Original artwork by John Couzens
Mary Couzens eventually went from carrying a sack full of envelopes with writing scrawled on them to a BA Creative Writing and English as a mature student at University of Greenwich in 2005, graduating, to her surprise, with First Class Honours. Even more unexpected was the scholarship for an MA Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London under the tutelage of then Poet Laureate of England, Prof. Andrew Motion which followed. Going back on their earlier approval of her working class, rock n roll intertwined with English Literature subject matter based on real life experiences, the college dons begrudgingly granted Mary a respectable grade for her final project, before, during and after which, she’d founded, edited and written for EXTRA! EXTRA!, launched in Aug. 2005, as an anecdote to her, now habitual need for deadlines in the aftermath of her manic BA. Three years spent working at TKTS, London’s Official Half Price Ticket Booth aka SOLT – Society of London Theatres, (2000-03) during which time, she and co-editor John attended over 200 productions of all kinds all around London were about to inform a new project. At the outset of EXTRA! EXTRA!, encouraged by the welcoming ways of the ladies at Rosemary Branch Theatre and Michael Kingsbury of acclaimed White Bear Theatre, she proceeded to throw herself pen first into previously uncharted waters, tackling whole seasons at Shakespeare’s Globe and Operas at ENO herself, with no prior experience of writing about either, with encouraging feedback. Likewise, seasons of Dance at Sadler’s Wells, visits to Palaces and Stately Homes as well as Art Galleries, Concerts, Films, Circuses and experimental productions encompassing bits of each, learning as she went, enjoying every experience as what it was, an experience, writing about each as objectively as she could. As Editor/Writer, after two years of often, going out five nights a week to review, in 2007 Mary took on volunteer Creative Writers, continuing review and feature writing, filling in whenever reviewers let her down, which, thankfully, wasn’t often. As of 20th of August, 2016, Mary will have been Editor/Writer of EXTRA! EXTRA! for 11 years, but who’s counting?
John Couzens, Co-Editor, sometime Photographer,Website Designer has always been an Artist at heart and, in real time, ever creating inspired works, be they 3 D or virtual, from whatever materials come to mind and/or hand which fire his imagination. Completing a BA Fine Art at London’s Guildhall in 2000 was merely a formality in relation to his artist in progress. Self-taught website designer has been just one of many hats he’s donned on behalf of our alternative site, as his input in Editorial senses has been immense, drawing on his varied experiences and artistic sensibilities. John’s role as an extra in Deborah Warner’s immense production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar at the Barbican Centre in spring 2005 coincided with Mary’s completion of her Undergraduate Studies at University of Greenwich, after which the two creatively collided, their collective imaginations generating EXTRA! EXTRA! itself, an organic, ever growing work in progress…
EXTRA! EXTRA! has rolled with many high-points and pitfalls in the course of its eleven year run, among them, a serious accident, and, later, ongoing illness on the part of its life-long Editor, Mary Couzens, too few (as in none) and/or an over-abundance of volunteer Creative Writers, a hacker from Luxemburg, computer crashes, one of which took three years worth of archives (2005-07) with it, and lack of funding due to unwillingness to comply with commercial expectations and put the needs of ‘the market’ before our belief in creative integrity.