Fizzy Sherbet is currently accepting submissions of short plays by women writers for their fantastic podcast. We caught up with co-founder, Tamara von Werthern, to tell us how the project has evolved from a pre-pandemic live reading event in Hackney to an Arts Council funded podcast…
“Little did I know what we had started when director Lily McLeish and me first asked for scripts to be sent to Fizzy Sherbet to stage a reading night at the Hackney Attic in East London.
I remember printing home-made posters and putting them up all over the place, in cafes, pubs and even our local laundrette. It feels so strange now to think that the world we started this project in was so different from how it is now. Back then it was so easy to start talking about what we were doing face to face, to meet interested people in theatre bars after the show and even just in the street (Okay, I admit it, I was like a young puppy with this, telling everyone I could about it.) It was such fun, doing the call-outs, reading the plays, meeting with our reading panel in town, curating the evenings, casting, performing and then mingling in the excellent bar high above Hackney to talk about what we’d just experienced together.
Then suddenly everything changed and we found ourselves cooped up at home, in front of a screen, everyone in their own little world. Lily and I were in different countries, and everything would have to go on hold for a while. But then we had a meeting over Zoom and came up with the idea of meeting our audiences halfway by producing the plays in audio form as part of a podcast.
We got very excited about somehow including the bar chats alongside the plays by allowing the writers to talk more about their work and themselves (and favourite sweets they liked) and to also invite one more guest, a really interesting one who brings a different perspective to what we’ve just experienced on stage (or in our ears).
We started this almost exactly a year ago, when we launched our website fizzysherbetplays.com, which serves as an archive for women creatives, as well as a permanent home for the Podcast. It’s been quite a journey. We have had many more Zooms, we pulled together a fantastic team consisting of producers Ameena Hamid and Steph J. Weller, directors Anna Girvan and Sandra Theresa Buch and writer/performer Josephine Starte, led by Lily and me. We were zooming across three different countries, (four, if you take into account that our sound designer was based in Australia), we produced seven full episodes and two Fizzy Chat episodes, where we talk with an interesting woman in theatre. We won a blooming award for audio-fiction in podcasting at The Sarah Awards in New York (woop woop!) – sadly we could not go to New York, but zoomed in for the ceremony instead. We did have an after-party though, across several time-zones, where we clinked glasses through the screen.
We applied for Arts Council Funding and were unsuccessful. We felt bad about asking publicly for money at a time when everyone was on Furlough Leave, so although we did set up a Buy Me A Coffee Account, we then kept it quiet. Sandra Buch, who is head of Dramatic Writing at the Danish Playwriting School and myself started a series of Creative Writing Workshops to raise funds, and began to assemble a lovely loyal group of women writers (new workshops to be announced after the summer break). We managed to secure support from some great partner organisations from around the world, including the Danish National School of Performing Arts, and The Bush Theatre, who agreed to host a live recording of one of our episodes.
We decided to push ahead and continue to raise the funds ourselves, alongside resubmitting to the Arts Council. Days after The Bush announced their programme with us in it we heard back that this time we’d been successful with our ACE application. I was in a rehearsal room on a different project when the news came in, I jumped half a metre in the air, screamed and then started sobbing. My poor director friend had to listen to me go on and on in raptures about it for the rest of the day.
Having secured the funding has given us the wind under our wings that we’ve needed to keep this going, to create paid opportunities for women artists worldwide and to platform their voices”.