Daniel Clarkson, alongside Chris Wheeler, is the co-creator of The Stage in The Park, a full programme of open-air performances which comes to Watford’s Cassiobury Park.
The Stage in the Park is a brand-new open-air venue with a socially distanced capacity of 500 people in the heart of award winning Cassiobury Park. Co-producing with Watford Palace Theatre and Watford Borough Council are West End theatre makers and Watford residents Harlequin Theatricals.
The programme mixes musical theatre, comedy, live music, and in conversation events from some of the biggest stage stars in the UK today, to ensure there is something for all the family. The full line up can be found here.
What can you tell us about The Stage in the Park Festival?
Stage In The Park is exactly what it says on the tin, A stage in the park! It’s a wonderful open air performance space in the heart of Cassiobury Park in Watford, that’s a chance for us all to safely come back together and celebrate the arts like never before! We’ve got music, top class comedy, family favourites and some spectacular theatre! I could literally give you a list of every act and performer but we’d be here for days so easier that I give you www.stageinthepark.co.uk, and you can find the entire line up there. You’re Welcome!
This is the first time the event has run, what inspired you to create it?
Both Chris (Wheeler) and I grew up in and around Watford and then separately moved back here in recent years. So this was really something that we wanted to do to give back to the community we loved.
I think it was around March last year that I was walking through the park, a bit down that all the theatres had closed (I’d just had to close one of my shows on its 100th performance in Las Vegas) and thought how great it could be to put on an outdoor event that everyone could come and safely watch and enjoy.
I shared this idea with Chris, who took it and ran with it, (I have yet to meet another person who works as fast and hard as Chris when he gets going!) He decided that we needed to make it a reality and should probably email the Mayor, as one does!
We emailed The Mayor of Watford, Peter Taylor and shared our crazy idea, thinking that we wouldn’t hear back from him. He responded, straight away, liked the sound of it and before we knew it we were all on a zoom meeting together! (By this stage I was just really chuffed that I’d met a real life actual Mayor!)
Then to add the perfect twist to the tale, Watford Palace Theatre were sat in the very same lockdown, thinking very similar things. And so it came to be, the coming together of some wonderful people all from different backgrounds but all with the same thing in common, a love of Watford. And with our powers combined we were officially going to build a stage in the middle of Cassiobury Park and programme it with the best live entertainment we could get our hands on!
That’s quite a story, how have you found working together?
Well Chris and I go back a long way, we have worked together on shows all over the world from Italy to Fanoe, a tiny small island in Denmark! So to able to work and create something in our home town has been really special. And I’m sure if you asked him, he’d tell you that working with me is nothing short of ‘Joyful’!
Then to work with Watford Palace has been an honour, It was actually one of the first theatres I ever appeared in when I was about 6 years old, so was lovely to come full circle!
How did you set about programming the event?
We wanted to create an event that had something for everyone so we could all come together and have a real celebration of the arts. We were also aware that in these oh so fun pandemic times it was harder for people to travel, so in the summer of staycation we wanted to bring some household names to their doorstep as well as find some great home grown talent.
It was then about contacting producers we knew and those we were meeting for the first time, explaining what we hoped to do, and bringing them in on this wild ride!
We were just so thrilled how many people wanted to get on board and were eager, like us for the chance to perform to live audiences again. (Also between me and you, some of the acts are ones I’d always wanted to see live, did I mention we have the actual Basil Brush appearing? I will be totally starstruck!)
What kind of challenges have you faced so far?
Toilets! This was a challenge we weren’t expecting, Unfortunately the pandemic had put a lot of Portaloo companies out of business, so finding enough toilets to hire became quite a task. But we have them, and hope that with events like this it’ll help the businesses bounce back. So if you do come, make sure you do your bit and use the toilets!
And what do you think you’ll be most proud of when the festival opens?
I think it’s just the overall scale of what we have all come together and achieved. Chris and I were on site yesterday watching the stage go up and the hospitality hamlet taking shape (Did I mention we have a wonderful array of food trucks and a fully licensed bar on site!) and we laughed that practically a year ago we were sat in a cafe saying ‘we should build a stage in the park!’ And now here it is. And its thanks to the hard work of so many people in Watford who all wanted to give something back to the community we all cherish.
What would you say to anyone thinking of coming to The Stage in the Park?
Just come down and celebrate with us! Whether you’re looking for an entertaining treat for the kids, beers and belly laughs, the perfect date night or just some food for the soul we are ready to welcome you with open arms (At a safe distance of course) and share a magical memorable summer with you!