Matthew Seaman – The Jamie Community

📷 : Mark Willshire

With Everybody’s Talking About Jamie opening in the West End in 2017, Matthew Seaman has been co-running an Instagram fan page for the musical with Grace Myers which has seen him hold multiple sell-out fan events over the years and has been attended by guests including the show’s inspiration Jamie Campbell and Max Harwood, who will be playing Jamie in the soon-to-be-released Amazon Original film. Some of the opportunities that have risen from running @jamie.musical has seen Matthew interview the West End Jamies, write for Broadway World and, with the musical reopening at the Apollo Theatre last week after being closed temporarily due to the pandemic, he appeared on BBC Radio Sheffield. Matthew talks about how the fan page has led to seeing a community form around the musical and some of the events he’s held.

For the past three years I have co-run the Instagram fan page for the hit West End musical: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. What began as a little passion-project with my friend, turned into the mouthpiece for a community of diverse fans with a shared love. Grace Myers and I have been lucky enough to host the three sell-out Jamie Fan Events, attended by various cast members, and interview the West End Jamies.

The show promotes messages of acceptance, authenticity and the celebration of diversity. I have thought, written and spoken a lot about how audiences long for representation and community, and with the show reopening last week, this couldn’t be more true. Despite a mere 50% capacity, due to the current government guidance, the audience still raised the roof. It was clear that the symbiotic relationship between us and the cast was as strong as ever, as we fed off each other’s energy. It was a special night.

📷 : Lucy Gray

I often think about our first ‘Jamie Fan Night’, that we held in September 2018 at the original Theatre Café on Shaftesbury Avenue. Grace and I had no experience organising or hosting, and yet we had spent the majority of the summer planning and ensuring everything went smoothly. The night itself was a huge success, as we entertained forty enthusiastic Jamie fans, who were as surprised as us when original Jamie New: John McCrea walked in, alongside soon to be Jamie: Layton Williams, composer: Dan Gillespie Sells and Jordan Laviniere. We were also lucky enough to have the inspiration behind the musical: Jamie Campbell with us from the start.

Flash-forward to January 2020, and we are seasoned professionals (just kidding), standing on the Phoenix Arts Club stage, addressing 120 fans. Our latest event was attended by Max Harwood, who is soon to be seen on screen as Jamie in the Amazon Original Movie (coming to Prime Video September 17). Ultimately, our events are just a wonderful environment for theatre-kids to meet like-minded individuals. Don’t get me wrong, the open-mic is inspiring, and the Kahoot quizzes are a laugh, but hearing how friendship groups have formed is where the real magic lies. I have met some of my closest friends through the show, along with my girlfriend, and I know that has been the case for many others too. I’m just really grateful that our Fan Events have helped to facilitate that.

📷 : Lucy Gray

I am beyond grateful for some of the opportunities that have arisen from the page, whether it be my appearances on BBC Radio Sheffield, writing for Broadway World or simply our connection with the cast. It has been invaluable getting to know some of the past and present Jamie casts, and acting as the link between the fan-base and those working on the production. I’ve particularly loved getting to know the original alternate Jamie: Luke Bayer, and the ever-hilarious James Gillan, who manages to spot me in the stalls each time I’m there. Similarly, Nimax Theatres, Nica Burns and Maidwell Marketing have been incredibly generous in accommodating us and providing us with the access we’ve had.

📷 : Mark Willshire

More recently, we were in talks with the suits at Walt Disney Studios, before the upcoming Jamie Movie adaption was handed over to Prime Video. The film itself is something I’m particularly excited for, as I know the response will directly translate to our community widening. The same occurred when the show opened in South Korea, and more recently: Japan. Back in August 2019, we were lucky enough to attend the filming of the ‘street party’ scene in Sheffield, which saw thousands of locals fill Deerlands Avenue, all celebrating the legacy of the story. The camera-crew and cast being there was just an added bonus. We had a brief encounter with Richard E. Grant and Sarah Lancashire, but Max Harwood running up to us to take some selfies was a particular highlight.

Tom MacRae’s book and lyrics and Dan Gillespie Sells’ music have touched a lot of hearts. I am often asked why I choose to return to the show so often (it’s around sixty now), but the truth is, there is a familiar atmosphere in the Apollo’s auditorium that I am constantly attracted back to. It is comfortable and welcoming. For me, what sits in front of the stage is equally as important as what occurs on it. As Jamie Campbell told us, in our Zoom interview with him: “I don’t think it would be the same if we didn’t have you lot as our fandom”.

📷 : Lucy Gray
📷 : Thomas Williams

So after over a year of lockdown, having to adapt to virtual concerts, hosting our YouTube Jamie Quiz and posting many throwbacks, we finally have theatre back. We can all return to the “place where we belong” and celebrate the magic of live performance.

During the pandemic, I became a Culture Writer for London’s largest student publication: Roar News, the King’s College London newspaper. After months of writing about the power of ‘Jamie’ and its community, it feels wonderful to finally be back in the building, reliving the thing that I fell in love with back in December 2017. It may not be the intimate, unknown show that it began as, but it will always maintain the heart, and its roots will always remain in Sheffield. As the franchise grows to an international scale, only a handful of us will remember where this journey began, but that’s what makes it special. The community is accepting no matter when you “joined”, and I love seeing how each individual forges their own connection with it.

📷 : Mark Willshire

I will close by quoting myself, from my chat on BBC Radio Sheffield last week: “I think Jamie is a story that brings people together, everyone can see a little bit of themselves in the show, whether it’s the character of Jamie, whether you’re a gay guy and part of the LGBT+ community, or whether you’re just someone who is finding confidence in themselves and finding what their hobbies are. I think that’s what Jamie does, because there’s something in the show for everyone”.

We are currently exploring ways to mark the release of the movie, in the form of some sort of gathering, screening or event towards the end of the summer. For now, I am just enjoying the show being back where it belongs, while its message continues to spread across the world.

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