About Elizabeth Harper

My name is Elizabeth Harper and I am an English Literature MA student at The University of Manchester. Prior to joining Gola’s ‘Born in Britain’ student ambassador team, I was Fashion Editor for the University of Manchester student newspaper, The Mancunion, and I am currently the Fashion Editor for VOIX, a new global voices magazine. When I’m not studying or writing about fashion, I enjoy ballet, The Black Keys, watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy and reading Shakespeare. I am so excited to uncover and introduce you to emerging fashion designers, models, musicians, poets, artists and theatre collectives from my base in Manchester, celebrating the talent this country constantly produces.

Bryony Fripp

Bryony Fripp is a 26 year old emerging illustrator and artist who graduated from Bournemouth Arts Institute in illustration and is now based in London. She has already amassed an extensive and diverse list of important clients, including the likes of Sainsburys, Dorling Kindersley and Kate Spade, providing quirky and imaginative drawings that have appeal for food producers and vendors, educational projects and fashion designers. In addition to this, Fripp has produced her own greeting card collection commissioned by Camden Graphics entitled ‘Dream Little Dreams’.

Simplicity is a clear feature of Fripp’s illustrations, which see her using unfussy bold line drawings to create images of kitsch bicycles, fairy people, trinkets and animals. Her work sees an infusion of dream worlds with the everyday, and she has a unique ability to channel her creative and imaginative visions in a defined and original manner. Whilst on paper it may seem that her work is in danger of verging on nauseating, her trademark style ensures that her illustrations retain a unique charm; delicate yet forthright. There’s little wonder she’s caught the attention of some serious power players in the retail arena.

Fripp is also involved with In Your Dreams, a body painting company fronted by herself and Madeline Griffiths that has been prolific at various festivals throughout the summer. The basic premise is that the artists use paints, prints and embellishments on the face and body to create a fun and imaginative look, truly taking the tradition ‘face painting’ to a whole new and exciting level. After being met with such success, the team have created a Festival Collection that can be seen on their website and on Tumblr.

Find out more about Bryony Fripp’s work and clientele on Facebook, Twitter and on her website. She truly is a novel and interesting illustrator whose work, I am sure, we will come to be extremely familiar with in the future.

Fair-T

Quite unconsciously, a theme has begun to emerge in my fashion posts for Gola’s Born in Britain campaign: ethical and fair trade fashion initiatives are gaining significant momentum and are becoming an increasingly attractive alternative to high street fast fashion and I can’t seem to get enough of them.  A new fashion company based and set up by Naomi Wilde in 2013 called Fair-T has recently launched, and is seeking to engage not only ethically minded fashion fanatics, but also with the alternative and underground music scene in the UK such as the cult-classic Warehouse Project.

Having recently enjoyed a launch night at Joshua Brooks in the Oxford Road area of Manchester and a selling event at The University of Manchester Students’ Union, this fledgling brand looks to be going big places fast. Their selection of classic white T-shirts made from 100% Fair Trade cotton produced in India, featuring prints of astronauts, gas masks and wolf headdresses amongst others, are wearable and unfussy, perfect for pursuing a minimalist, no-frills look.

Although Fair-T markets itself as a menswear label, I see unisex potential in this brand and would feel quite comfortable sporting one of these ridiculously cool tees myself. With prices starting at £25, Fair-T hardly breaks the coffers, but offers something unique and off the beaten track.

In addition to providing a mail-order option for their collection, Fair-T provides a wholesale service. For more information and to start placing those orders, find them on their website, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

Don’t Feed The Bears

Last season, prints of animals were huge on the catwalks, most prolifically with Givenchy’s Bambi T-shirt that has been one of the most coveted items of the year so far. If you can’t afford the Givenchy price tag (I know I certainly can’t) then there are cheaper but nonetheless brilliantly kitsch alternatives that are in-keeping with this trend, my personal favourite being Don’t Feed The Bears, a company based in Sheffield and established in 2010.

