Our very first voluntary First Night blogger writes about his time spent at Birmingham Hippodrome

Marcus Hubbard joined us as a voluntary First Night blogger in 2011.  Here he writes fondly about his year spent working with us and his hopes to tread the boards of his favourite theatre in the future.

For those people who might not know, Birmingham Hippodrome has a great scheme giving young people the chance to access discounted tickets for pretty much every show at the theatre.  Way back in 2011, I was invited by the Hippodrome to be an ambassador, a face and a voice if you will for the First Night Scheme, along with fellow blogger (and now friend) Alex.  At the time ‘First Night Blogging’ was unheard of and none of us really knew what we were getting in to, we didn’t know how it was going to work, or if it was going to be a success. Well, four years down the line the scheme is going strong and since myself and Alex there have been numerous new bloggers recruited by the theatre to  carry the banner for First Night representing the voice of young theatre goers in the Midlands (however, we still pride ourselves at being the originals!)

I have nothing but wonderful memories of my time at the Hippodrome: from being asked to walk around Birmingham wearing video camera glasses for the day, swinging from a trapeze in the middle of the city centre as part of the theatre’s outdoor progamming, to donning my best outfit for the press night of the UK tour of ‘Top Hat’ and meeting such wonderful people both from the Hippodrome and other areas of the Birmingham media and entertainment scene. Particular highlights include attending the press launch for the first UK tour of ‘Dirty Dancing’ at the Aston Villa ground (which included a tour of the grounds and a theatrical lunch with exclusive previews of some of the songs from show) as well as witnessing the spectacle that was The Guangdong Acrobatic Troupe’s Swan Lake – she dances on his head!

After my time was up as a First Night Blogger I swapped the bright lights of Birmingham for the bright lights of London to go to stage school for three years.  My time there was everything the movies make it out to be – if not better (or worse at times!) and now I’m out in the big old world of showbiz auditioning for various projects in theatre and for screen. Even though the main goal is to be on stage in musicals, I’ve occasionally blogged and wrote articles for various different mediums since my time at the Hippodrome.

Having moved down to London, the Hippodrome is still a big part of my life… Now in 2015 I can still drop Media and PR Manager Mandy an email to come in for coffee (and recently donuts) and a catch up to hear all the latest from behind the scenes at the theatre – it’s not every day you find yourself stuffing a donut in your face backstage whilst getting to see Shrek’s fat suit!

Watching the First Night Scheme grow over the years has been wonderful, and now watching new bloggers – and these days vloggers – continue to represent the scheme has been even better (even though I’m a little jealous of them!) Growing up at the Hippodrome was a big part of my life and to be able to be a tiny part in the working cogs of the best theatre in the UK was a real honour, and who knows, perhaps I’ll get to play the Hippodrome stage one day…

First Night is a free membership scheme for 16-24 years olds check out our latest offers and keep up-to-date with our current bloggers.

For more theatrical anecdotes, follow Marcus on Twitter @marcusjhubbard 




Introducing our new First Night Bloggers…

Meet our First Night bloggers team!   They  work alongside our Media and PR team  to bring you all the news and reviews surrounding our First Night scheme offering discounted tickets for 16-23 years olds – find out more about First Night HERE. 

Heather Kincaid is our First Night Bloggers Ambassador – leading the  scheme by taking you behind the scenes and to opening night. Heather said; “After more than a year enjoying an amazing array of shows, backstage tours and interviews, all while building up a diverse online portfolio and honing my journalistic skills, I’m now thrilled to be guiding two new writers through the First Night Blogging scheme, and can’t wait to see how the project grows and develops over the next few months.” Keep up to date with Heather’s blog here.

Our first  bloggers is Amy Stutz – take a look at Amy’s page for regular updates here On her new position Amy commented; “I am very excited to become a blogger for the first night scheme as it is an incredible opportunity to combine my two passions, writing and theatre. I can’t wait to get started and begin writing about all the fantastic shows and events the Hippodrome has coming up over the next year. The Hippodrome provides a huge variety of shows and I am thrilled to watch and review them in my blog whilst also networking with many industry professionals.”

Last but certainly not least, Rebecca Gibson takes the role of our second First Night Blogger – check out her posts here. Rebecca said “I am really excited to have be given the opportunity of joining the first night scheme and cannot wait to get started. The First Night Scheme is not only a great chance for me to write about and see some amazing things shown by the Hippodrome but hopefully a way for me to encourage people to go to the theatre.”

Don’t forget to give them a follow on Twitter: @Heather_LJ, @AmyStutz and @rebecca_jane29.

Life as a First Night Blogger…

Heather Kincaid started as a Birmingham Hippodrome First Night Blogger just over 12 months ago, now she takes on the role of our First Night Ambassador as we look to recruit new members of the blogging scheme. In this blog Heather talks about her experiences over the past year…

Heather Kincaid

Heather Kincaid

From Wicked to Wagner, War Horse to the Four Squares Weekender, my year working as a blogger for Birmingham Hippodrome has been nothing if not varied. Since being picked to take part in the theatre’s still expanding and improving First Night scheme, I’ve been lucky enough to be offered tickets to everything from smash-hit West End shows on tour, to experimental works-in-progress by emerging, independent artists.

One of the best parts of the job has been getting to experience shows I might not otherwise have seen, whether out of choice or because of other obstacles. Not only have I begun to gain a better understanding of dance and physical theatre, but I’ve also been able to enjoy the big, popular musicals. As its many users will already know, the Hippodrome’s First Night scheme is a great way for young people to get a taste of the West End at a fraction of the normal ticket price, and as a blogger, getting to go along without paying a penny has been a real privilege.

It’s not all been about seeing shows and reviewing them, however. On top of this, I’ve been invited to behind-the-scenes tours, exclusive interviews and on-location photo shoots. I’ve had access to private, press-only areas where I’ve been treated to drinks with the professionals. I’ve sat in on a pantomime rehearsal in London, attended a special War Horse concert with readings by Michael Morpurgo and even helped create an ice sculpture to be displayed as part of an outdoor art exhibition.

Heather and the cast of CATS

Heather and the cast of CATS

On a more practical note, I’ve significantly expanded my professional portfolio and gained publicity thanks to sharing by the Birmingham Hippodrome, as well as by performers and companies whose productions have been staged at the theatre. In addition to having my blog posts regularly retweeted, I’ve been featured in Hippodrome programmes, pursued online conversations with artists and been able to speak directly to professional journalists working across all different kinds of media. Above all, Ben and Mandy (Press and PR) have been brilliant at supporting me all the way through to get better at what I do, and I hope the skills I’ve developed will prove beneficial to me as part of an ongoing career.

Things are already beginning to move along, and as I come to the end of my time as a First Night Blogger, I’m also settling into a new position as a Hippodrome Plus Youth Ambassador, hosting public talks linked to the theatre’s outdoor work, getting trained in public speaking and attending arts festivals to help programme shows for next year’s Summer in Southside. This role has already been a real boost to my confidence, but perhaps even more importantly, it’s given me the chance to meet some fantastic, driven and creative young people from the area with whom I sincerely hope I’ll keep in touch for years to come.

Whether you’re planning a career in arts journalism or simply looking for an insight into how creative industries and theatrical productions are run, working as a First Night Blogger could serve as a brilliant starting point – just as long as you’re willing to make the most of every opportunity thrown your way!

For more information on how you can become a First Night Blogger CLICK HERE.