NOVAK from VJs to world class projection design: Bringing light to spaces and places through projections…

I’m currently working on Heart of the House – a joint collaboration commission between The Cultural Spring & The Customs House to celebrate 25yrs of The Customs House. I first put myself forward to work on the project at the beginning of Summer 2019….and I pretty much pestered The Cultural Spring until they gave me the gig. But that’s how excited I was about this happening in the North East.

For those of you, that don’t know – Heart of the House is a FREE outdoor visual spectacle designed by the world-class team at NOVAK that is on across 25th, 26th & 27th October on the side of The Customs House, running continuously from 6pm-10pm. It’s a total must see and experience.

More info on Heart of the House and FAQs can be found HERE.

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NOVAK have designed a 10minute long projection that will be rolling continuously across the night on the outside of the Customs House building celebrating the building’s past and present, and you’ll be taken on an enchanting journey of nostalgia, fun and illusion.

Expect to see everything from ship building and coal mining to music and performance with South Tyneside icons and pantomime characters popping up. The projections will feature the history, cultural rebirth and legacy of one of the most famous buildings in South Tyneside.

Of course, I love the folks at Cultural Spring and all their projects and events are ace – but it was certainly the NOVAK link that really got me excited. I love their work, I love their innovation, I love their humbleness, yep…I’m An unashamed NOVAK super fan……And they are one of MANY North East creative businesses that exist in the region that are absolutely flying and doing work on a global scale.

NOVAK specialise in motion design and create projections, art installations and stage visuals for music artists (Shawn Mendes!) and video for theatre performances. NOVAK has had work featured across the world at some of the most highly regarded arts festivals, including Lumiere and music festivals including Glastonbury and Coachella. NOVAK also created the stunning visuals in The Cultural Spring’s past commissions RUSH and WordPlay.

 

The festival of light - Southampton

Festival of Light – Southampton

I’ve experienced NOVAK at both light festival events, special moments marked with a projection onto a building and of course, stomping and dancing the night away at a festival and yes, Dippy at Great North Museum. At Dippy whilst everyone else, was of course, enamoured with Dippy the main star – I was blown away by NOVAK’s animation and the beauty of the interpretation on the walls. I kept telling random strangers – “now THIS is how you engage families in a museum!”. Their technical brilliance and detail is inspiring….. and you can experience it too at Heart of the House!

Dippy

Dippy

I’ve always been fascinated by motion design, digital art and projection….. I think because it’s just not my skill set and beyond me – to me it’s so magical! I remember watching the H&M Amsterdam store opening in 2010 and just being blown away. A building actually brought to life!

Anyway – back to NOVAK – I’ve wanted to interview the NOVAK lads for ages and working on Heart of the House presented such a good opportunity. I even blagged an invitation to their studio – very exciting. In between, their several big commissions alongside Heart of the House, Adam – the studio Director kindly let me interview him.

But before, we go into the interview – you need to watch their show reel which gives you a taster of their work; the quality and ambition of it.

Lumiere London

Lumiere London

Hi Adam, let’s start at the beginning – What is NOVAK?

NOVAK is a creative studio based in Newcastle upon Tyne that specialises in motion design and immersive installations with a big emphasis on projection design.

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How did it all start? What was your journey into creative industries?

It all started in the night clubs of Newcastle. All of the members of NOVAK met through VJing at local clubs and from these encounters we started to gig together which naturally progressed into greater collaborations.

A notable one of these was our AV show, 3D Disco, which we toured the world with for a number of years performing in Australia, Canada, Nigeria, Vietnam and everywhere in between!

During this time we started to develop other creative outputs, including projection mapping which has become a key part of what NOVAK is today. We have created projection mapped artworks at variety of locations, including the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, the Singapore Art Museum, Durham Castle to name but a few.

Brighton festival

Royal Pavilion in Brighton

Wish I’d been around for 3D Disco….I’d have been alllll over that? So you’ve created work for Cultural Spring before with Rush and Word Play; can you tell us a bit about that?