Don’t Feed The Bears make unique hand-printed and finished T-shirts and sweaters depicting hand-drawn pictures of bears, squirrels and wolves doing all sorts of eccentric things like wearing monocles, riding bikes and sporting TV sets on their heads. The designs are refreshingly witty and imaginative, going against the high street imperative of mass produced uniformity clothing.

In addition to the brilliant array of T-Shirts and sweaters available from their website http://dontfeedthebears.co.uk, Don’t Feed The Bears also have a T-Shirt Club where they send you a T-Shirt every month from 3 months to a whole year, the perfect way to keep your wardrobe fresh and exciting. Each brand new item comes with a design you can pick yourself from the collection, or can leave to the team to decide for you. A novelty that won’t wear off anytime soon I’m sure…

Closely related is their ‘Pick a Pocket’ option, where you can literally do just that, select a pocket material from a number of different prints, ranging from flamingos and horses to checks and tartan. Customisation at no extra cost is something that most high street shops do not offer, therefore Don’t Feed The Bears are really onto something with their attention to their customer’s individual likes and interests.

And in these cold, wintry times, those sweaters are looking temptingly warm and cosy…

Find Don’t Feed The Bears on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dontfeedthebearstshirts

Follow Don’t Feed The Bears on Twitter: https://twitter.com/dntfeedthebears

Loela

Having lived in Manchester for nearly four years now, I have become quite attached to it and, therefore, become irrationally excited when genuine emerging talents come from my adopted city. Founded in 2010 and based in Manchester, Loela is a womenswear label set up by fashion graduate Laura Baker that is set to go big places in 2014 and beyond.

When I first looked at Loela’s collection, I saw the aesthetic as the embodiment of Lolita in the 21st century. Rustic hand-made pieces are juxtaposed with futuristic woven prints, also done by hand, that create a look that successfully stays the right side of feminine and delicate. Styling long hems with clumpy boots, there is a country-girl vibe at work that is simple and earthy but at the same time incredibly stylish and covetable.

For such a young designer, Baker has created a line that is incredibly mature. In a world that is obsessed with fast fashion and trends that have the longevity of only a few months, she is proving that she is not a fad and that real style should be able to transcend each catwalk season. Producing unique pieces of quality with an inimitable Loela stamp, the line is affordable, cutting edge and deeply personal.

Shop Loela on the website and at the Asos Marketplace.

Follow Loela and find out more on Facebook and on Pinterest.

Denai Moore

On 24th January, I began my gig year at Manchester Cathedral with Irish folk musician James Vincent McMorrow, by far one of the best artists around at the moment. As well as being an incredible musician and a generally funny and endearing guy, he has a knack for picking great support acts. I saw him in London at Royal Festival Hall two years ago, where we were treated to Agnes Obel, a stunning songwriter from Denmark whose haunting voice and rural inspired lyrics captured the imagination and stayed with you long after the set had finished. This time, McMorrow had selected Londoner Denai Moore, someone, he claimed, who had seriously impressed him.

It was easy to see why. Moore came onstage very humble and modest but unleashed an incredibly powerful voice, performing a string of songs infused with folk melodies. For such a newcomer to the music scene, she was self-assured and confident, allowing her voice to fill and ring about the high vaulted ceilings of the cathedral. ‘The Lake’, the title track to her second EP, which she has previously performed on Later With Jools Holland  was particularly gorgeous. You could clearly see the influence of Bon Iver and Radiohead, however Moore sets herself apart from the rest by combining folk music with her remarkably soulful voice.

Her track ‘Gone’, however, is the absolute clincher that convinced me that Moore is set for big things. Performed only with a piano, it’s a heart-wrenching song about the mess left after a break-up that I think most people can relate to. The simplicity of the piano and the painfully honest lyrics like ‘I never know who to look for to try and fill your place / Cause I never thought that I would have to’ surely give the likes of Adele a run for their money in the muted desperation and devastation they imply about getting used to being alone.

In addition to James Vincent McMorrow, Moore has caught the attention of Band of Horses, who heard her cover of their song ‘Pt. One’ and recorded their own acoustic version. Laura Marling has been at the forefront of female folk for a long time, and I think Denai Moore is a welcome addition to this particularly male dominated area of music. With an album in the pipeline, I’m so excited to see where this incredible down-to-earth talent is headed.

Find out more about Denai Moore and her up-coming tour dates from her website, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, TumblrSoundcloud.

Little Hill People

Ever on the look-out for unique and sustainable fashion brands, I recently stumbled upon Little Hill People. First of all, I was attracted by such a quaint and interesting name for a company, and secondly fell hook line and sinker for their brilliant manifesto. The company is based in Sale, Chesire but acts as a marketing platform for traditional weavers and indigenous craftspeople in North-East India. The products, ranging from bags to accessories, are comprised of incredibly vivid prints and are each individually hand woven, meaning that each piece is absolutely unique and unlike any other.

In purchasing a piece from Little Hill People, you can be sure of a fair few things. Primarily, that your bag or necklace has been produced by loom weavers operating in a safe working environment, provided with a stable and regular income. Furthermore, the artisans’ traditional ways of weaving and producing items will be preserved, so that future generations can be acquainted with and pass on the unique methods and skills required to create such amazing products.  You can also be sure that whatever you buy will inject colour and vibrancy into any outfit that you choose to wear, absolutely worthy of any of the catwalks in Europe and the USA.

The mixture of traditional production with modern and fashion forward designs is what makes this company so exciting. Little Hill People have cottoned onto the fact that many of us do not want mainstream items from the high street, but still want to be ahead of the fashion curve. This is something that they offer with their off the beaten track collections that are incredibly of the zeitgeist but are, most importantly, ethically sourced and produced. Whilst the Tribal trend appropriated by fashion designers has become something of a fad that comes in and out of fashion on a regular basis, Little Hill People provides fashion that is completely authentic and will, therefore, never cease to be a pleasure to wear.

Shop and find out more on their website, Asos Marketplace Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google +

Interview: Everyday Analysis

Everyday Analysis is a ten month old collective project that is creating quite a stir online and in literary circles. Set up on the 14th January 2013 and edited by Alfie Bown and Daniel Bristow, the collective consists of an anonymous group of 10-15 contributors from the worlds of academia, the media and unemployment, who analyse aspects of everyday life; from toys, adverts, drinking games, autocorrect fails, bumping into people in the street and the ‘Would You Rather’ game, to slang, Zombies and Coke Zero: everything. They take a philosophical and theoretical idea and show how it can be demonstrated in one of these everyday things, and at the same time, show how everyday things can ask new questions of philosophy. The collective have attracted the attention of publisher Zero Books and have a book coming out in the New Year entitled ‘Why Are Animals Funny?’

Along with their blog, Everyday Analysis have a regular column in The Mancunion newspaper and have also been featured in the Huffington Post. Find out more and engage with their work on their website http://www.everydayanalysis.com/, on Facebook and Twitter. Copies of their book will also be available from Zero Books,  and leading booksellers like Amazon and Waterstones after Christmas.

What does Everyday Analysis do?

We’re trying to change the idea that critical theory and philosophy is an intimidating or ‘ivory tower’ thing that doesn’t affect many people or interest many people. We want to encourage new ways of thinking about the everyday and theory helps do that. Philosophy has got more to do with Google than it does with Alain de Botton.

Why are the contributors anonymous?

We see the group as a collection of different voices working in the same broad direction. The anonymity is a move away from the idea that one should feel that they’re reading a particular author’s particular view. It’s not about particular interpretations but about opening up existing ways of thinking.  Anonymity opens up possibilities for writers, who can then write from different perspectives and experiment with style etc.

How did Everyday Analysis come to be published?

Dan and I thought it would take years to gradually build up a base of people interested in and reading Everyday Analysis, but it’s all taken off quite quickly. We’ve got our book coming out which we thought would only come about 4 years down the line! On Twitter, we met some people who worked for the publisher, Zero, and writers who had been published by them before, who were enjoying and following the blog. Off the back of that feedback, we contacted Zero about the possibility of a book being published. It’s very exciting because they’re unique in that they’re interested in publishing young people’s first material and are the only publisher who publish theoretical and philosophical work and try to get it out to a wider audience for a decent price, which is perfect for us.

