The Blackshaw Arts Hour – Episode 26

This week on the Blackshaw Arts Hour Matt and Vikki join Iasha in the studio.

Matt reviews Sicario and we talk the ins and outs of the Academy awards. Ellie Pitkin interviews Kat Roberts, writer of Staying Alive and Nic Whitworth from the charity SLOW. Stay tuned for the next instalment of The Blackshaw Arts Hour to hear part 2 of the interview.

Vikki is back with Arts Thing of the Week and we discuss Shakespeare translation and what this could mean in terms of making sure the language and text are protected when performed.

Finally we heard an interview by Helen Johnson with Rachel Nott who plays the part of Mary in Staying Alive. Staying Alive begins on the 10th of November and run until the 29th. Get your tickets here.

Staying Alive: learning about grief

Last week was child bereavement awareness week.  Prince William spoke at Child Bereavement UK’s 21st Birthday celebrations – you can hear his words on grief, here.


CBUK is a nationwide charity supporting those who are living the struggles portrayed in our upcoming production of Staying Alive – they support children who have lost a loved one, as well as grieving parents. It’s great to see Prince William speaking out on the great and long-lasting impact that bereavement has on all those effected.


In preparation for Staying Alive, the cast and I have been reading around the topic of grief and child bereavement (with thanks to Nic Whitworth from SLOW bereavement charity, for the recommendations).


Some of the books we’ve been reading are:

Billy, Me & You: A Memoir of Grief and Recovery by Nicola Streeten

Wave: A Memoir of Life After the Tsunami by Sonali Deraniyagala

The spiritual life of bereaved parents by Dennis Klass

Grieving Garden: Living with the Death of a Child – Twenty Two Parents Share Their Stories by Suzanne Redfern and Susan Gilbert

The Death of a Child by Peter Stanford

Levels of Life by julian barnes

Kadian Journal by Thomas Harding


You can read more about the work that SLOW, the bereavement charity that helped us with the research and development of Staying Alive, does on their website.


You can also get a good insight into the nature of grief, by reading this article on the CBUK website.


  • Ellie, Director of Blackshaw Theatre


Staying Alive: Kat Roberts & Nic Whitworth in Conversation

‘Staying Alive’ writer Kat Roberts talks to SLOW charity co-founder, Nic Whitworth, about the nature of grief, and how they worked together to research and develop the play.

Warning: Infrequent strong language.


SLOW – Surviving the Loss of your World – is a charity that supports bereaved parents. SLOW North London came about in 2007 when two bereaved mothers, Susie Hanson and Nic Whitworth, decided to provide a space where other bereaved parents could come to meet, take time out, have a cup of tea or just be with others who felt isolated in their grief. The aim at SLOW, as its name suggests, is to allow parents to grieve at their own pace and in their own time scale, and to take strength from the company and support of others; before returning to daily life and its challenges.

SLOW holds regular day-time and evening support groups for parents.  The SLOWSIBS creative workshop for bereaved children is held quarterly.

Look at our website for further information.

SLOW is a small charity with a big impact – please support us by donating at


Staying Alive is at the Pleasance 10-29th November – Book tickets now! 


‘Staying Alive’ by Kat Roberts, 15th Jan 2015, at the Pleasance Theatre StageSpace

Blackshaw’s Showcase Award Winner 2014

“There’s nothing worse than old friends…they always think they know exactly who you are.”

Mary had a son. Now her son is dead. And that is all. But Jen is having a dinner party, just like they used to, a chance to catch up. No pressure. Nothing big. Just old friends. It would be great to see you. If you’re free. If you’re ready.

Staying Alive follows Mary’s efforts to build herself a life, after his death. Is it possible to regain any sense of normalcy? If not, how will her friends support her today, a year from now, 5 years from now? When is it time to ‘move on’?


RACHEL NOTT           Mary
Rachel graduated from the Poor School in 2008. Credits include Billy Liar (Coopers Arms), Pirates! (Polka Theatre), Saturday, Sunday, Monday (Workhouse Theatre), The Memory of Water (Rose and Crowne), FourPlay (Hen & Chickens), The Bill (Talkback Television). Rachel is also a co-producer for Four Eyes and the Peach. She is delighted to be involved in Blackshaw Theatre’s showcase of Staying Alive.
BRENDAN JONES       Nathan
Brendan Jones trained at The Poor School. His TV and Film credits include ‘The bell boy’ in Bright Young Things directed by Stephen Fry (2002) and ‘John Housman’ in Days That Shook The World directed by David Bartlett (2005).