On both of these shows NOVAK, in collaboration with Southpaw Dance Company, designed and produced all of the projection content, which was integral part to both shows.

Rush in South Shields was the first project that we worked on with Southpaw Dance Company and we have since then gone onto collaborate with them on many more projects including shows as part of Hull City Of Culture and Greenwich and Docklands International Festival.

Hideout festival

HideOut Festival

What is Heart of the House (from your perspective!)?

It is a joyful celebration of the many art forms and creative practices that are at the heart of The Customs House.

How did you get involved in Heart of the House?

We were invited to tender for the project.

What can audiences expect from the projection onto the side of The Customs House?

The artwork depicts a variety of art forms and creative practices; each with its own very distinct and colourful look, all of which will transform the facade of the Customs House into a something that has never been seen before!

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Ohhh gosh – the NOVAK superfan within me is already getting excited! So what about the making process and the groups you’ve filmed to create the projection?

Key to the Customs House is the community and the different people and groups that engage with it. To reflect this, we have worked with various groups, including the Youth Theatre, the Indian Classical and Bollywood dancers, the Customs’ Breakers, amongst others, which will all feature in the projection.

When you run with an idea like Heart of the House, projecting onto a building, are there moments when you don’t know how you’re going to realise your vision? Projecting onto a listed functioning building must create some interesting challenges!?

It is always a challenge when creating a work to be projected onto something that was never designed for that purpose, but a combination of experience and some new technologies allows us to understand how things will translate onto the surface of the building.

Newcastle University freshers week

Newcastle University Freshers Week 2014

Well if anyone was going to do it, you folks are certainly the ones to make it happen! What would you like audiences to take away from watching Heart of the House?

A sense of joy and wonder!

Tell me about some other projects you’ve been working on? Enchanted Forest?

Most recently we presented a new work at Leeds Light Night called ‘Pleasance’, which was a 35 meter long ground projection. And presently we have another new work showing at Enchanted Forest called ‘Constellation’ which is a projection onto a water screen located in the loch in Faskally Wood, near Pitlochry.

Light Night - Rooster PR

Pleasance – Light Night Leeds 19 (Photo: Rooster PR)

Advice for folks wanting to get into the world of digital arts, outdoor arts and animation?

Always strive to do something original and don’t always look in the obvious places for inspiration.

Flux - Rich Kenworthy

Flux – Newcastle Central Station (Photo: Rich Kenworthy)

Highlight of 2019 for NOVAK?

Very hard to say, as nearly all of our projects this year have been a lot of fun; they have been varied from presenting a digital artwork in Newcastle Central Station to projection mapping the National Theatre in London. Designing projections as an accompaniment for Dippy’s visit to the Great North Museum was certainly a high point this year as well as being quite a departure from our normal works.  We certainly expect that we will look back at Heart of the House and see that as one of the highlights!

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National Theatre – London

Absolutely! So post Heart of the House….What’s next for NOVAK in 2020?

Before we get to 2020 we have other projects to present after Heart of the House, including a projection on the inside of Doncaster Minster, which we are really excited about! As for 2020, early in the year we are collaborating again with Southpaw Dance Company on a new show in London, which will be really spectacular! Plus lots of others that I can’t talk about just yet!

Enchanted Forest

Constellation – Enchanted Forest

Well on that note of anticipation – that’s it from Adam and NOVAK. Heart of the House is going to be a beaut of a projection and is your chance to see NOVAK in action doing what they do best  – lighting up a building with a really special and innovative projection whilst capturing the past, present and future of the building.

You can view the projection ANY time 25th, 26th & 27th October between 6pm-10pm. The projection lasts 10minutes and will be continuously rolling so Heart of the House is a drop in. You can also head inside Customs House, see the Customs House Elmer inside and take in celebratory banners co-ordinated by The Creative Seed, made with various South Tyneside community groups and schools.

More info on Heart of the House and FAQs can be found HERE.

I’m now off to plot how I can persuade NOVAK to bring back their 3D Disco…..

