Mercury Musical Developments was born 1992 when a group of 8 writers, including George Stiles, Anthony Drewe, Howard Goodall and Charles Hart among others, who studied with Stephen Sondheim at Oxford University during his tenure as the inaugural Cameron Mackintosh Professor of Contemporary Theatre in 1990, went on to form the Mercury Workshop, an informal composers’ salon for writers to give each other feedback and support, led by Ed Hardy and including founding MMD Board Members Stiles and Drewe.
Over time Mercury expanded and in 1999 merged with New Musicals Alliance, run by Chris Grady, to become Mercury Musical Developments. Under the leadership of Georgina Bexon the organization grew, forged links with writers and other musical theatre aficionados in the US and became the place producers began to look to when commissioning new work. In 2008 Neil Marcus took over the helm and brought much needed profile and funding to the organization. MMD writers began to have shows produced in regional theatres and the West End and were represented in New York’s annual new musicals showcasing at NAMT. In 2012, MMD became part of the Arts Council England National Portfolio, in partnership with Musical Theatre Network (MTN) a membership organisation for venues, colleges, producers and creatives other than writers dedicated to producing new musical theatre. This was the first time musical theatre had received long term public funding and it enabled the organization to take significant steps towards nurturing new musical theatre writing in the UK and enabled MMD to provide a number of exciting new initiatives for our members. In 2015 Victoria Saxton took over the role of Executive Director.
2016 saw the inaugural BEAM Showcase; a two-day industry event highlighting the breadth of work and talent within the genre from right across the UK. It was jointly presented by MMD and MTN at the Park Theatre, London; the first of what will be a bi-annual event. The second BEAM showcase took place in March 2018 at Theatre Royal Stratford East and the next BEAM showcase is planned for spring 2020, with showcase pitching days commencing in the autumn of 2019.
MMD has now grown from it’s original 25 members to a membership organization of around 450. Its membership consists of writers from across the UK and internationally, at all levels of experience. We run a year-round programme of activities designed to support our mission to enable our writers to write their best musical, provide opportunities to develop their careers and champion the art form as a whole. In partnership with Musical Theatre Network, we run a UK Musical Theatre Industry Conference – now a bi-annual event in ‘non-BEAM’ years, drawing together practitioners from around the country for debate and discussion around the key issues of the day. Via our Advanced Lab writers’ group, our website, our Buddy and Spotlight schemes, we provide a constant community of support.
A key achievement in 2012 was securing funding from the Cameron Mackintosh Foundation to support the placement of 5 resident composers over three years. We were delighted that this funding continues and we anticipate placing a writing team in 2019. Residencies have taken place at venues across the UK, including the Bush Theatre, Finborough Theatre, Royal & Derngate Northampton, Bristol Old Vic, Soho Theatre, Watermill Newbury, Mercury Colchester, New Wolsey Ipswich, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Royal Shakespeare Company, Curve Leicester, and Lyric Hammersmith. The next placement will be at Dundee Rep in the Spring of 2019.