What can we expect from ‘Why Are Animals Funny?’

We’ve picked our favourite 46 separate analyses from the last six months on the blog, ‘Why Are Animals Funny?’ being one of them. The contributions are quite informal and journalistically written because we want to show that complex theory can be accessible and funny, for example we have articles on Bruce Willis wearing a dressing gown on Daybreak, jokes, internet memes and animals. What we write is fun and enjoyable but also aims to think about serious philosophical concepts in new ways, without simplifying them.

What’s next for Everyday Analysis?

We’ve proposed releasing volume II, which we hope Zero will be on board with again. It’ll be the same sort of thing: the best of the next 6 months’ analyses on the blog. Volume III is going to be quite different though, because the collective are going to collaborate on a book which will be a specific study of popular culture. It’ll be a more coherent book with chapters, not a collection of blog posts. So we do have a few things planned for the future: everyone involved really enjoys Everyday Analysis and we’ve been so surprised and pleased by the number of people reading and interested in it, and we didn’t expect it to be so immediately successful at all. It’s something we really believe in and we’re delighted with its reception so far and want to continue with it for as long as possible.

 

Interview: Leo Cookman

It cannot be denied, Britain has produced many an excellent poet in the past: take your pick from Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Keats and T. S Eliot, to name just a few. Poetry itself still has an important presence in our contemporary literary landscape, with the post of Poet Laureate still a relevant and celebrated position, and by still featuring heavily in our national curriculum. However, despite its contribution to our cultural heritage, it has developed a reputation for being ‘boring’ and frivolous.  I think that it’s time to get excited about poetry again, so I interviewed Leo Cookman, an emerging poet and musician originally from Kent and now based in Manchester.

Leo has been published by Penguin in a collection called ‘The Joy of Sex’ in an anthology featuring the likes of Shakespeare, Philip Larkin, Carol Ann Duffy and Alice Oswald, due for release in January 2014 (conveniently close to Valentine’s Day). His work has also appeared in ‘The Best of Manchester Poets Volume 3’ anthology, published by Puppy Wolf, which can be bought online and in literary shops. His sonnet sequence can be found at www.theanatomy.co.uk, and copies of his poetry pamphlets can be requested from Leo himself at leocookman@yahoo.co.uk

 

 

 

How long have you been writing poetry for?

Three years. I used to absolutely hate poetry, but then two friends got me into reading it with a poet called John Berryman, who was inspired by Nick Cave. The more I read, the more it occurred to me that there was an art to this: that it was a craft, not just a bunch of pretentious knobs writing any old words down. Poets are like word sculptors and poetry is amazing. After that realisation I started trying to write it myself.

Why do you write poetry? How does it compare to prose?

Prose is like a long three course meal: you can develop your argument, state a case, and hear different opinions from any point of view you want to share. Whereas poetry is like a very sweet effervescent snack, like a sherbet lemon. You get an instant rush from it because it can recreate a specific moment really quickly and thoroughly through its language.

Who are your favourite poets?

You can’t write poetry without acknowledging that Shakespeare was the best there ever was, he set the bar, people have met it but no one’s surpassed it… yet.  I like Blake and Byron, Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, and I’ve really got into Louis MacNeice recently. Then my favourite living poet is Don Paterson.

What inspires you?

Very specific, sensual things: something I spontaneously smell, see or touch triggers a specific memory or feeling that then develops into an emotional response. I talk about big concerns like love death and happiness, but my feelings regarding those things are triggered by something very small and specific.

How do you start the process of writing a poem?

Most of the time I come up with a title first, pick the form I want it to be in and then write the whole thing in one go for about an hour. Then I’ll leave it and come back to it and edit it. It needs distance and separation because you get whipped up in an emotion when you’re initially writing, and you need to take a step back and change it so that it’s actually coherent and not embarrassing.

