My Lewes: Nicky Blackwell

February 26, 2019

You live something of a ‘portfolio’ life? Indeed. My bread-and-butter job since I was 21 has been dress-making and alterations. All the work comes by word of mouth – I don’t really advertise. Some comes, under cover of darkness, from Nina Murden, when she has an overspill, or someone asks her to do wedding dress alterations: I specialise in these and, at one time, worked for a bridal shop. I’ve got a studio upstairs with a cutting table and sewing machine. I combine this work with acting and theatre. I run a company with my partner Nick Tigg and others: Slot Machine Theatre where we create bold, contemporary theatre for everyone, as well as working as a theatre designer and actor more generally.

 

What led you to all this? One of those chaotic 1970s childhoods. Until I was nine, I was raised by my paternal grandfather, who was just lovely, a gardener, and liked by all. After that, life got more complicated. I found drama school – Central in London – very competitive and cut-throat. I somewhat hid in the wardrobe department (where I learnt a lot about costume design). These days, I’m mainly compelled by ideas, although I still like to act: become that cog in the wheel of a show. At Slot Machine Theatre, we employ about thirty freelancers across a year, and make multidisciplinary work. We’ll be at the Birmingham Mac this Christmas, for instance.

 

Your home up on the Nevill is also an eco-house? The planet is being completely screwed up – that’s our motivation. When we moved in, originally to rent, very little had been done to it for a very long time. This was hair-raising but also gave us an opportunity. We got grants for the wood-burner and the solar panels, and our feed-in tariff pays for any gas or electricity we use. We also aim to be plastic-free, as far as possible. (Though I was turfed off my allotment last year because I just couldn’t find the time…)

 

What first brought you to Lewes and when? We moved here from London about ten years ago, when I was pregnant. Unfortunately, the pregnancy ended early and our baby, Gilda, didn’t survive. So we moved here because we thought we were going to be a family, but we’re not, as such. This is another reason for the eco-home. Turn what you’ve got on your plate into an advantage, I think. (What’s that saying? How do you make God laugh? Tell him/her your plans.) Anyway, I find I love to be out of London, and I like London more now I’m here. (I do spend a lot of my time trundling all over the place on Southern Rail, that said.) The Downs are literally on our doorstep. And, best of all, I’ve got some killer mates here – people like fellow actor Jonathan Cullen, and other excellent folk. Solid gold through and through.

 

slotmachinetheatre.com

 

For bridal alterations: nickyblack204@yahoo.co.uk

 

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