  Alice was the last of our events to be sponsored by Sky Arts, who have partnered Artichoke for the last two years.  Their support has enabled us to mount some great projects, including Antony Gormley’s One & Other, and the three salons we produced last year in London, Liverpool and Cornwall.  The film they made about Dining with Alice can still be seen on the Sky Arts channels, or you can see a short version of it here.

Community involvement

Our shows usually have opportunities for volunteers and trainees to work alongside us.  These activities really help give people a unique perspective on our events from the inside.   Ever since The Sultan’s Elephant, when 50 volunteers were recruited to steward the giant elephant and little girl giant through the streets of London, we’ve been able to develop opportunities for people to work on these events.  Dining with Alice was no exception, and we were delighted to find a group of wonderful participants who became part of the show itself. These people – who came from all walks of life and ranged in age from 16 to 81 - played the waiters who guided members of the audience throughout the evening, committing to 8 shows, 1 preview and many hours of rehearsal in advance.   They appear to have enjoyed the experience by and large, with every single one of them rating the experience either excellent or very good.  We’re grateful to them all…

Gallery and press coverage

If you didn’t see the show (or even if you did), please do have a look at the photo gallery, press reviews etc on the Dining with Alice website.  We were really pleased to get 4* reviews in both The Guardian and The Times, and excellent reviews in The Observer and the Eastern Daily Press too.  There are also some clips from coverage on Radio 3’s Night Waves and Radio 4’s Front Row


LUMIERE TAKES SHAPE - Durham, 17-20 November 2011

We’ve been hard at work on the second Lumiere festival which will take place in Durham in November.  Helen Marriage has put together a fabulous wish-list of projects, and we’re in the process of finalising which of them will make it through to the final programme, whilst simultaneously trying to reach our fundraising target.   We'll be announcing the final programme in October, though I hope we'll be able to bring our Hearts a preview before then!  Artworks range from huge projections to tiny installations, and it looks likely that we’ll have around 30 or 35 different projects in all, transforming this most beautiful city into a winter wonderland. For the Tweeters amongst you, please join in the conversations on Lumiere via #lumieredurham.

Artichoke Hearts installation

We’ve committed to putting all the funds raised this year through the Artichoke Hearts scheme into one of the installations, so you will be the proud sponsors of one of the artworks…  Do make a date to come to Durham to see the fruits of your support!

European Commission

We have been lucky enough to secure funding from the European Commission’s Cultural Fund this year.  The funding will go towards a project in which three artists, Simeon Nelson from the UK, Dominik Lejman from Poland, and Leonardo Meigas from Estonia, each create a work for three light festivals in Durham, Torun (Poland) and Tallinn (Estonia). All three  share certain common attributes: all are beautiful, historic cities, and all are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. 

Durham Hotel offers

We’ve been able to secure fantastic hotel deals at two four-star hotels, the Royal County Marriott and the Radisson Blu.  Both are situated in the heart of the city and either would make a fantastic base for exploring Lumiere.  We’re offering these rates to Artichoke Hearts in advance of anyone else, so if you’re contemplating a visit to Durham for Lumiere this autumn, do book now.  A double room at the Marriott is £xx - book by phoning the hotel on 0191 386 6821 and quoting the reference 'Artichoke Hearts'. At the Radisson the rate is £xx.  Book by calling xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

We'll have some deals at more reasonably priced hotels available soon.



You may be interested to know that Artichoke’s funding from Arts Council England is now secure for the next three years.  We, in common with almost every arts organisation in England, went through a rigorous and competitive process, and we’re most relieved to have had our core funding confirmed, despite the fact that our offer amounts to a 13% cut in real terms.   But of course we still have a huge fundraising target on every event - our funding doesn't contribute to the costs of producing the events. 

You may also be interested to hear about our next project: the London 2012 Festival has invited us to create a major new living artwork with artist Deborah Warner that will take place simultaneously at eleven sites around the UK. This coastal installation is a poignant exploration of love poetry in the English language and a celebration of the extraordinary variety and beauty of the British coastline. The project will be produced by Artichoke next summer and we're very much looking forward to being part of the Olympic celebrations.


That’s about all I have to report right now.   Do keep an eye on our website (where, incidentally, we’ve just posted a lovely 10 minute film of our very first project, The Sultan’s Elephant) and your inbox for new developments, and do join our facebook group or follow us on twitter @artichoketrust should you feel so inclined

Our grateful thanks for your support.  This week we were pleased to sign up our 60th Artichoke Heart – and we’re hoping to make it to 100 by Christmas!  So if you know anyone who likes our work and isn’t yet a member, please do suggest that they join.  

Best wishes


Nicky Webb


Post Date

26 April 2011


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You’re invited to the VIP reception

If you’re coming to see Dining with Alice, we’d like to invite you to the VIP reception after the show for a little nightcap. You’ll be able to schmooze with cast members and the creative team and it would be lovely for us to meet you and say “hello” in person.

Don’t forget you are eligible for a discount on tickets so if you haven’t already booked, hop to it as they’re selling fast. Tickets are £49.50 to our Hearts and you can buy two tickets at this special rate. To claim your discount simply call the Box Office on 01603 766400 and tell them you are an Artichoke Heart and quote the code NNFFR or book online and enter the code NNFFR at the checkout.

