I’ve been sitting on this news for a while, but as the official announcement was made today, I’m very pleased to tell you that my play, New Briggate Blues, commissioned by Jazz Leeds, will be performed next July as part of JazzLeedsFest 2018.
It features Dan Markham, the Leeds enquiry agent from Dark Briggate Blues and The New Eastgate Swing, along with his wife, Carla, as well as a live jazz quintet, who will perform during the play.
It’s very much a celebration of Studio 20, the Leeds jazz club that features heavily in both books, and will be directed by Ray Brown.
Book your ticket here.
Last year, at the launch of the third Tom Harper novel, Skin Like Silver, an actor named Carolyn Eden became Annabelle Harper, giving a speech of suffragism that Annabelle delivers in the book.
She inhabited the character and brought to life a woman who’s lived in my head for a few years now. I’ve tried to tell Annabelle’s story in fiction, but suddenly I saw another way. A play. A one-woman play.
The process of rehearsals has tentatively begun with a read-through and we’ll be moving ahead. The good people at Leeds Big Bookend will be giving us a chance to show some of it on June 4 at 2.30 pm in Leeds Central Library. It’s a work in progress, an exclusive preview. You’ll have a chance to see where it’s going, to become part of Annabelle’s story.
Made in Leeds TV have plans to film Annabelle’s story at historic locations around Leeds and she seems to be drawn to radio too. There’s no substitute for the live experience, but you might be treated to a sharing of more than the stage version as the project develops.
It’s a picture of working-class Leeds in the 19th century, from the grinding poverty of the Bank to relative prosperity as the landlady of the Victoria public house in Sheepscar, and her awakening to the world, to feminism and politics. It’s a story for all of today, as much for today as more than a century ago.
The pleasure and love along with pain. And hope. Because every story needs outrageous hope. Tickets are now on sale, and it will be worth your while. Annabelle will be very much alive in front of you.
You can find out more and book your tickets here.
You need to come.
At the start of December, during the launch for Skin Like Silver, the latest Tom Harper novel, an actress took on the role of Annabelle Harper for a couple of minutes, delivering the Suffragist speech she gives in the book.
The idea ignited something in me. I’ve wanted to tell Annabelle’s story for a long time – she’s one of those characters who refuses to leave me alone. I’ve tried on the page but it’s never caught fire.
But on the stage, with actress Carolyn Eden reprising the role…that could work. And I started writing. I’m still writing, but the whole piece has a real shape at this point. It’s alive.
And now I can tell you that The Empress on the Corner, the one-woman show about Annabelle Harper, will be staged at Leeds Big Bookend festival in early June. It’s a big step for me to move away from the page. But I do love a challenge.
It’s the story of a woman in life, love, politics. And it’s a story about Leeds, too. In Annabelle the two are interwined. How she grows and grabs life and independence.
Of course, I hope you’ll come….and to remind you of the catalyst, here’s Carolyn’s note-perfect portrayal of Annabelle