Mikron Theatre Company stay afloat for 50th year after rapid fundraising appeal

Artistic director Marianne McNamara and producer Pete Toon at Mikron Theatre Company’s last performance in 2019. Picture: Mark Kelly

MIKRON Theatre Company have shot past their fundraising target to secure next year’s 50th anniversary tour in less than three weeks.

After the Covid curse de-railed their entire 2020 season, the West Yorkshire travelling troupe needed to raise £48,337.49 to continue taking shows not only on the road but on canals and rivers too.

The brisk financial fillip supplied by supporters and the public at large, both home and abroad, means the Marsden company now can plan their 2021 travels aboard their 1936 narrowboat Tyseley.

“We cannot thank people enough,” says buoyant artistic director Marianne McNamara. “We are absolutely humbled by the support we have received. It is testament to not only how valued the company is, but also to the work we have done for the past 50 years.

Staying afloat: Mikron Theatre Company’s vintage narrowboat Tyseley

“We’ve had letters and emails from all over the world: Texas, Catalonia and the Netherlands and, of course, every corner of the country from Cornwall to Cromarty, saying how much Mikron means to them and that they couldn’t see us miss out on our 50th year of touring.”

What happens next? “Every penny raised over the minimum amount we needed for the appeal will, of course, be used wisely and carefully,” says Marianne. “We have Tyseley, our narrowboat, to keep ship shape, and we will be able to continue our aims of developing new writers, directors and creatives for the future of Mikron and the industry as a whole.” 

Based at the Mechanics Hall in the village of Marsden, at the foot of the Yorkshire Pennines, Mikron Theatre Company tour shows to “places that other theatre companies wouldn’t dream of”, be it a play about growing-your-own staged at allotments; a play abuzz with bees performed next to hives; or one about when the chips are down, served up in a fish and chip restaurant.

Game on! Amanda Whittington’s football play, Atalanta Forever, WILL be staged by Mikron Theatre Company next year

Or a play about hostelling that spent nights at YHA youth hostels and one telling the story of the RNLI, launched at several lifeboat stations around the UK coastline. 

The successful appeal ensures 2020’s Covid-cancelled shows can go ahead in 2021: Amanda Whittington’s new work on women’s football in the 1920s, Atalanta Forever, and the premiere of Polly Hollman’s canine comedy caper A Dog’s Tale.

In 48 years until this year’s enforced hibernation, Mikron have performed 64 original shows; composed and written 384 songs; issued 236 actor-musician contracts; spent 30,000 boating hours on the inland waterways; covered 530,000 road miles;  performed 5,060 times and played to 428,000 people.  

For further information on Mikron Theatre Company and the opportunity to donate, visit mikron.org.uk/appeal.

Mikron Theatre’s future is at risk…unless £48,337 is raised before 50th anniversary

Atalanta Forever…but not for 2020 after Covid-19 showed the red card to Amanda Whittington’s new football play, forcing Mikron Theatre Company to call off this summer’s tour

MIKRON Theatre Company are launching a near-£50,000 fundraising appeal to secure their 50th anniversary year, but under the dark clouds of Coronavirus their future is at risk.

The West Yorkshire company had to cancel this summer’s tours of Amanda Whittington’s Atalanta Forever and Poppy Hollman’s A Dog’s Tale, once the Covid-19 lockdown strictures prevented them from touring by canal, river and road as is their custom.

The stultifying impact of the pandemic has dealt Mikron a “potentially catastrophic blow” and consequently they need help to “ensure that they get back on their feet, back on the road and back on the water”.

No touring from April to October has meant no income from 130 shows, no merchandise, no programmes, no raffle, in the budget, whereupon Mikron are facing a shortfall of £48,337.49.

Atalanta Forever playwright Amanda Whittington

Artistic director Marianne McNamara says: “The entire management team is doing as much as we can to reduce costs month by month, but this simply is not enough. On current budgets, the company will run out of money before our 50th year of touring in 2021.  

“With this in mind, we have no choice but to launch an appeal to raise £48,337.49 by the end of December 2020 to ensure that Mikron has a future within the theatre industry.” 

Should the appeal be successful, next summer Mikron will tour Atalanta Forever, Whittington’s story of women’s football in the 1920s, and Hollman’s canine comedy caper A Dog’s Tale. As ever, York would play host to shows at Scarcroft Allotments and Clements Hall.

After making the decision not to tour in light of the pandemic, Mikron took Arts Council England’s advice and have been helping the community in their home village of Marsden, near Huddersfield.

Coronavirus-cancelled canine comedy capers: MIkron Theatre Company’s poster for A Dog’s Tale

To do so, they have repurposed their office and van to assist with the village Covid-19 mutual aid group Marsden Help and have delivered hundreds of food parcels and prescriptions to self-isolating and vulnerable families.

“We’re so incredibly sad not to be touring,” says Marianne.  “In the early stages of the Coronavirus outbreak we looked at every possible combination, but none of them were practical.

“What I would not give to see Mikron performing at a canalside venue to a large crowd with the sun setting behind us. We see the same faces in different places year on year and we really miss them but the safety of the cast and crew, venues and, of course, our loyal audiences, had to come first.”

Based in the village of Marsden, at the foot of the Yorkshire Pennines, Mikron tour on board a vintage narrowboat, Tyseley, putting on shows in “places that other theatre companies wouldn’t dream of”.

It could be a play about growing-your-own, staged at  allotments; a play abuzz with bees, performed next to hives, or a play where the  chips are down, served up in a fish and chip restaurant. Add to that list a play celebrating hostelling, booked into YHA Youth hostels and the story of the RNLI, launched from several lifeboat stations on the coast.

Mikron Theatre Company’s summer mode of transport: Tyseley, a vintage narrowboat. Picture: Jon Gascoyne

Since Mikron formed in 1972, they have:

Written 64 original shows;

Composed 384 songs;

Issued 236 actor-musician contracts;

Spent 30,000 boating hours on the inland waterways;

Covered 530,000 road miles;

Performed 5,060 times;

Played to 428,000 people. 

For further information and to donate to the appeal to keep Yorkshire’s narrowboat theatre company afloat, visit mikron.org.uk/appeal. Donations also can be sent to Mikron Theatre, Marsden Huddersfield, HD7 6BW.