Tag: liverpool

The play’s the thing: copywriting for the Everyman Theatre

During the course of a career, copywriters can be called on to write about all kinds of subjects. Throughout my mumble mumble years in the trade, I’ve covered video games, roof insulation, mobile phones, financial services, sportswear, residential developments, slate mining, the motor industry, pharmaceuticals, dentistry, pets, and more. Lots more.

With a couple of exceptions, I didn’t know much about those subjects before I began work on them, and I don’t necessarily know much about them now. But while I was engaged in writing about them, I took time to find out as much as was relevant to the task in hand, and turned that hastily accrued knowledge into copy that was right for its audience.

On one occasion, when writing a manual for a World War Two flight simulation game, I more or less had to learn how to fly a plane. It was a while ago, so please don’t ask me to shift one of EasyJet’s finest from Manchester to Alicante, but for the duration of that project, I started to feel that piloting a Spitfire wasn’t beyond my capabilities.

Clearly, the transition from self-confessed ignoramus to delusional expert is a copywriter’s occupational hazard.

However, not every project follows this trajectory. When genuine personal passions and professional duties collide – when the writer has already built up a significant breadth of knowledge on the subject – the result can be a special kind of job.

And so it was for me when the team at Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre asked me to write the marketing copy for their 2018 repertory season. After all, the Everyman is a venue I’ve supported for over 20 years, and when it reopened after major reconstruction in 2014, I wrote about the role it has played in my life.  I regularly review its shows, and one of my sons is even immortalised within its architecture. And if that sounds unlikely, you can see him here: top row, third from left…

Everyman Theatre, Liverpool

I was therefore well placed to understand the importance of the season to the theatre, and I knew that the four disparate productions – Paint Your Wagon, A Clockwork Orange, Othello and The Big I Am – needed to feel like a coherent whole. The Everyman has created a stir recently with its decision to return to a repertory model, and with a single company of 14 actors performing all four shows, one aim is to encourage audiences to see the full set.

But 20-plus years of prior knowledge can only get you so far. In order to write about each production succinctly and yet enticingly, I needed to get a grip on what each one was about. The way to do that, of course, was to read the scripts. But a script is only the foundation of a show. It’s what the creative team does with it that really counts, so I also conducted lengthy interviews with the Everyman’s artistic director and associate director (Gemma Bodinetz and Nick Bagnall respectively) to get an idea of what they had in mind for each play.

With the research done, I wrote the required words: four pieces of writing of around 100 words each, all intended to be used in print brochures, online, and as cut-down text in a variety of contexts such as promotional emails.

You can read the finished pieces here: Paint Your Wagon, A Clockwork Orange, Othello, The Big I Am. (And before anyone gets in touch to tell me Othello is referred to as “she”… no, that’s not a typo.)

Paint Your Wagon, Everyman Theatre, LiverpoolA Clockwork Orange, Everyman Theatre, LiverpoolOthello, Everyman Theatre, LiverpoolThe Big I Am, Everyman Theatre, Liverpool

It doesn’t sound like much, does it? Four chunks of 100 words. But the reading, the talking, the thinking and discussing that went into this project – not to mention the years of theatre-going that preceded it – were all key to doing a good job. Effective writing demands a degree of background knowledge, and the only option for a copywriter is to either be an expert, or to become one. Fast.

As I write, the Everyman’s rep season is on sale, with shows running from March until July 2018. How effective my words have been on this occasion is for others to say, but for my part, I’m inordinately proud to have been involved in the venue’s rich theatrical story, and its continuing repertory tale.

And if you’re within reach of Liverpool and you fancy a treat, come and place your bum on one of its seats soon.


You can find my 2014 article about the Everyman here, and my 2016 piece about the theatre’s ex-artistic director, Alan Dossor, is here.



We interrupt this broadcast

It was perhaps the strangest 60 minutes that this oversized, traffic-choked television has ever seen.

Overlooking the tumbling river of vehicles that flows between Liverpool’s Lime Street Station and the exquisite St George’s Hall, the 31-metre long Media Wall usually plays host to a constant cycle of ads. However, for one hour only on January 20th 2016, its consumerist mantra was interrupted by the Four Words art project – a stream of slogans, thoughts, non-sequiturs and questions on the theme of money, value and exchange.

