Thirst for more drama in Swanage’s Showbar

Once a drab, unloved space despite splendid sea views, the refurbished bar in The Mowlem in Swanage is now staging performances and most appropriately, its first show was called Thirst.

The one man show by actor and musician Callum Patrick Hughes filled The Showbar on Monday 12th June 2023 serving up an entertaining and engaging performance on his first ever visit to the seaside town in Dorset.

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Callum Patrick Hughes performs in The Showbar at The Mowlem

Callum Patrick Hughes takes to The Showbar’s new stage with Swanage Bay as the backdrop

Strumming on his guitar and interweaving the narrative with song

Billed as a story all about love; love of pubs, love of community, love of family, and a reminder that not everything you love is necessarily good for you, Callum recounted a number of stories about his life, while strumming on his guitar and expertly interweaving the narrative with song.

It’s so good that he’s now been invited to perform Thirst for a month at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, however Dorset got to see it first as part of the Artsreach summer programme – a Dorset based charity which gives rural communities the opportunity to see high quality arts events in local community venues.

Callum Patrick Hughes performs in The Showbar at The Mowlem

First ever visit to Swanage in Dorset

Isolated by Covid

Speaking to Swanage.News, Callum Patrick Hughes explained how the show came about:

“I trained as an actor and I’m a musician as well. Over the years I’ve written plays and I’ve helped others perform, especially one woman shows, and then one day I was asked, ‘Why don’t you do your own show?’ I said, ‘I don’t have a story’ but they said, ‘Yes you do!’

“And then on New Year’s Eve 2021 I got Covid. I had to isolate for two weeks but as my flatmate hadn’t got it, I had to stay in my room. It was then with nothing much else to do, I started writing down my story…”

The Mowlem, at the heart of entertainment in Swanage

The Mowlem’s Showbar is right on Swanage’s seafront

“It’s up to people to take what they want from it”

Then Callum heard about Inn Crowd, an arts project that brings spoken word, poetry and storytelling performances to communities in pubs and bars. He continued:

“I pitched to them my story and I wasn’t sure whether they would like me talking about addiction, when the performances are in pubs. However they went for it and told me, ‘We didn’t think we would want it but we do!’

“I don’t say anything about alcohol – good or bad. I certainly don’t tell people what to do. I just tell my story and it’s up to people to take what they want from it – it’s as much about mental health as anything else.

After getting backing from the Inn Crowd, Thirst was first performed in November 2022 in Shepton Mallet in Somerset and then went on tour across the UK, with Artsreach helping the show come to Drimpton in North West Dorset and Swanage.

Callum Patrick Hughes performs in The Showbar at The Mowlem with Thomas Curtis

Callum Patrick Hughes (left) with The Mowlem’s operations manager Thomas Curtis (right)

First time a performance has been staged in The Showbar

The Mowlem trustees have worked hard over the last year to present a variety of events in the main theatre, the community room and The Showbar.

While the bar recently hosted bands during the Swanage Blues festival, this is the first time that a drama performance has been put on in the place.

The Mowlem’s operations manager Thomas Curtis said:

“It’s great to have a space that allows people to see different types of performances and we definitely want to do more of this in The Showbar. I think our first show worked really well this evening, especially against the dramatic backdrop of the sun setting over Swanage.

“This space is more than just a bar. With the ability to put up a small stage and the chance to see acts perform in a more intimate atmosphere than the main auditorium, it’s now more interesting and unique.”

Callum Patrick Hughes performs in The Showbar at The Mowlem

Compelling storytelling – From The Showbar in Swanage to the Fringe in Edinburgh

“Ponder more on their way home…”

And from the performer’s perspective, what does Callum hope he achieved?

“Ultimately I want people to be entertained. I’d like them to relate to the story about parental relationships, work ethic and mental health, but also a show that the 22 year old Callum would have responded to, that would have made him think about his relationship with alcohol, without being alienated.

“I guess I want people not to immediately forget what they’ve heard but ponder more on their way home…”

Further information

  • More about Callum Patrick Hughes
  • Callum will be making his debut performance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, from Wednesday 2nd to Monday 28th August 2023 at venue Bunker Three in Pleasance
  • Along with another fringe festival performer, a crowdfunder has been set up to help pay for their accommodation near Edinburgh which is costing them an eye watering £3,000 for a month in a basic rented flat. Support them via the Crowdfund website
  • More shows on at The Mowlem

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