Image: Will Jackson (left) and Ben Anderson (right).

As part of our wider activity, Little Earthquake runs East Meets West, a network which aims to reduce barriers and encourage collaboration between and within the East and West Midlands’ independent theatre-making communities.

One strand of the network is the Easties Meet Westies Buddy Scheme which brings together artists, companies and other theatre people who are working at a similar level or scale on either side of the Midlands divide, in order to establish some new relationships and to provide some essential peer support.

One of our first buddy scheme pairings was Will Jackson (director and theatre-maker based in Birmingham) and Ben Anderson (producer and theatre-maker based in Derby). You can find out what happened when Will met Ben below.

If you’d like to apply for your very own buddy, a second round of the scheme has just opened! You have until 5pm on Friday 12th April to apply. For all the details visit: www.eastmeetswest.org.uk/buddies.

Will on Ben

Where did your date take place?
We met at Leicester train station before going for a walk and then grabbed a coffee at the Attenborough Arts Centre.

What were you hoping for?
A friendship? Maybe something more? Something more than just a fling?!… Haha. Honestly, I think we both went in with no expectations for this which was a really good attitude to have. Like going into any sort of date its always best if you go in open-minded but not expecting to get anything out of it. Neither of us were gearing ourselves up to immediately fill in a joint Arts Council application afterwards, but it was clear that we were both keen to learn a lot about each other’s practices and respective arts/theatre scenes.

First impressions?
Ben was smart and incredibly well put together for 11 o’clock on a Sunday, whilst I’d just got off a two-and-a-half-hour delayed train and I believe the technical term for how I looked was ‘a hot mess’. He stood out as a very friendly and approachable face at the station I when I docked in.

What did you talk about?
We both talked a bit about our backgrounds, our ambitions and how our respective regional arts scenes work. We’re both around the same age and in similar stages in our careers, although on slightly different paths so it was cool to chat about that and how we brand ourselves as practitioners and the work that we do. This could have been quite a cringey conversation but actually it was nice to have an honest conversation with someone about that.

What new thing have you learned or discovered?
How much awesome theatre is being made in the East Midlands! It was also great to learn more about Ben and his work. Ben is a Creative Producer. He runs In Good Company which is the flagship professional creative and business development programme for theatre-makers and companies in the East Midlands. They provide mentoring, business support, resources, and high-profile performance opportunities. Alongside In Good Company, he also runs two youth theatre groups. So it was cool to chat about how he manages to balance those two very separate things.

Any awkward moments?
I had a slightly bumpy train ride in and I accidentally spilled my tea over my lap, but I don’t think anyone seemed to notice. But on the actual date itself I think things went rather smoothly.

Best thing about Ben?
His smile… Also, he clearly has a great attitude and way of thinking about his work. He loves getting to work with as many different people as possible and is passionate about supporting and making new and exciting theatre.

Would you introduce Ben to your friends?
For sure!

Describe Ben in three words.
Creative, Kind and Driven.

What do you think Ben made of you?
Haha! Hopefully he didn’t pick up on the fact that I was slightly hungover.

[This is the bit where The Guardian Blind Date interview would ask if you kissed. But this wasn’t that KIND of first date. So we won’t ask that!]
Wait? It wasn’t?… Oh… We ended as we began: with a polite and firm handshake. Although maybe we went in for a hug at the end?? I can’t remember! We were just so in the moment…

If you could change one thing about the date, what would it be?
Nah! Live hard and fast, no regrets! Although maybe I would have got a snack at the café.

Will you meet up again?
I hope so! In Good Company run lots of fantastic events and workshops and I’m keen to come and catch more of them in the new year, and to check out more of the brilliant stuff that’s being made in the East Midlands.

Ben on Will

Where did your date take place?
Mid way between Nottingham and Birmingham, in the lovely city of Leicester. Although Will travelled up from London so my meeting half way guilt-freeness was flawed from the very beginning.

What were you hoping for?
Not a lot if I’m honest. Maybe just a good coffee and to meet someone nice would have sufficed. I think mainly I wanted to know more about the West Midlands, and how it works – an insider’s opinion, if you like. I certainly got that, and also some banter, and a great match! So thank you Little Earthquake and East Meets West!

First impressions?
“Oh he’s tall.” (but then most people are in my world) and “ooh cool glasses.”

What did you talk about?
We challenged each other to a quick-fire synopsis of our lives so far, leaving no stone unturned. We spoke about improv groups, opera, portfolios, shows, festivals in Birmingham, venues in the East Midlands, touring models and what success would look or feel like for us, in the end.

What new thing have you learned or discovered?
I’ve learnt all about the festival fantasia that is Brum. I’ve been reassured that you plan, and work hard, and put yourself out there, give up weekends, volunteer, travel, and despite all that you will still stumble your way through a portfolio arts career.

Any awkward moments?
Pretending to know Leicester and walking Will to a cafe that was closed.

Best thing about Will?
He’s ambitious yet down to earth, and has a really broad set of experiences.

Would you introduce Will to your friends?
Certainly would, if I had some.

Describe Will in three words.
An intelligent and witty grafter.

What do you think Will made of you?
Hmm, I hope he thought I was open, generous and honest.

If you could change one thing about the date, what would it be?
A slice of cake with the coffee.

Will you meet up again?
For sure.