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V21 Noted: Reflections & Process


It was called “an adrenaline rush like no other!” and “the ultimate theatrical challenge” for the actors, writers, singers, composers and directors in the “The 24 Hour Musicals” event staged at the Old Vic, London in December 2012. The project, directed by actor Kevin Spacey, hosted by Matt Lucas and with special appearances by Jeff Goldblum, challenged actors, writers, directors and composers to conceive, write, rehearse and perform four new musicals within 24 hours.

Alongside them was an enterprising collective of graduate illustrators calling themselves First Hand who, in their own words, “champion reportage drawing, using draughtsmanship to experience and record ideas, with a journalistic approach”.

George Butler

The event was a fund raiser for the Old Vic Theatre Trust and “New Voices” charities and First Hand invited six well known illustrators to join them, including Steve Bell (main image above of Mira Syal), Alice Tait and George Butler. Jane Stanton reveals more in her report in Varoom 21, talking to some of the established artists, Tim Vyner and Lucinda Rogers.

Tim King, a member of First Hand, answered Varoom’s questions on the event and what he learnt from it.


The aim was to record the exciting process of four new musicals being created in just 24 hours. With a team of reportage artists including some of the best illustrators in the country, we set out on this huge challenge! Through reportage drawing, we wanted to capture what the camera cannot see.

Tim King


The 24 Hour Musicals are a charity event, and we wanted to both document this amazing event, and further the fundraising for The Old Vic. The illustrations created over the 24 hours were collected and auctioned at a special VIP after party, hosted by Kevin Spacey – raising a further £2,725 for the charity!


The materials used ranged from pens and pencils, inks and watercolours to digital painting on an iPad.

Phoebe Halstead


We are inspired by a range of artists including the early war artists, Paul Hogarth , Ronald Searle, Linda Kitson, Matthew Cook, and many more.


We spilt the 24 hours into shifts, each illustrator was given a few hours in a certain location and then another illustrator would arrive and continue the process. We always had at least one professional illustrator working at the same time as a graduate illustrator, in different parts of the theatre, which enabled us to capture all of the action.

Drawings would be collected at regular intervals, scanned and shared via social media, giving the public a rare insight to the behind the scenes activity as it unfolded!

Alice Tait

The process of drawing is also something that has an affinity to what the actors and musicians were going through themselves on stage. The performers had no idea what was going to happen next, and were open to mistakes and accidents – and we were in the same position, having no idea what we were going to record next.

It is also interesting that when someone is being drawn, they are more likely to feel comfortable and behave naturally than when they have a camera pointed at them. The process of reportage drawing enabled us to capture the rehearsals in a very honest and genuine way.

Hannah Simpson


The event has been called ‘the ultimate theatrical challenge’ for the performers involved, and the same is true for the illustrators!  We found ourselves drawing a very busy and frantic cast, (there was no chance of asking anyone to stand still!) and had no idea what we were going to witness next.


Reportage illustration is often an individual event, and by working as a team of illustrators we are together able to capture much bigger events/subjects than it would ever be impossible to record alone.

Watching other reportage artists at work was also very encouraging, particularly working along side some of the best reportage artists in the industry. I personally learnt to work bigger and get closer to the action.

Steve Bell


The performances were really interesting and exciting to watch – I guess this was the main potential distraction! We had to remind ourselves to watch the performances through the eyes of a reportage artist rather than a theatre-goer.


There were 10 illustrators in total, 6 renowned industry professionals and 4 recent graduates. Together we raised a total of £2,725 for The Old Vic trust and Old Vic New Voices.


Just to visually record the story that is unfolding in front of us – everything we see, hear, smell, think and notice.

Tim Vyner


We continue to work as a reportage collective, and have some very exciting new projects in the pipeline! Also, we are not a closed group of illustrators but see ourselves as a fluid collective, who encourage working with a range of reportage styles. By working together we can tackle big events and topics and see the same situation though different eyes and recorded in different ways.

Sophia O’Connor 

First Hand include Hannah Simpson, Phoebe Halstead, Sophia O’Connor and Tim King



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