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#AD – TakeOff Festival 2019 – a LUSH family theatre festival across Durham 21st Oct- 26th Oct. #readytotakeoff

I’m ready to TakeOff….. always.

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TakeOff Festival is England’s leading festival of theatre for children and young people and it returns 21-26 October 2019 across County Durham.  It’s a beautiful, jam packed week of lush theatre shows for minis and families across multiple venues.

It’s become a passage of life….my early 20s were all about music festivals and that type of shenanigans….my early 30s (clinging to the early bit as nearly 34) is all about taking my friend’s minis to theatre festivals. And to be honest, I’m really not sure who enjoys it more…. For them, they have a magical experience full of high quality family theatre and storytelling escapism…and I…..well I have the same experience really and hang out with lush mini humans – I can’t wait.

If you haven’t heard of, or been to TakeOff before…well it’s LUSH and a North East family fest gem! The beauty is that you can book for loads of theatre shows (sorting out your half term in an instant – like the pro parent/grandparent/carer that you are!) as they is something different every day or you can dip in and out picking something you fancy.

TakeOff Festival is produced by Theatre Hullabaloo and supported by Durham County Council. I really love Theatre Hullabaloo; they were an organisation that I was aware of from day dot Culture Vulture, as pioneering theatre makers that make, tour & promote theatre for young audiences that inspire the imagination and challenge the mind.

They believe that theatre should and could be part of everyone’s childhood – an ethos that I am super passionate about AND they prioritise young people  in their work linking with specialist creative and education teams at every stage of the theatre making process. All their theatre making has passion and purpose – a theatre organisation, that champions audiences as the priority is certainly an organisation that is VERY Culture Vulture.

So I totally suggest you make theatre and TakeOff Festival part of your Autumn 2019 half term experience across 21-26 October!?…..There are LOADS of performances for various ages to choose from and there is the TakeOff Festival family day on 26 October in Durham city centre; a fun-filled family day of world-class children’s theatre, storytelling, installations, arts and crafts and much more!

Whilst the whole programme looks MEGA, I thought I’d take a moment to share with you my Culture Vulture festival picks to hopefully inspire you to go and see some lush theatre at TakeOff Festival. There are also some specialist SEND shows including Playful Tiger.

Hide & Seek (By Theatre de la Guimbarde, France)

Pelton Community Centre

22 Oct, 1.30pm

Two siblings have been put to bed for the night, but these children have more exciting plans in mind!

Become part of their simple game as they reinvent new ways to play hide-and-seek. In a rediscovery of the pleasure of hiding oneself in order to discover oneself, Hide-and-Seek invites audiences to experience the acrobatic adventures that ensue past these children’s bedtime.

Suitable for ages 2-5 years.

Tickets available HERE.

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Sky (By Teater Minsk, Denmark)

Gala Theatre, Durham

23 Oct 11am & 12,30pm, 24 Oct 11am & 12.30pm, 25 Oct 9.30am & 1pm, 26 Oct 10am, 1pm & 2.30pm.

Jump onto a soft cloud and feel the wind whirling and whispering as two dancers make the space around you twist and turn.

Lie down and look at the sky through your toes!

Can you see the world from upside down?

Can you hear the stars?

Everything is in motion in this beautiful dance theatre for minis and their families.

Suitable for ages 2-4yrs.

Tickets available HERE.

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Sky

There Is A Noise (By Hestnes / Popovic, Copenhagen)

The Hullabaloo, Co Durham

23 October, 6pm

From the diary of a 16-year-old grandmother in 1945 to the narrative of escaping war as a child, this piece investigates memory. The audience is invited to sit around a table while stories unfold around them in the midst of frying waffle ooze. We look at the blurry line between facts, memories and emotions of experiencing war as a child and question how to retell. The piece dives in to the confusion and unease of carrying such a story with you and the difficulty of sharing it.

What can we share with others and how can we relate to something that we do not understand?

Suitable for ages 13yrs+

Tickets available HERE.

