Meet MishMash Productions & learn how Liz is creating new soundscapes for young audiences.
Beeston is hiding yet another gem. Liz and her growing experimental company MishMash Productions are opening new worlds and soundscapes in Beeston and beyond. Since 2015 MishMash Productions has reached thousands of children across the UK and regularly work with the Nottingham Chamber Music Festival.
Sitting down in one of our favourite Beeston haunts – Greenhood Coffee House, Liz and I met for a cuppa with her son Max and we talked about her unique and exciting business, MishMash Productions. This focuses on introducing new styles of theatrical and classical music to young audiences. It’s pretty niche.
Children often find wonder and magic in things and places that adults overlook. For years children’s theatre has explored imaginary concepts and worlds. Liz and MishMash take this attitude and ethos and apply it to classical music. Liz has always been a passionate advocate for music and the arts,
“I’ve always done a lot of work around music with kids. I’ve run a charity and I’ve worked with music clubs, so it’s all about ensuring children get the opportunity to play instruments and make music. It’s always been the world that I worked in.”
Coming from a long line of teachers, Liz knew that wasn’t the career path for her, but she did want to work with children. She and her family have always been driven by a philosophy of equality and recognition of their own privilege. So throughout her career Liz has been drawn to work with organisations that are working with the least fortunate children and trying to make a difference in their lives:
“Music is so important, my safe space is in the middle of an orchestra playing music – I play the oboe and saxophone. Music keeps me going, so I’ve always wanted to share that with others.”
When she first had children, she found herself attending a lot more child-centric activities. Plenty of dance and drama was on the agenda and sadly there was no sophisticated or classical music for small people to embrace and enjoy.
“When we take children to see drama or theatre we don’t give them a pair of ballet shoes and say ‘join in’. With music, participation is often expected. I’m interested in music that children can absorb and not always music where people can join in.”
Professional live music that is able to be something different and interesting for younger audiences is the goal. All of MishMash’s work is sound focused and it’s essential that all the shows are always visually interesting! This is achieved by always working with a director and a designer to ensure that it’s professional and accessible. A key and continuing goal for Liz and her work is to break down barriers and opinions that classical music is elitist or only for wealthy people, explaining,
“Children don’t have any historical context, they don’t know which instruments are hugely expensive – they come in as a blank canvas the majority of the time and that’s wonderful.”
Lockdown obviously provided some difficulties for the company being live performers, but they made the most of online sessions and events and worked with local schools. creating and providing video podcasts and live streams. Of working through the pandemic Liz said,
“Protecting my musicians and their fees was a prime concern. We managed to secure some emergency funding from the Arts Council and we did get to perform half of a planned tour. “
More recently (since restrictions were lifted), toward the end of 2021 Liz and her company traveled to Norway to perform the award-winning production ‘Smile’. This was quite the honour as MishMash were the first international company to be programmed at the Young Audiences for Music Festival. A festival that is currently established worldwide in 40 countries.
The sequel show to ‘Smile’ is ‘Strange Creatures’, which was created working with Nottinghamshire City Libraries Services. MishMash have developed a second piece inspired by a well-known picture book – the Alexis Deacon book Beegu.
Recently they have been awarded new funding, so that means they can continue making, touring and promoting their wonderful work until at least March 2023. Their next local show in Nottingham is Strange Creatures in October, at Nottingham Trent University.
If you’re interested in finding out more, then head to the MishMash website – www.mishmashproductions.co.uk/strange-creatures or check in via their social media channels to see what’s happening.
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