Why should people read poetry?

People are put off by it and I get that, I completely hated it because I thought it was snobby and pretentious. But I really do believe that there’s a poem for everyone and a poet for everyone. Something or someone will speak to you in a deeply personal way, which will make you do a complete 180 in the way you look at and think about the world. It’s very powerful in a way that cinema or music can never be.

Interview: Ewan Phillips

Hi there and a warm welcome to my first blog post as a Student Ambassador for Gola’s ‘Born in Britain’ initiative. By trade, I am a fashion writer, however today, and I’m sure at many points in the future, I will be departing from strictly writing about fashion to uncover new musicians, poets and artists. In light of this, I would like to introduce you to Ewan Phillips, a twenty two year old singer/songwriter from London, who is currently based in Manchester.

Ewan has begun to emerge as a hot new talent in the acoustic genre recently popularised by the likes of Ed Sheeran and Ben Howard.  In the summer of 2013, the music video for his song ‘Orbit’, the headline track on an EP under the same title, was shortlisted in the Best Short Film category at the Kino Exposed Film Festival. He has just released his new EP ‘Pilgrim Rose’ featuring the song ‘Landslide’, and has an album in the pipeline, all of which he has been working on at the same time as managing HigherSound, his own online production community (check it out at http://fallowfieldrooftube.wix.com/highersound ), frequently organising music events to promote his own music and that of other like-minded musicians.

What started off as an interview quickly turned into a 30 minute in depth chat about music, relationships, Fight Club and singing in the shower. Ewan is sensitive, intelligent and clearly loves music. The right components of a future star? I think so.

 

In the comment sections on YouTube, you’ve been compared to Ed Sheeran. What do you make of this?

Ed Sheeran is king of acoustic and he structures his songs in quite an ‘easy listening’ pop structure, which is a similar vibe I go for. He writes honestly and with vulnerability, and that’s what I like most about him. I think people really appreciate that because it helps you to connect with him. I try to be as honest as I can when I’m writing. I don’t actually try  to be honest; I just end up being honest.

So what’s your process for writing a song?

I think I’m pretty much addicted to writing songs. I’ll just be chilling in my room, trying things out on the guitar. I normally get a chord progression going and then start improvising and get a line or two that work and carry on from there. And then sometimes you’ll be singing in the shower and you’ll come up with something that you think sounds good. So there are a number of ways to get into it.

I want to talk about your new album, what stage are you at with it?

Basically over the whole of the past year, I was writing, writing, writing and out of that has come a few songs that are on the EP like ‘Seeds’, ‘Landslide’ and ‘Hold Me’. They’re the forefront of all my new material, and then I’ve probably got ten other songs, 8 of which will provide the shortlist for the album.

Are there any that really stand out for you? I really like ‘Art’…

Well ‘Art’ would definitely be an album track, ‘Autumn Song’ too probably. There’s been a bit of a difference in the kind of sound I’m producing as a result of having a full band with me now.

What’s it like having a band? How’s it working?

It’s great, I love it. We’re all living in the same house which is super convenient. We used to play quite rocky stuff as a collective but when I wanted to pursue my own music quite seriously, they were really supportive.

That’s really nice for you to have that…

Yeah, it’s crazy. It’s so humbling and lovely. But then they do this thing when they’re singing my songs to me and it’s really embarrassing.

Really?

I don’t know what it is, I know I need to get over it, but at the same time I think it’s better than being all ‘LOOK AT ME I’M GREAT’. It maybe doesn’t get you as far but it’s better than being completely arrogant.

Let’s talk about the artwork: who’s it by? It was an original piece wasn’t it?

Yes, it was done by Chloe Smith who is an absolute babe. I always found art really boring. My Dad had taken me to galleries in London and I always thought ‘it’s a picture of a horse, get over it’. But Chloe is a friend of mine who loves art; we were in Antwerp one time and we went to galleries and stuff and she basically got me into it. When it came to having cover art she was the first person I went to for a painting.