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There Is A Noise

Jabberbabble (By Theatergroep Kwatta, The Netherlands)

The Mark Hillery Arts Centre, Collingwood College Durham

25 Oct 9.30am, 11.30am & 1.30pm and 26 Oct 10am & 12noon

A show about four birds and one nest. Nobody understands their jibber jabber lingo. What if we don’t speak the same language but still manage to understand each other?

A delightful show that is entirely sung, as it should be with birds – by the end of the show, no one will be strangers. #fourbirdsonenest

Suitable for ages 4-7yrs.

Tickets available HERE.

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Jabberbabble

Tiger Tale (By Barrowland Ballet, England)

Gala Theatre, Durham

26 October, 11.30am & 4pm

Something wild is prowling. She can hear it through her bedroom walls, but her mum and dad seem stuck in the dull routines of their everyday lives. Until one day the wild breaks in and everything changes.

A troubled family’s world turns upside down when a tiger invades. It’s chaotic, it’s dangerous but brilliantly funny as the tiger reignites the family’s love for one another. With captivating dancers, enjoy the thrill of sitting right up close to the action and the chance to explore the set at the end.

Suitable for ages 7yrs+

Tickets available HERE.

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Tiger Tale

So those are my suggestions – but there are loads of other shows – you can download the full programme from HERE!

If you go to watch the above shows or any others – let me know what you thought!

Also, this year this is The TakeOff Festival family day on 26 October in Durham city centre with a fun-filled family day of world-class children’s theatre, storytelling, installations, arts and crafts and much more! There’s a great mix of free and paid for events so something for all the family to enjoy!

You can check out what there is to at Family Day HERE.

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Until next time Culture Vultures….get plotting your half term shenanigans with your minis!

An interview with theatre maker Rebecca Glendenning; a Bonnie Workie Ticket and certainly one to watch….

I’ve wanted to interview this lush human for ages – she’s a mega talented writer, performer and theatre maker and reminds me of a younger version of myself…..if I could sing, or dance…or perform…..my point is, we are both passionate about similar things, we love to write and we like to tell stories – whether our own or enable others to tell theirs.

Rebecca Glendenning pops up in my head often has a person who is REALLY doing exciting things on her own terms as a theatre maker and writer. As someone steam rolling towards my mid-30s (make it stop!), it’s lush to look back onto others and see folks, like Becky in their 20s in the creative sector doing exciting stuff. She’s one to watch and from the moment, I saw her perform on stage in the first Bonnie and The Bonnettes’ show a few years ago – I knew she was special. I knew she was my type of human and it’s a pleasure to watch her career gather speed across various projects.

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Rebecca Glendenning

So I’ve wanted to interview her for a while, but of course, I try to find reason and purpose to interview – so the stars aligned when I was meeting Workie Ticket Theatre founder and Co-director JoJo Kirtley and Co-director Lindsay Nicholson recently, about their project Women Warriors and they dropped Becky’s name as a writer on the project. I was already in love with Women Warriors, a theatre project giving voices to female veterans but hearing Becky’s name made me love it more and I did a little excited dance in my chair. Yep… I dance…in business meetings…learn to love it Culture Vultures. #professional

Hi Rebecca, tell my fellow Culture Vultures who you are?

I’m Rebecca Glendenning, a theatre maker and stage manager based in Newcastle. I’m also co-founder of Bonnie and The Bonnettes who are a Newcastle based theatre company. I make fun, affecting work, influenced by politics, gender, and sexuality.

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Rebecca Glendenning

I love asking this question as it’s so different for everyone…tell me about your journey into the creative sector and theatre?

I’ve always loved writing; I used to write books and plays when I was little and just never stopped. I came to Northumbria Uni to study Drama and Scriptwriting in 2013 and in my third year I met Hattie and Cameron who are my Bonnie and The Bonnettes co-founders.