Brendan’s theatre credits include ‘Eugene’ in The Wolf directed by Jamie Harper (2011), and ‘Joan Miro’ in Café Duende directed by Jamie Harper (2013).

ELEANOR BURKE         Jenn
Theatre credits include: News Revue (Canal Café Theatre), Julius Caesar (Brockley Jack Theatre); Timbre (Torn Apart Theatre), Sketchageddon Live (Canal Café Theatre), The Women at The Tomb, La Ronde (Theatre Collection) and for Blackshaw Theatre Company; Alice Springs, and Staying Alive (Blackshaw New Writing Nights).

Film & TV credits include: Kon Tiki (RPC & Nordisk Film), Suspect 13, Coming Out (Shoot Me Films), The Violinist, Newsnight (BBC), First Light (Fervent Films), Four Tongues (The Ideas Factory), Thomas The Tank Engine & Friends (Red Caravan), Tequila (Eternal Media Productions), Bunking Off (Nic Penrake Films), On My Own/Russell Crowe (London Comedy Writers).

Training: The Poor School

Jonny is a core ensemble member of ‘The Faction’, a theatre company interpreting classical texts with a contemporary aesthetic. He also plays the regular doctor, Charlie Cavanagh, on ITV’s Emmerdale.

IMG_3192Training: Webber Douglas

For ‘The Faction’: Strindberg’s Apartment, Twelfth Night, Mary Stuart, Miss Julie, Fiesco, Three Sisters, Blood Wedding, Hamlet, Thebes, The Robbers, Theatre Economy of Thought (Assembly George Square), Write Me a Murder (Southwold and Aldeburgh Summer Theatre), Eddie and the Gold Tops (UK Tour), Toad (Southwark Playhouse), The James Herriot Story (UK Tour), A Yorkshire Christmas Carol (UK Tour), Hard Times (UK Tour).

TV: Emmerdale

Training: The Poor School
Theatre includes: u/s ‘Jack’, ‘Colin’, ‘Simeon’ in Life of Riley, (2011), ‘Bob’ in Tea & Filth (2010), ‘Mike’ in The Memory of Water (2010), ‘David’ in Take It or Leave It, (2010), ‘Adrian’ in If the Cap Fits, (2009), ‘Peter Quince’ in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, (2009), u/s ‘Andy’, ‘Bill’, ‘Gerald’ in Woman in Mind, (2009 – West End Debut), and ‘Prince’ in Romeo & Juliet, (2008).

EMILY RAE        Portia/Sarah/Social Worker
Emily graduated from The Guildford School of Acting in 2013. Her credits during training include ‘Masha’ in Three Sisters, ‘Hermia’ in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, ‘Leonardo’s Wife’ in Blood Wedding and ‘Midas’ Daughter’ in Metamorphoses. Professionally, Emily has worked previously with Blackshaw Theatre Company in the role of ‘Alice’ in their production of Alice in Wonderland as part of the Wandsworth Arts Festival and Fringe. She has also completed two UK tours as ‘Gerda’ in Quantum Theatre’s production of The Snow Queen, ‘Mrs Owl’ In Blunderbus Theatre Company’s Hugless Douglas and has also been invited to perform at several ‘Constellation CoLab’ events at The Hospital Club in Covent Garden.

Emily is thrilled to have her feet firmly back on the ground in London and to be working on a brilliant new script with Blackshaw, a company she is very fond of.


Kat studied Drama and Creative Writing at Royal Holloway Univeristy of London, before leaving to train as an actor at the Poor School. At the beginning of 2014, Kat changed her focus from acting back to writing, and applied for Blackshaw’s Showcase Award with her short play, Take Me. As winner of the Showcase Award, Kat has spent the remainder of the year developing the piece with Blackshaw Theatre Company. The full length play, now titled Staying Alive, is her first in production. Kat is also in the final year of an English Literature degree with The Open University and is a volunteer counsellor for Childline London.

ELLIE PITKIN Director & Producer
Ellie is the Managing & Artistic Director of Blackshaw Theatre, which she founded in May 2010. Directing credits include Arcadia by Tom Stoppard (2006) and Our Country’s Good by Timberlake Wertenbaker (2009). With Blackshaw, Ellie has directed Gormenghast: Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake (2012), Alice in Wonderland by Richard Stratton (2014), Character by Florence Vincent (2014), London Pride by Katie McCullough (2013); Audience with the Ghost Finder by M. J. Starling (2013); Fetch by Duncan Gates (2014).

