‘There are children in Holbeck without crayons. Living in a city with an opera company. An opera company paid for with money from all of us. Until everyone has crayons no one gets opera. That’s what I believe.’
– Alan Lane
A deeply moving memoir of how a theatre company took over the management of the UK’s oldest surviving working men’s club in the UK and battled bureaucracy, resistance from naysayers, and a global lock-down to galvanise the community during the Covid pandemic, running a non-means tested self-referral foodbank that delivered 15,202 food parcels to people in need. Tales of innovative open-air performances, heart-breaking personal stories and uplifting insight from an artistic director whose philosophy is ‘everyone gets what they want, but no one can stand in the way of anyone getting what they want.’
This is the vivid story of the cost of trying to do good in a divided world. The Club on the Edge of Town shares tales from a culture war in the first months of Brexit, of a community struggling through a health catastrophe and what a theatre company can do offstage and on.
‘I absolutely love this book. Read it!’ Lemn Sissay
‘Direct, honest and completely compelling; Alan’s story is more than just a memoir of the pandemic, it’s a manifesto on how to make the world a better place. It’s the story of two worlds thrown together in the toughest of circumstances, trying to love, help and understand each other. What could be more relevant to our times!’ Sophie Willan
‘I’ve never met Alan Lane, but I get the impression from his social media that he’s not a man to flinch. So it wasn’t a surprise that this memoir of a pandemic year, like his responses to the challenges it threw up, is both unflinching and uncompromising. He brings humour and humanity to the stories he tells and is simultaneously realistic about how things are and visionary about how they could be. The pandemic exposed the vast divides between those who have and those who don’t, but Alan and Slung Low decided to tell a different story, and then to do whatever they could to make it true. At times challenging, yet always inspiring, The Club on the Edge of Town captures that story: the best of us, in the worst of times.’ Baroness Deborah Bull
‘This is an amazing story of remarkable people doing their very best in an unprecedented time for the world. This book demands that revise our ideas about what theatre companies are for, what community art can be, and what people really need to live a full and productive life. Read this and be challenged and uplifted!’ Ian McMillan
The Club on the Edge of Town is shortlisted for the 2023 Theatre Book Prize from the Society for Theatre Research.
The Club on the Edge of Town
Alan Lane is Artistic Director of Slung Low directing most of their work over the last decade including projects with the Barbican, the RSC, the Almeida, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Liverpool Everyman, Sheffield Theatres, Singapore Arts Festival and The Lowry. Slung Low make large scale people’s theatre work on stages, trains, castles, swimming pools, fishing boats and in town centres.
In 2017, Slung Low headlined Hull UK City of Culture 2017 with Flood by James Phillips: a four-part epic performed online, live and on the BBC. Over half a million people saw a part of Flood. It won a Royal Television Society Award Yorkshire for innovation in drama.
Alan has directed in places as wide ranging as the National Theatre of Croatia, a sari shop in Manchester, Buckingham Palace and in a village in Purulia, Southern India: he was a creative consultant for British Army Expo 2022.
He was the Artistic Director for the National Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme on 1st July 2016: a ceremony with a people’s theatre company of 450.
In 2019, Slung Low took over management of the oldest working men’s club in Britain, The Holbeck in South Leeds: running the venue as a Pay What You Decide creative and community space. In December 2022, the company created three new stages in two new homes in Holbeck.
During the Covid crisis of 2020 the company was the ward lead for Holbeck and Beeston for social care referrals with responsibility for 7,500 homes. They ran a non-means tested self-referral foodbank from March 2020 to June 2021: delivering 15,202 food parcels.
In 2023 Alan co-directed the Opening Ceremony of Leeds Year of Culture; a concert of words and music at Headingley Stadium that concluded with the popstar Corrine Bailey Rae arguing with a giant light-god about cultural value in front of an audience of thousands.
Alan was awarded a British Empire Medal for services to South Leeds during the crisis.
Alan told the story of Slung Low’s work at The Holbeck in The Club on the Edge of Town published in 2022 by Salamander Street press (a Wordville imprint).