Friday, 16 February 2018


Every January, like a sparrow Mark and Jo migrate to warmer climes.  This year we have travelled to Tenerife, the largest of the Canary islands off west Africa.  

Check out this New Podcast episode!

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

I love the past, but I couldn’t live there.

We have been thinking a lot about the past twenty years. How we have built a story telling machine that entertains people, all people with comedy and drama. I’ve mentioned Thick as Thieves, how we took it from nothing and turned it into something special, something award winning and successful. I have gloated about being innovative and a front runner in pop ups and site specific and adventure projects like Poles Apart and Coast to Coast.

As 2018 begins we have sat down and thought about the future and we’ve come to the conclusion that all those thoughts and conversations have been about work in the past. Bringing stuff back. Well, bugger that. I have very little time to leave a lasting memory on this planet and I’ve got to start, as ever, by looking forward, not back. Back is comfortable and fuzzy and warm, but tied. Forward is frightening, poverty potential, lunacy, but exciting.

So it’s January 9th 2018, we as ever are skint, but me as ever has a million and one ideas about telling tales.

Stay tuned friends, it’s going to be an exciting, roller coaster of a year and I want to put you at the centre of it.

See you soon


Happy Birthday Hard Graft

20 years ago 4 newly graduated actors decided to put a show on, above a pub in Nottingham.  Who would have thought that the company would still be knocking about today.
Do you remember any of these past shows?
  • Win,Lose,Draw (above a pub in Nottingham)
  • Bedders & Pike (above a pub in Nottingham)
  • Much (Nottingham Playhouse studio)
  • True Story (17 Forester St Netherfield)
  • Weird Doug goes Camping (video)
  • Thick As Thieves (Shops, houses, theatre everywhere, Edinburgh festival)
  • Burt & Joyce (Charity shops across the country)
Thick As Thieves
Thick As Thieves 2014
  • Charity Begins at Home (shops and a theatre tour)
  • Pop Tarts (shops and a theatre tour)
  • Christmas At Our Carols (Audio Play)
  • The Big Adventure (fields, barns, kitchens, pubs, anywhere)
  • Coast to Coast (National theatre tour, Edinburgh festival)
  • Poles Apart (National tour)
  • When Will I Be Famous (National Tour)
  • Red Riding Hood (Regional tour)
  • Grass (24:7 festival and a shop in Oldham)
  • The Elves and the Shoemaker (Regional tour)
  • Ghost walks (Oldham, Rawtenstall, Saddleworth & Burnley)
  • Pinocchio (Regional tour)
  • Knife Edge (National Tour)
  • Hansel & Gretel (Regional tour)
  • Babushka (Regional tour)
  • TAPS comedy writing award
  • Manchester Theatre Award
  • Alfred Bradley Award (runner up)

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Kit our dog

We never wanted to be dog owners, so imagine our annoyance when Kit the border Collie came into our life?

But, since he's been here we've had some adventures.  

Kit the Border Collie

Check out this New Podcast episode!

Friday, 24 November 2017

3 Reasons to be Famous

Why would I want to become famous? Well, three reasons.
1. Money – as an actor you get paid something in the region of £400 per week for say a panto, if I were a famous actor I’d be looking at anything up to ten grand.
2. Work – I went up for Coronation Street last week, I met the casting director and two directors. One of the directors said, this episode is the biggest, most ambitious storylines since the Deirdre love triangle in 1983 (ask your gran). 
It’s about Roy Cropper and his whippet (spoiler alert). Blah, blah, blah and he’s telling me this great storyline, big fight, car chase and it ends up with Ken Barlow being hijacked on a plane as he’s coming back from Malta.  It’s a really current storyline about an ex-celebrity who’s been accused of acting inappropriately with animals and he’s got drunk on the plane (must be made of money) anyway, he’s taken a stewardess (played by Antony Cotton) hostage.  To cut a long story short the pilot has a fit and Ken has to land the plane, in Whetherfield!
I don’t want to spoil it for you, but he puts the plane down just outside the Kabin and there’s explosions and flames and Leanne Battersby gets knocked over and it’s marvelous mayhem.
I’m sat listening and I’m thinking, brilliant, this is my big chance to shine, the part I’ve been waiting twenty years for.  “This is where you come in” he says.
CUT TO. Ken stumbles out the plane and he’s off his head, but he manages to make it to the Kabin.  He pushes the door open through the debris and shouts “Roy! Roy, come quick” I’m, my character, is sat eating a bacon barm cake and I turn to Ken and I say “He’s just nipped next door, he shouldn’t be too long”.
Twenty years.  Twenty years of bottom feeding and scratching about for work and all I get is “He’s just nipped next door, he shouldn’t be too long”.
Reason 3. Weight – If I become famous I’m going to be in lots of newspapers, magazines and television shows. My face will be adorning such glossy’s as OK, Chat, DIY Week and Nuts. And what’s the first thing I’m going to do when I see myself in them? You fat bleeder.
So then you’ll have to live through ‘My Battle with the Bulge’. Endless interviews about my weight, childhood obesity, caused by depression, I’ll have depression, they all have depression. Hello will do another spread – At home with the Whiteley’s.  – I’ll probably do a cooking show or a diet show.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Monday Mornings

Joanne hates mornings, she'll sit, silent for 40 minutes while the caffeine kicks in.  Mark wakes up running.  How annoying for them both. 

Check out this New Podcast episode!

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Halloween, stories and theatre makers

Well, another Halloween passes and we at hard graft are as chuffed as punch with the massive turnout once again.  We have been producing innovative walks at halloween since 2012 in Oldham, Uppermill, Burnley and now in our home town of Rawtenstall. 
What we love are the faces of the audience when we deliver the history of their streets, they had no idea about.  Stories of witches, madmen or murders.  People always ask ' Are they true'?  And we always say, if you believe, then yes.  We research online, in libraries and get lots and lots of stories from the public, in fact the majority of our stories are your stories retold by our award winning team.
As a theatre company we feel it is our job to entertain at times like Halloween, who else has the access to professional storytellers, writers and producers.   Halloween walks are part of a community development scheme to get everyone to enjoy theatre without even knowing they were part of it.
Stories are the most important part of human existence and being scared, safely, is a normal healthy part of living.