A graduate in Theatre Studies from Royal Holloway University (2008), Ellie also comperes Blackshaw’s regular New Writing Nights.

JO GREAVES Assistant Director
Jo Greaves is a South London based director. She has worked with numerous new writing companies across London and has had work performed at the Southwark Playhouse, Tristan Bates and Park Theatre. Having directed for the Blackshaw New Writing Nights, she is thrilled to be assisting on the Staying Alive showcase.

MICHELLE BRISTOW Set & Costume Designer
Michelle has previously designed costumes for One Small Step For A Man (2012, directed by Sam Hayes) and assisted with the costumes for Theatre Giants Houdini The Play UK & Ireland Tour (2013). Michelle has assisted on costume and set for previous Blackshaw productions – Alice in Wonderland by Richard Stratton (2014), London Pride by Katie McCullough (2013); Audience with the Ghost Finder by M. J. Starling (2013). More recently she designed set and costume for Blackshaw’s Halloween Tales (2014), featuring a candlelit reading and Fetch by Duncan Gates.

Michelle is a graduate in Costume Design from Wimbledon College of Arts (2014) and was also part of the collaborating design team for ASC Random’s recent production of Hamlet (2014).

ANDREW CRANE Sound & Light Design/Operation

VIKKI WESTON Producer & Front of House

SIOBHAN WHELAN Publicity Manager

STANLEY WALTON Publicity Assistant


NICOLE LOCKE Company Administrator

NICK TATCHELL Front of House


For their generous help with research: Nicola Whitworth Co-founder of SLOW; Dr Hannah Davies MBChB; Anna Anderson BA Hons. Social Work & Social Policy; Toby Herniman BEng.; David Goddard BMus.; Charlie Davies CEO iGeolise.

With special thanks to Nic for sharing her story with me.

Remembering Naomi Grace Whitworth (12/11/1997 – 06/04/2005) and all lost children.


The Selkirk and staff
The Weston family
Zak Thomas

5 minutes with Nic Whitworth

Our latest production, Staying Alive,  deals with a very sensitive issue – the death of a child.

Following on from our 5 minutes with writer, Kat Roberts, we caught up with Nic Whitworth from bereaved parent support group SLOW. Nic helped Kat with her research in writing Staying Alive: this kind of in-depth research is part of why Staying Alive is such a remarkable piece of theatre.

We wanted to share with you the important work Nic and SLOW do. There is a link to donate to the organisation at the bottom of the piece.

Can you give us a short background on what Slow is and what it provides?

Slow is a self-help group for bereaved parents, run by bereaved parents. It provides a weekly day time group and a monthly evening group where bereaved parents are able to come and listen, talk and simply spend time together in the knowledge that they are with others who share their grief.


What’s the philosophy behind Slow?

SLOW stands for Surviving the Loss of your World – at your own pace. The philosophy is that grief is a natural response to the untimely death of a child, and we seek to walk alongside each other through the pain that grief involves. Adapting and adjusting to life without your child is a slow process that requires patience and kindness towards yourself and from others. We will provide the space for bereaved parents to find their own way through grief, at their own pace, trusting that each person is unique in the pattern of their grief and will adjust in their own way. We hold onto to the hope that through our sharing community we may each find a way to connect with our child in our own time. Grief is an ever changing landscape: we believe each parent will ultimately find a way to carry their child with them in a way that makes sense to them, though they will never be ‘fixed’


You and Kat (writer of Staying Alive) had quite a long chat regarding the best way to portray this sensitive subject matter. What did you think was the most important thing she had to convey?

That grief of a parent cannot be fixed, and that the experience of time changes completely for bereaved parents. We need time to grieve, time to rest, time to try to rebuild our lives, time to recalibrate our worlds, time to make sense of a senseless world. The past is forever present and the future is frightening. We are irrevocably changed and our children’s names are a joy to hear and we love it when people talk about them – as do parents whose children are thankfully alive.


How is Slow funded?

We were lucky enough to receive Lottery Funding this year. We also receive funding from Islington Community Chest, London Initiative funds, and we are supported by Waitrose community Matters scheme, The Maple Trust, and from 2 individuals who have hosted fundraising sporting events for us


How can we help out with your work?
Our local giving page is the best way to support us, though we are very happy for any event to be hosted for us, please get in touch with Nic or Kelly if you would like to fundraise for Slow. Link to local giving below