What do you think about the position of young people in the music industry? How do you mark yourself out from everyone else?

I wouldn’t say I’m particularly different from a lot of people. This reminds me of that scene in Fight Club when they’re digging outside and the guy shouts at them: ‘You are not special! You are not a rock star, you are not anything’. And I think in general…

That that’s true?

Yeah. So many people are so, so similar. I talk to my friends and they say ‘I know you, but you just live somewhere else and have a different name’.

How does that make you feel?

That’s fine, I’m OK with that. I understand that’s how it is because there are 7 billion people on this planet, of course there are going to be people exactly the same as me. The market is completely saturated. I’ve been tossing and turning and thinking about why I even do music, especially when it involves so much commerciality. But it takes seeing just one amazing musician to realise why people do it.

I had that with Jeff Buckley the other day…

YES Jeff! Music is so competitive and it feels like you’re in a minefield of egos with everyone trying to get to the top and it’s frustrating. But then that moment of recognition makes it feel worth it. I don’t feel like I need to concern myself with trying to be different, I just want to get better and better and better to produce what is true, real and honest for me.

Download ‘Pilgrim Rose’ from: http://ewanphillipspilgrimrose.bandcamp.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EwanJamesPhillips?fref=ts

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ewan_phillips

Bhavna

In recent years, fashion fanatics have been turning away from high street, mass produced fast fashion in search of something more unique and, most importantly, ethically produced. For years, Fair Trade design houses like People Tree have been at the forefront of this socially conscious project of making high quality clothing in a high quality working environment. Now, more companies thinking along this mindset have begun to emerge, and Bhavna is one that I highly recommend to any ethically-minded fashion aficionado.

Bhavna Rishi founded the eponymously named company Bhavna, showcasing her first collection of scarves at London Fashion Week in 2010. Each scarf is designed in England and handcrafted in India, meaning that each has received lavish care and attention in its production and is unlike any other. As part of the production process, Bhavna educates individuals and communities in their rich textile heritage, teaching skills such as embroidery, smocking, dyeing and printing to ensure that these inimitable methods are not lost. In addition, the company steadfastly supports three charities: The Sacred Childhood Foundation, The Women Vikas Institute and Find Your Feet.

The scarves and kaftans themselves are exquisitely designed, distinctively colourful and translate from beach to city, and across spring, summer and autumn effortlessly. When I first encountered Bhavna’s work, I was immediately reminded of the flowing, statement kaftans seen on the likes of Serena Van Der Woodsen in Gossip Girl, reeking of sophistication and vibrancy. I have not been partial to much kaftan-wearing in the past, but with clothing of such material and ethical quality on offer, Bhavna may have just converted me!

Find out more on Facebook, Twitter and shop at http://bhavna.com/b/

Ady Suleiman

The Replay and Rob Da Bank stage returned to this year’s Bestival on the Isle of Wight and saw a number of emerging musical talents onstage over the weekend, from the likes of Sam Smith, Ghostpoet and Nina Nesbitt. One of the most exciting new artists I saw there on the final night was soul singer/songwriter Ady Suleiman from Nottingham, a city building a great reputation for producing artists that inject a bit of Midlands grittiness into the popular music scene (see other recent exports Jake Bugg and Dog is Dead). He has been featured on Radio 1Extra and also played at Glastonbury in the summer of 2013.

The festival organisers gave a glowing report of Suleiman, professing to festival-goers that ‘if you only get to check out one new act at this year’s festival, make sure it’s this young man’. He certainly didn’t disappoint: with just an acoustic backing and his own soul-cum-reggae vocals, Suleiman successfully created a chilled ambience in the tent and his music was incredibly easy to listen and dance to. Interestingly, this was juxtaposed with some incredibly uncompromising lyrics, for example in State of Mind, a song which challenges prevailing religious and political ideologies, where Suleiman lends us a healthy dose of scepticism regarding the structures by which we live our lives. However, although this may sound like an angsty and rattling subject matter, Suleiman has successfully struck a balance between social commentary and musical storytelling through his reassuring vocal tonality, which has an endearing overall effect.

