It was years ago and many moons when I first dreamt of a website where you could find some of the best new UK musical writing in one place. I dreamt of it being somewhere on the internet...
A dream it remained however until one fateful day someone in Wuhan ate a bat.
You see, things were going pretty well for me prior to COVID-19. My musicals were being performed and commissioned and produced with relative regularity. I had finally begun to make a living purely from writing and when my name was mentioned in business circles instead of "Never heard of him" I had graduated to "Oh yeah, who's that again?" Which really felt like quite the acheivement.
People were beginning to come to shows because I was involved in them, rather in spite of me being involved in them. And apparently people could tell when it was a Darren Clark show. And not because it had "Darren Clark" stamped all over it in red pen (my agents repeatedly failed to get that clause in my contract despite Jasper Mountbatten III finest efforts). It was because I had a sound, a way with words, a manner of storytelling that was infused in my work. Please note that I had no idea that I was doing this. I had been copying what I loved for so long that I felt any unique identity must have been forever buried beneath the a concrete patio of plagiarism. But apparently not.
So yes, things were going well. The Wicker Husband that I had been working on with Rhys Jennings and Charlotte Westenra for eight years was about to open at The Watermill Theatre, our dream venue...
Then the incident occured and the industry around which I and many of my colleagues had built our careers, hopes, dreams and futures just disappeared. Poof. Kaput. Gone. Vanished.
Anyone would have thought I'd be upset. (It turns out I was upset but I only figured that out a whole lot later)
For now, I calmly told my friends and colleagues that I had no interest in writing anymore at the moment. For me my writing has never been an insular thing. It's always been about my audiences. That specific fusion of audience and writer where both forget that the other are there entirely and everyone is immersed in a moment of theatrical beauty.
So when it became clear that there could be no live audiences. My main reason for writing disappeared with them (for a while).
So I did something else.
For a few years I had been banging on about a place to sell new UK musical sheet music and I had even begun contacting some of my colleagues about being part of it. I had no idea what I was doing. I didn't know how it was going to work, how it would make money, how it would be manageable, how anyone would hear about it... I knew absolutely nothing.
But I did know what I wanted it to BE.
And it turns out that of all of the things, that's the most important thing. The rest just takes a bit of patience.
I wanted it to be a place where performers could find the best new UK musical theatre writing. I wanted people to be able to listen to the songs, to browse, to linger, to discover the new writers that they never knew existed. I wanted performers to be able to connect to the writers directly. I wanted the writers to actually be able to make some money from their work. I wanted the catalogue of songs to be easily navigated. I wanted people to feel safe in the knowledge that their money was directly supporting new writers. I wanted to create the online version of the community that was already thriving and of which I was already a part. I wanted to raise the profile of new writing and new writers in the industry by giving them a classy platform from which performers, producers and fans could access their work. I wanted to do this for my community but I also wanted to do it for me.
Anyone who thinks I'm entirely altruistic is barking up the whole wrong tree. I am of the opinion that what is good for all is good for me. By raising the profile of my fellow writers, the profile of new writing as a whole rises and as a result everyone in the new writing community benefits. Including my good self.
So I built it. It took a lot of time and work. But actually, you know what? It was fun, it felt worthwhile and satisfying to do and really would add something to the world of new writing.
All of those initial questions: How to build it, how it would work etc. eventually figured themselves out. No one else was involved in the building of the site. I did not hire anyone to write copy for me or to design anything for me or to build the website or the database/storage system for the song catalogue. I wanted to do it myself. Because it was a challenge and because I thought I could. There were parts that seemed impossible until time played her sweet game and figured them out for me. I talked to colleagues about how the system should work, I had many conversations in particular with Adam Lenson who, as ever, was hugely generous with his time and brilliant mind.
And then I told everyone I was doing it. Then I told everyone it was done. Then there was the successful launch of the site.
And so here it is.
But the thing about a site like this is it's never really done. The purpose of it is to grow and become THE go to place for new UK musical sheet music in the future.
So please keep talking about it, keep buying from it, keep singing songs and posting them.
As our industry slowly starts to come alive once more, new musicals need all the help they can get to get back up and running.
Support new writing by visiting the site and buying some music here: