Posts tagged ‘blackshaw’

8 December, 2012

Blackshaw Christmas Newsletter

Blackshaw is a theatre and events company I’ve worked with on and off over the last couple of years. They had a Christmas event coming up, and asked me to write some promo copy for their email newsletter. The event, Kitsch Christmas, is all about the cheesy side of Christmas (festive knitwear, drunken Santa, Dad dancing, and so on), and the brief was to frame the email as a cringeworthy round robin from some smug relatives, boasting about their perfect family’s achievements.

Which sounded like fun to me.

I don’t have any relatives that insufferable, thankfully, so as a starting point, I looked online for some dos and don’ts and hints and tips (will the express intention of doing all the don’ts):

Seven Tips for Sparkling Christmas Letters (Organized Christmas)

Absolutely Fabulous (Watford Observer)

And here’s the end result (complete with a family photo of Blackshaw’s organising committee):


SUBJECT: Blackshaw Christmas Newsletter

Dearest everybody,

Gosh, how time flies! Can you believe the festive season is here already? It seems like only yesterday we were all together celebrating Christmas in our old place!

It really has been such a very busy year for the Blackshaw family. Little Titus Groan was born in April, and we were so, so touched by how many of you came to say hello to our little bundle of joy.

But of course you all want to know about the big move, and now we can officially put you out of your misery: yes, the traditional Blackshaw family Christmas open house will be happening again this year, and it’s going to be bigger and better than ever! You must all absolutely promise to come – the place is far too big for just us!


The party will be on Saturday 15th December at 7:30pm. The address for your sat-navs is The Antelope, SW17 9NG. Do remember to wear your seasonal knitwear and snazzy festive accessories – Auntie Lizzie and Uncle Nick have really pulled out all the stops this year, so dress to impress!

We’re going to ask you all to contribute £5 at the door, just in case we see a repeat of last year’s ‘Christmas Spirit Incident’ with Uncle Steve and have to hire another industrial carpet cleaner! He’s promised to behave this year, but after a sherry or two, no one will be able to stop him whipping out the guitar sing-song … such fun!

Our little ones are getting on very well, by the way (I know you were wondering!). We’re all terribly proud of how they’ve all taken to their drama and music with such gusto. Just between us and the Christmas tree, if they’re very good we might let them stay up late so they can put on a little festive performance for you all…

And as if that weren’t enough to bring you flocking to our door, we’re decking the halls with all our usual party games and disco fun. There’ll be mystery prizes on offer for those that want to get involved, and we’re on the Twitter now so give us a follow for some exclusives (and little competitions!) in the lead up to the big day. We’ve also arranged for a very special visitor from the North Pole to join us! Have you been naughty or nice?!

Now, we’d like to get an idea of numbers, so if you’re sure you’re coming, send a quick email to If you do, there’ll be some of Grandma and Grandpa Weston’s world famous Christmas cookies on a table for you and your loved ones on the night!

Until then, we’ve filmed a little christmas message for you all. Have a little look here

Much love and Christmas cheer,
The Blackshaw Family xxx

1 August, 2011

There’s more to Mervyn Peake than Gormenghast

Written for the Blackshaw blog

This week Richard, Helen and I represented Blackshaw at the British Library’s second Mervyn Peake centenary celebration panel discussion. I’d felt gutted that I hadn’t made it along to the first one (Ellie and Vikki did, and had friendly chats with Brian Sibley and China Mieville, amongst others), but in hindsight I’m glad.

The first event focused on Gormenghast. Until I got involved with Blackshaw, Gormenghast was all I knew of Peake. I first became aware of it (and him) through the BBC2 miniseries, bought the collected tie-in edition of the novels, and never thought to delve deeper.

So while the Gormenghast-focused celebration would undoubtedly have been enjoyable, it wouldn’t have been as educational as the follow-up, which illuminated the many other facets of Peake’s artistry. Besides his novels, he wrote short stories, poems and plays, and was also a painter and draughtsman.

The evening was a flurry of fascinating facts, but these are the ones that stuck most in my mind.

  1. Fabian Peake (son of Mervyn) revealed that his father had a different room in the house for each of his different activities – one for writing, one for painting, etc. This was mostly a practical arrangement, so he didn’t splash paint on his drawings, and so on.
  2. Journalist Hilary Spurling talked at length about the illustrations Mervyn Peake drew for Alice in Wonderland – in particular his free-spirited, nymphettish Alice, who was a precursor to (not necessarily an influence on, but it’s fun to speculate) Nabokov’s iconic Lolita. (And his Mad Hatter was based on a man he saw in a phone box on the Charing Cross Road.)
  3. Sebastian Peake (also son of Mervyn, and someone we deal with regularly – he gets to vet our Titus Groan script before we’re allowed to perform it!) shared a wonderful anecdote: apparently his father used to trick strangers in the street into holding opposite ends of a tape measure, round the corner from one another, under the pretext of helping him ‘measure the corner’. He’d retreat to a nearby coffee shop and watch them. His record was twenty minutes. What a mischief-maker.
  4. Lecturer Rob Maslen introduced us to Peake poems and plays. As a big fan of Spike Milligan and Frank Key, I was particularly excited to hear that Peake wrote volumes of nonsense poetry. After a quick discussion about nonsense poetry amongst the panel, I came away with a reading list including Peake, Ogden Nash and Edward Lear.
  5. A Gormenghast-related one to end on: Peake wrote an alternative song for Swelter to sing at the beginning of Titus Groan. It’s published in one of his collections. Rob Maslen read the first couple of stanzas (in Swelter’s voice) and it’s a delight. As we left, I could see Richard plotting and scheming ways of getting it into our adaptation.