Post Date

26 April 2011


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A note from…Nicky Webb

Nicky Webb, Artichoke Co-Director, has written exclusively to you, our generous Hearts. Please read, enjoy, and reply if the urge takes you. We love to hear your thoughts.


When we decided to relaunch the Hearts scheme a while ago, one of the things people told us they’d value was some inside information on what’s happening at Artichoke.  This, then, is the first of many occasional newsletters for our supporters which I hope you’ll find informative, and perhaps even entertaining.   Please do let me know what you think so I can write about the things you find interesting, and leave the rest out. 

It’s all go at Artichoke right now.   Our core team of eight-and-a-half has been supplemented by Kate Harvey, who is working exclusively on Dining with Alice and our regular PR guru, Anna Vinegrad, who first worked with us on One & Other and has become an invaluable part of the furniture. 

Many years ago Helen Marriage paid a visit to the stunning Larmer Tree Pleasure Gardens in Dorset. At the time she was running the Salisbury Festival (where I was her Marketing Director) and was in the process of reading Alice in Wonderland to her (then very small) daughters.  Inspired by the setting and the story, she asked the director Hilary Westlake to create a show for the 1999 Festival; Hilary came up with the concept of Dining with Alice and the rest is history.   We produced just three performances – which seems insane now! – and people loved it.   And ever since we’ve been looking for an opportunity to do it again, but better.   In the intervening decade and a bit, we’ve looked at gardens all over the UK, but never found anything that would provide the perfect magical backdrop to Lewis Carroll’s story.  Until now, that is…

A couple of years ago, having been asked to produce something for the Norfolk & Norwich Festival, we revived the idea of Dining with Alice and began the search for the perfect location.   Some of us spent happy Sunday afternoons scouring the Norfolk countryside, but it was only when Helen asked a Salisbury friend – in fact, one of our very own Hearts – for suggestions, that Elsing Hall was mentioned.  When we visited, we all fell in love: it just felt absolutely right.  And its owners could not have been more accommodating and delightful, and are busy themselves, planting extra bulbs to ensure that the gardens look perfect in May. 

Dining with Aliceis a theatrical event, but has, at its core, a lavish dinner.  Our Development team, led by the fabulous Sarah Coop, have been working on this side of things for months.   Sarah has persuaded Barefoot Wines to donate the wine, and another country estate just up the road, Holkham Hall, to donate meat and vegetables for the main course.   The extraordinary Bompas & Parr – they call themselves ‘architectural jellymongers’! – are collaborating with catering students from the City College to create a memorable Victorian-style dinner, to be served simultaneously to every member of the audience.  B&P are also working with local firm Frank Dale to create a special (and top-secret) Alice-inspired course that’s sure to delight everyone who eats it.  And so it goes on…   The latest challenge is to find hundreds of tables, chairs and tablecloths and the cutlery and glassware to go with it: we’d really love to hear from you if you can help!

Most of our shows involve an element of public participation, and Alice is no different.  We’re looking for no fewer than six girls of different heights and ages to play Alice herself.  Next month we’ll be holding auditions in Norwich, so if you know any girls in the Norwich area – especially tiny ones or very tall ones – who would be interested in a starring role, please do put them in touch with us! 

A still more difficult challenge is to find adult participants who will act as extras, performing in the show itself.  So far we’ve signed up thirty or so people, but we need to find many more.  We’re trying to get the word out as widely as possible through evening classes and drama groups, book clubs and choirs.  For anyone interested in doing something memorable, this is a great opportunity: volunteers will work with the professional director and cast, and be part of something on a large scale that promises to be truly unforgettable. 

I’ve been working closely with my team -  Communications Associate Anna Cook and PR Anna Vinegrad -  on creating a website and marketing materials for the event and on securing press coverage.  We’ve just heard that Lyn Gardner has been commissioned to write a piece for The Guardian and that Harpers & Queen intend to feature Artichoke in their April edition, which is great news.  And tickets are already selling very fast, especially for the two Saturday evening performances.  If you haven’t already booked, and would like to come to one of those performances, do please let us know and we’ll do our best to find you some tickets.  And if you are planning a trip, do have a look at our list of hotels and guesthouses. 

Aside from Alice, things are full steam ahead with plans for the next edition of Lumiere which will take place in Durham this autumn. Helen and Associate Producer Hannah Standen are working with literally dozens of artists, ranging from the well-established to the just starting out. They’re trying to match the many proposals they have with locations in the city, in a bid to create an exciting and well-balanced programme which will delight as well as challenge and stimulate!  At the same time, Sarah and her team are fundraising to ensure that we can present the best possible event this autumn.  Do make a date now: Lumiere will make a fabulous opportunity for a pre-Christmas winter break in one of England’s most beautiful cities.   Watch this space for more information on the programme and a special offer with a hotel too, but do put 17-20 November in your diary.

Before I get back to work, I’d just like to say thanks once again for your membership of the Artichoke Hearts scheme.  Quite apart from your subscription – which is hugely helpful, especially in these uncertain economic times – we really appreciate the knowledge that we have a small band of really enthusiastic supporters who value what we do.  And in the next few days you should receive another token of our appreciation – a beautiful lapel pin especially designed by Antony Gormley for members. Even if it’s many years since you’ve worn a badge, I’m sure you’ll find this one, designed by one of our most eminent artists, a joy to wear! 

Best wishes

Nicky Webb





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