Conceived by the artist Alan Dunn, and forming part of the Liverpool Provocations series, the anti-ads were provided by an eclectic list of artists, writers, economists, journalists, musicians and community activists – not to mention the odd creative copywriter. Each contributor was required to submit four words together with instructions for a ten-second text animation; on the day, the 70-ish syntactical snippets were aired three times each, and once the hour was up, normal commercial service was resumed.

At the very least, Four Words threw a linguistic spanner into capitalism’s works for an afternoon during the January sales, provoking plenty of puzzlement and, perhaps, a little inspiration for the city’s passing workforce.

As revealed on this very blog back in December, I was one of the contributors invited to take part in this intriguing intervention. When I originally trailed my involvement, I kept my four-word slogan under wraps, but now my story can be told. Here goes:Four Words, Liverpool - Damon Fairclough 1

Four Words, Liverpool - Damon Fairclough 2

Four Words, Liverpool - Damon Fairclough 3

Four Words, Liverpool - Damon Fairclough 4

So there you have it: PUT. THAT. COFFEE. DOWN!

This isn’t the time or place to go into the what-and-why of that caffeinated call to action – I’ll save that for an article on my writing archive at noiseheatpower.com sometime soon. For now, let’s accept it at face value – just one four-word utterance among the many that caused Liverpool to raise an eyebrow one chilly January afternoon.

I’d like to express huge thanks to Alan Dunn for issuing the call, to Jack Ehlen for executing the animation, to my fellow four-worders, and to Metal Liverpool who put so much work into helping the whole thing happen. The event was well documented in both photographs and video, so those who have the time and/or inclination can gorge themselves on these literary snacks while reliving the whole provocative experience. Without having to endure the biting wind.

And if any of the organisers are reading this, I’m ready to do it all over again whenever you want.

In fact, let’s go crazy. Next time, let’s make it five.


Watch interviews and clips from the day…


…or watch the full 20-minute Four Words cycle


Four word march

Not every ad line needs to be compact, concise and considerably shorter than War and Peace, but brevity is often what’s required. As a copywriter I’ve written my share of snappy straplines in my time and they’ve appeared around the world in all kinds of very public manifestations. I’m not sure, however, that any have claimed ten seconds of fame on quite the scale of my most recent slogan.

Its precise wording must remain under wraps for now, but what I can reveal is that on January 20th 2016, four of my words will have Liverpool’s gargantuan media wall to themselves… for one whole sixth of a minute. It’s an exciting prospect, as the screen sits in a prominent position opposite Lime Street station, and claims to be “the largest full motion out-of-home digital advertising screen in Europe”. (At almost 31 metres long, if there’s an “in-home” screen that’s bigger, I’d be very interested to see the residence in question.)

Liverpool media wall

On this occasion, the slogan won’t be a component of an ad or marketing campaign, but will instead form part of a project curated by the artist Alan Dunn. The initiative, called Four Words, aims to take over Liverpool’s most visible city-centre advertising site in the middle of the sales season and offer shoppers 100 different four-word thoughts based on ideas of value, money and exchange. In the words of the brief: “We want to offer the Liverpool public FOUR WORDS that will act as a counterpoint to the sales season and the invisible pressures of this time of year.”

It may be the height of hypocrisy for a commercial copywriter of many years’ standing to get involved in an art project that is essentially a critique of the free market and its post-Christmas shopping frenzy, but a brief is a brief. When invited to take part, I certainly couldn’t resist the opportunity to see four of my carefully weighted words appear giant-sized in the centre of the city, but equally, it will be a real thrill to appear alongside some very noteworthy co-contributors including Douglas Coupland, Gerhard Richter, Paul Morley, Jamie Reid and David Shrigley.

Plus, I’m sure it will be exhilarating for them to be on the same list as the famous Liverpool-based copywriter and content creator, Damon Fairclough. (Incidentally, there’s another D. Fairclough on the list too – the sensational Liverpool FC super-sub of the 1970s and early ’80s…)

With each four-word sequence currently being animated by the designer Jack Ehlen, the Lime Street stage is set for 100 curious comments that will command Liverpool’s attention in just a few weeks’ time.

As I said, I can’t tell you my slogan just yet.

But I’m looking four word to it.


Four Words appears on the Lime Street media wall in Liverpool on Wednesday, January 20th 2016 between 3pm-4pm.

It is part of the Liverpool Provocations series developed by Metal Liverpool.