In a time where intelligent song writing has become secondary to producing club-friendly and frankly annoying electro-pop music, it’s encouraging that there are artists like Ady Suleiman who are willing to take issues like disillusionment, depression and disappointment and come up with a refreshingly soulful and sensitive musical means of expressing them. Britain has not produced many soul singers, but Suleiman is paving the way for an exciting new arena of musical talent from this country.

Find out more on Facebook, Twitter and Sound Cloud and here’s a personal favourite of mine: Need Somebody To Love

Interview: Ransack Theatre

Ransack is a new theatre company initially conceived in 2010 and formerly known as Bracket Theatre. Recent University of Manchester graduates Alastair Michael, Piers Black-Hawkins, Claire O’Neill, Verity Mullan Wilkinson and Emma Colledge make up the five member collective who in the past three years, have worked together producing and directing new and other writing, and have decided to take their work beyond university and into the professional theatrical arena.

Ransack’s journey started with Solve,  a piece of new writing by Black-Hawkins which was part of the University of Manchester Drama Society’s Autumn Showcase which was subsequently taken to the  Edinburgh Fringe. Their 65 seat venue was sold out every night and their performances achieved 5 star reviews; even more impressive was that the group made money back from their show which is practically unheard of for a student production. According to Ransack’s Alastair and Piers, this was the catalyst for them to take the theatre company and develop it outside of university and beyond.

After an arduous re-branding, with a logo designed by Will Jenkinson, Ransack is taking great steps into becoming a fully-fledged company, using theatre to ask questions and address today’s issues, as well as being a proactive part of Manchester’s recent cultural explosion. Check them out at their new website, http://ransacktheatre.co.uk , on their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/ransacktheatre?ref=br_tf  and on Twitter https://twitter.com/RansackTheatre

How is Ransack being funded?

We paid for Edinburgh with a fundraiser, private donations, and then the cast put their own money into it: this is the sort of model we’re using at the moment.  We’re learning about Arts Council funding as we go along really. The first play we’re doing doesn’t need much: we have a free space in the Lass O’ Gowrie pub just off Oxford Road, we have lighting and staging, and plenty of friends who want to be involved. What we do need to pay for is rehearsal space, which we’re finding we can pretty much fund ourselves. We’re also meeting with a guy called Pete from a company called, somewhereto_ (http://somewhereto.com/) which is a Lottery funded organisation set up in the wake of the 2012 Olympics’ legacy programme which helps young people involved in the arts, culture and sport to buy spaces.

What is the ethos behind Ransack?

We have a big focus on new writing but we’re not solely dedicated to that. We’re young and we have things to say about what’s going on in the moment now, giving a voice to that. We really want Ransack to produce stories and work that will speak to everyone. We don’t have a big budget, and it’s not about the spectacle for us; we want to make Ransack a bare bones company all about the stories, the writing and the raw performance.

Ransack is based in Manchester, is it going to stay there or are you going to plan a move?

It was a big thing for all of us, we really wanted to stay in Manchester. The obvious place to go is London, but it’s probably the worst thing you can do as an emerging theatre company because you can end up being a tiny fish in a giant pool. Living in London is so expensive as well: here we can work full time jobs and then have time to work on Ransack too. We know Manchester well because we’ve been here for years and culturally; it’s on the up, and not just in a competitive way. The city’s so supportive and nurtures emerging artistic and cultural collectives and there are so many opportunities to do more exciting and thorough work here.

Look out for Ransack on the 3rd, 4th and 5th December 2013 when they are putting on performances at the Lass O’ Gowrie in a night of new writing, ingeniously dubbed ‘Write Night’, for which they are currently holding auditions. Alastair told me: ‘we don’t want people to just come and see the show; we want people to engage with the show, we want people to be provoked to talk to each other about it and talk to us about it. So the event is as much a social event as it is a theatrical one’. The group are also looking forward to getting involved with the Manchester Fringe Festival and 24/7 Theatre Festival in 2014.