So, how are we all doing? If you’re anything like me, the struggle to cope with the ever-growing pit of anxiety and dread in my stomach as the sands keep shifting under our feet is very real. Since last I wrote the entire country has moved to Level 3 and there is a distinct possibility that we may move to Level 4 or even 5. I have many, many feelings and thoughts about so many things going on in the world right now it would be very easy to let it overtake me. It would be easy to let it overwhelm me. I wont, though. I’m far too much of a pragmatist for that. I did however take an unscheduled break from Theatremaker which I’m sure you, my adoring fans, noticed. Ahem. I took some time to breath, to organise some wardrobes and storage and take care of some life admin. I did a bit of gardening and spent some time with my family. I did an awful lot of little things which, in truth, are actually very big things when you look at it properly. Now, although I won’t say I’m not still worried or anxious, I am ready again to face the world. Even if it is to be a virtual/digital one for the foreseeable future.
Speaking of virtual experiences, I suppose I had better get on with what I’m actually here to do: tell you all about the A.I.M.S. Awards 2020 which took place virtually on Saturday 19th September. I was lucky enough to have a front row seat with my friends who between them represented three different musical societies and I have to say: the craic was mighty.
In Hollywood, the Emmys may have had Jimmy Kimmel, but he wasn’t a patch on our Fergal D’Arcy who hosted the night with such effortless aplomb and just the right amount of banter. Sir, I salute you. Alongside the stupendously talented David Hayes and the ‘Socially Distant Ensemble’ and some breath-taking special guest performances (including Stage Door Live favourite, Brian Gilligan) it was a highly entertaining and enjoyable, if at times a bit emotional, evening. Though there were a few technical glitches here and there which was to be expected from such a huge event (and as an Associate Producer of Stage Door Live I know a thing or two about live streaming glitches and we only have to deal with three or four guests at a time, never mind a few hundred) the night was a huge success and I must congratulate the committee and the entire technical team for pulling it off so well.
The big winners of the night were South Eastern Theatre Group with their production of Cats and Athlone Musical Society with their production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat who won ‘Best Overall Show’ in the Gilbert and Sullivan sections respectively. Special congratulations must also go to Sean Gilligan and Betty Brosnan who both won the Adjudicator’s Special Awards for their dedication and work over the years, a great achievement for them both. If you’d like to see a full list of awards and winners, click here.
There were so many incredible moments throughout the evening, particularly the special guest performances. I would highly encourage you to check out the A.I.M.S. YouTube channel where you will find most of them posted and I challenge you not to be moved by Rebecca Storm singing Tell Me It’s Not True or Killian Donnelly singing Bring Him Home.
There are over 130 societies in A.I.M.S. but due to Covid 19 shutting everything down mid-season, many of those were not in the running for the awards and their absence from the list of shows was certainly felt. However, in a world where a return to theatres in all their glory is difficult to see, the night was very uplifting all round. With every Zoom screen that appeared, every name called out and every winner announced I was reminded of the breadth of A.I.M.S., the place it holds in our communities across the country, the joy and happiness it brings to people and the employment it gives to so many people in our industry who right now are sitting at home fighting for survival.
I was reminded once again of some statistics I brought up in my previous blog: 130 societies translates to roughly 14,000 people being directly engaged in theatre and a combined audience of around 1.2 million. That’s roughly a quarter of the population.
To everyone involved in A.I.M.S. I say this: it has been an incredibly rough year. The disappointment and heartache of cancelled shows, and the uncertainty of when you can get back to doing what you love to do is so difficult. However, as you so eloquently and perfectly put in your finale, you will be found. When the doors are re-opened and the curtain comes up, I know that it is you that will welcome the audience with open arms and lift our hearts. You will fill theatres and halls, big and small, across the entire length and breadth of the country. I don’t know when that will happen, but it will happen, and I, for one, will be in the front row when it does.
For now, I’ll make do with watching your YouTube clips on repeat, starting with your glorious finale. I suggest everyone else do the same by clicking this link.*
*Disclaimer: I take no responsibility for any emotions that stir or tears that flow from watching said YouTube clips.
If you have a programme, event or initiative that you would like covered in my ‘Deep Dive’ or Beyond The Pale series please get in touch, I’d be happy to talk!