MERCURY MUSICAL DEVELOPMENTS
MMD is a membership organisation dedicated to developing the craft of new musical theatre writing. We nurture and support book writers, composers and lyricists through a range of development and showcasing initiatives. Our programme supports writers in developing their craft, helps them to further their careers and creates an engaged and mutually supportive community. We actively seek out commissions, build professional networks and advocate on behalf of our members and the musical theatre sector as a whole. At MMD our aim is to support and champion writers who are shaping the future of British musical theatre.
We are a Sector Support Organisation, part of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio, working in partnership with Musical Theatre Network. We are two of only three organisations supporting the development of new musical theatre to be funded in this way.
By joining MMD you automatically become part of a vibrant and ever growing community of writers and artists across the UK and internationally. Please look around our website to find out more about what we do and how MMD membership will benefit you.
Our mission is simple: to help our writers write their best possible musical. We want to see our members at the forefront of new writing – ensuring the UK continues to be the home of excellent and innovative musical theatre.
Musical theatre is a complex, thrilling and subtle art form. A musical combines many forms of story-telling, even the simplest show might involve not just music and lyrics, but dance, light, design, sound and movement. So, it has a unique ability to astonish and delight. It can open eyes and change minds and stay in the memory. It can bring an audience together but understands every individual member. It is immediate and contemporary. It captures the moment. But writing a musical is really hard; a fact which is not often appreciated by those outside the industry.
MMD is uniquely placed to do this. It’s a place to meet others who understand the triumphs, the joys, the difficulties and the frustrations inherent in writing a musical. It’s the place to find the oxygen of a new approach, another direction. It’s a forum to discuss and compare different styles. It’s a school where you can listen to the greatest practitioners talk about their experiences. It’s a community where you can find a writing partner, a collaborator. It’s a workshop where – through a range of activities – you can get constructive feedback and advice and discover your best ever work. It’s a gateway to the world of production through showcases and readings. It discovers and encourages talent. The ancient world valued the gymnasium as a place to exercise and develop skills, to debate and disagree, to learn and observe. MMD aims to provide a gymnasium for creators of musical theatre – a place as diverse and welcoming as musicals themselves.
Collaboration, Innovation, Diversity, Excellence, Honesty, Inclusivity, Hard Work, Bravery.
“Words make you think a thought. Music makes you feel a feeling. A song makes you feel a thought.”
E.Y. Harburg, lyricist & librettist
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 the 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 and in 2019 she was succeeded by Emily Gray.
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 and is now a bi-annual event. Subsequent BEAM showcases have taken place at Theatre Royal Stratford East (2018) and the third showcase was due to take place at Royal & Derngate, Northampton in spring 2020. This became an online event due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown.
MMD has now grown from it’s original 25 members to a membership organization of around 500. 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, 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 sector. Via our Advanced Lab writers’ groups, our newsletter, website, regional reps and Spotlight schemes, we provide a thriving community of support.
In 2012 MMD secured funding from the Cameron Mackintosh Foundation to support the placement of 5 resident composers over three years. We are delighted that this support continues and 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, Lyric Hammersmith, and Dundee Rep. The next placement will be at The Lowry and Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester with a joint composer and librettist placement planned for 2021.
MMD is committed to being an Equal Opportunities employer. We recognise that the provision of equal opportunities in all our activities will benefit the organisation. We also recognise that diversity within our membership and activities will make a valuable contribution towards the development of the artform we support, pushing creative boundaries and ensuring that the greatest possible range of voices is reflected in the work created.