When Bonnie and The Bonnettes, as we are now, first started in our third year of Uni, we performed at one of The Letter Room’s Bonenkai nights and at the first Curious? Festival; getting our name out there. At the same time I was learning basic technical skills through University and volunteering at the old Alphabetti Theatre in the basement. That summer I was one of the volunteer technicians at Northern Stage’s Edinburgh venue in Summerhall and we had a weeks’ worth of training as part of that and then the month of experience working with some really mint artists.

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Curious Arts Festival

Then once I was on the MA Theatre and Performance at Northumbria with Hattie and Cameron we were able to finish making our debut show Drag Me to Love, which we performed at Northern Stage in 2017, start The BonBons Cabaret, and start thinking about our second and current show, And She.

Whilst this was happening I was working more at Alphabetti as a technician! Now that I’d had some training, I started doing bits of Stage Management work on regional tours and for local companies which lead to more stage management and tech work, and then in 2018 I was offered my current job as Technical Co-ordinator of Alphabetti Theatre. I feel like I’ve rambled there, so much has happened in such a short amount of time!

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Bon Bons Cabaret

I’m queen of the excited ramble so ramble away! How did you find out about and connect with Workie Ticket Theatre?

Workie Ticket Theatre founder and Co-director JoJo Kirtley put a call-out on Facebook for plays surrounding women and women’s issues for their ‘Hear Her Roar’ performance night, and my friend tagged me in it. I replied saying I had something for it, and then JoJo got in touch. It was a piece about falling in love with a girl for the first time when I was fourteen. It’s always nice to meet other theatre companies, and working with such a lovely one was a bonus!

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JoJo and Lindsay from Workie Ticket Theatre

Tell me more about your ‘Hear Her Roar’ contribution? I didn’t get to see it but I heard it was really fantastic….

For Hear Her Roar I wrote a piece about falling in love with a girl for the first time when I was fourteen, and all the excitement and cuteness and internalised homophobia that goes with that.

I performed it at two separate Hear Her Roar events and it was a great experience both times. JoJo and the team were really supportive, and so when JoJo got in touch again asking if I wanted to contribute to the Women Warrior’s project I was like, YES!

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The power of social media (other creatives take note!)…So onto Women Warriors;  what was/is it like being a part of their creative team?

Lush! So so Lush!

This was my first ever writing commission. From day one, you just get such a sense of how much the project means to everyone involved, and the care they take with the female veterans and the writers and every member of the team, it’s just lovely!

During the sharing we had a few months ago, which was the first time most of the team had all been in a room together, there was such a caring atmosphere and it just felt so SO special, which I know sounds a bit cliché; but you could tell how much hearing their stories being told meant to the veterans, and how much it meant to the creative team to do them justice.

Tell me about Women Warriors from your perspective – as a writer and part of the creative team?

I think my experience of the Women Warriors project was slightly different to the other writers because I was paired up with a veteran and based on one to one conversations, instead of going to the groups. The reason we were paired together was because she is a gay woman and served at a time being gay was illegal in the British Military.  As a gay woman, JoJo thought that would be a topic very close to my heart.

It’s been a lovely experience that I won’t forget. It’s been amazing to meet her (the veteran) and learn about her life, what she went through and the amazing person she’s come out the other side as. Also as a younger lesbian, it’s been really interesting to learn about an entire section of our history I had no idea existed and not from books but from a woman who lived it.

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Tell me a bit about your piece/ part of Women Warriors?

As I sort of mentioned in the previous question, my contribution is about a female veteran who is gay and served at a time when it was illegal to be gay in the British Military; so she was paired up with a man who she had to marry or she’d be kicked out.

At the time she was recruited, she was homeless due to an abusive home life and being kicked out of the Army would mean going back to that so she married him, and he turned out to be abusive. The piece focuses on her journey through the military having to keep her sexuality a secret and now the amazing work she does to help LGBTQ+ people and how she’s turned such a negative experience into something that helps others.

She’s a bit of a personal hero of mine now, I won’t lie.

Tell us about the process for writing it the piece?

For writing it, I asked the lovely veteran I was paired with a lot of questions, and started out by putting it all in a timeline – she’s done quite a lot! Because it’s based broadly on her life outside the military, as well as inside, I had to leave out a lot of the things in that timeline but it was a really interesting experience hearing her talk. Then it was lots of edits and redrafts until I was happy with it. It was mainly chatting, and taking notes, and asking more questions.

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Bringing her story to life on stage must be such a meaningful moment for you both! So, I’m coming to see it but why should audiences come and see Women Warriors ON 9TH OCTOBER at The Exchange (tickets are still available HERE)

I think, people should come see it because it’s a perspective that’s not heard, and it’s such an important one. There’s so much of life in the military that people who aren’t a part of it, just don’t know, and people know even less about what it’s like for a woman. It’s eye opening, funny, and tender, and just a really good watch.

Try and sum it up in 3 words for me?

Empowering, devastating, vital.

You’re doing LOADS at the moment…. Tell us more?

Right now Bonnie and The Bonnettes are in the middle of touring And She; and gearing up from our Halloween BonBons Cabaret on the 26th of October at Alphabetti. I’ve just come back from stage managing the tour of Holly Gallagher’s show Tensile Strength which is a joy to work on. I’m extending the short piece I wrote for ‘10 Minutes To Stake a Claim’ at Live Theatre Newcastle called ‘Chained Reaction’ too, which is about a woman seeking revenge after her friend is spiked and killed on a night out, which is very fun to write.

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Bon Bons Cabaret

Congrats on your recent tour of And She (I absolutely bliddy loved it and my fave show of the year)…. Tell my fellow Culture Vultures  about the show and where they can see it next?

Thank you! The show is part gig-part mums living rooms, and it the three of us (Bonnie and the Bonnettes)  exploring motherhood, femininity, and woman hood through our mum’s stories, as well as our relationships with our mums now that we’re adults living away from home. There’s original songs from the incredible MXYM, and the feel good element that people know us for; we love a party, but with very real moments too because no parent-child relationship is perfect.

Our next date in the North East is the 7th of November when we’ll be at ARC in Stockton, and out next date is Barnsley on the 19th of October. You can see other tour dates HERE.

 

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And She

I’ve heard rumbles about a NEW show- I’ve always got my ear to the ground – I’ve heard you’re writing a show about you growing up and mosh pits? Can you share anything about that?

Yes!

For Bonnie and The Bonnettes’ third show we’re teaming up with The Six Twenty to make a show called ‘I Died in a Moshpit’, which I’m super excited to be writing.

It’s a lesbian coming of age story from the moshpits of the Leeds underground punk scene. It’ll be gig theatre, and we’ll be working with two actor-musicians to make it. It’s feeling invincible at 17, and terrified of what’s coming next, but maybe if you hold their hand whilst that band play that song, it won’t feel as bad.

I love the sound of that! Big fan of The Six Twenty too – so yey! So finally…. what’s next for Becky?

This Christmas, I am lucky enough to be working on three shows; two for the lovely children’s theatre company Kitchen Zoo who are bringing WOLF to Northern Stage this Christmas in stage 3, and The Three Bears at Christmas to Queen’s Hall in Hexham. I’ll be working on them as Stage Manager and Company Stage Manager – I’m excited to be back in the room with such a lovely company.

And as a performer I’m hyped to be working on Bonnie and Fanny’s Christmas Spectacular at Live theatre which is a Christmas show for grown-ups and is Bonnie and The Bonnettes and Your Aunt Fanny. We’ve just had two weeks R&D together and I can’t give away too much but you’re in for a treat.

Tickets are selling really fast so please grab them whilst you can!

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Bonnie and Fanny’s Christmas Spectacular

Well thanks Becky – that’s a whole lot of something and a whirl wind tour of past, present and future Becky (I watched Muppets’ Christmas Carol recently and I’m running with it). There is STILL time to nab the final few tickets to see Women Warriors tomorrow (9th October) at The Exchange in North Shields – get them from HERE and for anything else Bonnie and the Bonnettes related…. HERE.

That’s all for now Culture Vultures.