Chip Shop – The Musical

Chip Shop – The Musical started life as a two-hander musical that toured real fish & chip restaurants. UK grime, Yorkshire brass, fish & chips and the ultimately joyful story of the twists and turns of an intergenerational friendship.

I now have a bursary from Stage One to develop the show as a large-scale stage production, for which I am also being mentored by the renowned commercial theatre producer and general manager, Mark Rubinstein.

Ayla’s a shy teenager, secretly dreaming of a grime music career. Gram’s a disillusioned, brass-loving, chip shop owner, falling out of step, as the world changes around him. They’re like chalk & cheese – will they ever be fish & chips?

Chip Shop – The Musical originally toured northern fish & chip restaurants, to sell-out audiences, in 2016. As well as creating the show and writing the book and lyrics, I also co-produced the show and designed and facilitated all audience outreach, including workshops in pupil referral units, youth centres and community groups.

The show was designed to include and consult the communities represented in the story. Sheffield born MC Coco was our Grime consultant. DJ Jo Kira created a grime mix to accompany the tour and we filmed the trailer, which I directed, at one of our tour venues, Woody’s in Barnsley – the town where the story is set.

“Fish, chips and beats,
T’chip shop is musical!”

Book, Lyrics & Producer – Emma Hill
Brass Music Composer – Michael Betteridge
Grime Producer – Owly Beats

Writer Q & A

1 – What is #ChipShoptheMusical?
It’s a story of friendship across the generations, featuring a teenager who wants to become a grime MC and a brass-music-loving chip shop owner, who needs to break out of his rut. The story is told through clashes, contrasts and collaborations between Ayla’s grime and Gram’s brass amidst the challenges and noises of chip shop life.

2 – Why a Chip Shop?
I had a Saturday job in a very popular fish & chip restaurant in Wakefield when I was a teenager. I went home stinking of fish & chips afterwards, but I loved it – free, delicious food, noisy activity and meeting colleagues and customers from across the generations. I have always loved chips – I sniff out a decent chippy wherever I am. It’s a great British institution and we should be very proud of it.

3 – Why Yorkshire?
I love Yorkshire and the Yorkshire accent. I am from a coalmining, working-class family on my mother’s side and I grew up immersed in the sounds of a broad Barnsley accent. I lived in London as a child and spent most of my school holidays in Yorkshire, soaking up the voices, being with my family. I also lived in Yorkshire (in Wakefield) when I was a teenager and in Leeds during part of my twenties.

4 – Why Did You Choose Grime Music?
I have followed grime music it since it emerged from East London over ten years ago. Grime is currently enjoying a massive growth in popularity and grime MCs and producers come from all over the UK now. I love many things about grime: the fast beats; the thumping bass; the extraordinary vocal dexterity required of MCs; the way the best producers and MCs continually innovate the form; the fact that grime demands you spit or MC in your true voice; grime’s origins in many musical forms; it’s D-I-Y and entrepreneurial nature; its attitude.

I want to represent and celebrate grime music through #ChipShoptheMusical. To do this, we are working with a grime music producer, Owly Beats, taking lyrical flow and performance advice from a well-known grime MC called Coco and commissioning a mix of old and new grime from Yorkshire grime DJ, Jo Kira.

I wrote a blog about grime during #ChipShoptheMusical research and development, which you can read here:

5 – Does Brass Music Have a Special Meaning to You?
Yes. My grandfather was a coalminer and so was my uncle. My family were involved in the Miners Strike 1984-5. The sounds and traditions of colliery brass band music are deeply personal to me. I chose three songs by Grimethorpe Colliery Band to be played during my wedding. Colliery brass evokes the north and working-class traditions and history and can affect people on a deep emotional level, especially when played live.

6 – What Made You Write this Particular Story?
This story came straight out of me – my past, my family, some of the things that have shaped and influenced me.

But if you strip all that away, it’s a story about friendship, guidance, mentorship. How two generations who seem to have nothing in common actually have so much knowledge and insight to share. I had many part-time jobs as a young person and I always loved being with other people – people not connected with school, or friends or family. Older people who treated me like an adult and who shared thoughts and advice without all the baggage that comes when it’s from a parent or older relative.

Some of those relationships were pivotal to my development as a young person. I was troubled and in trouble sometimes in my youth. It was empowering to work with people on level terms and observe how other adults approached life’s problems and challenges.

7 – Do you identify with either of the characters?
I empathise with them. That’s my job as the writer. But it’s also my job to create them and then let them go – both through the story I am telling and when the actors and creative team join the process and the script becomes a fully-fledged show.

Ayla is a shy, angry young woman who is essentially a writer and artist. She is looking for a way to tell her story with her voice.

Gram is grumpy and feeling the pressure of running a business. He’s taken refuge in habit and routine.

I can definitely relate to them both and hope others will be able to as well.

#ChipShoptheMusical is ehw001