Bonus Tobias and Syd: uncover the gift of inspiration

Tobias and Syd is a play which explores why tobacco still has such a hold over the world.
Find out more about Tobias and Syd - the cast, events and links at our main Tobias and Syd page: Listen to the play from Jan 10th 2022 on and soon to be on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and all major platforms.

Join the Tobias and Syd conversation

We asked our cast and crew to share their stories of tobacco with Arthur Burston. Filmed by Tom Sparey and edited by Nick Sutton.

Gaia Ashwood

Joseph Tweedale

Ell Potter

Kezrena James

Deasy Bamford

Events coming up

Our list of speakers for
‘Tobias and Syd’ online events


Ell Potter -actor playing Syd, talking about Syd falling for Tobias

Charlotte Bailey talking about smoking and relationships

Raffy Van de Wal. A young Buddhist talking about their relationship to smoking.


Elizabeth Rahman talking about tobacco in Amazonian rituals

Kate Binnie leading a smoking meditation


Louis Laurence from Tobacco Tactics group

Alex Gapud, anthropologist talking about Bristol, tobacco and Empire

Matthew Chapman from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism


Jean Rankin: UK based tobacco ceremonialist, talking about using tobacco to connect to spirit

Mental health service provide [speaker TBC] talking about access to vaping in mental health units

A young person talking about anxiety, identity and smoking/ vaping

Tobias and Syd gets voted in

Elspeth secured Arts Council England funding for a project in which three plays were authored for possible selection for further development as a podcast. Over just over two days, the plays were explored in improvisations, with actors Chris Pirie and Kirsty Cox. We also had visits from composer Matt Sheeran, artist Vanessa Moody and clinican Barny Hole. At a workshop at ‘The Puppet Place’, Bristol, on 15th February 2022 the three plays were given a ‘scratch’ performance by three actors. “That was really good, very entertaining, it was an impossible task mind, wasn’t it, they’ve all got something” Paul Appleby, ex BBC Wildlife. Tobias and Syd, however, was voted #1 for podcast development by the audience. ‘You’ve got to make that play’ Dr Barny Hole, our kidney doctor friend generously said, in spite of it meaning that we’d not take ‘Letter to My Kidney’ further just yet, a play based on his research. What an engaged and informative discussion though – feedback from this event is informing all the three projects. Andrew and Elspeth then invited Dr Alice Malpass to join the team as an evaluator and we applied and got extra funding from Durham University ESRA IAA fund, to live record the play (rather than record it online), plus to make accompanying videos and Event.

Our first open online event: Early stage play reading

So happy with how our Tobias and Syd draft play reading and discussions went: some lovely reactions: “Congrats on a large and stimulating meeting.” Professor Justine Schneider. Thanks so much to our performers at the reading, puppeteer Chris Pirie, Kirsty Cox and Annette Chown.

Our co-production panel and Advisory Meetings

We have a growing team of advisors/co-producers on the project, and can’t wait to tell you about them. Most of our meetings happen on zoom, but sometimes we get to meet and discuss things in the big outdoors, or in person.

Additional thankyous for all the wider help, support, David Richmond, Deasy Bamford, Andrea Hernandez, The Island, The Puppet Place, Theatre Orchard, Heather Wright, 2BU’s non executive advisory board, Fiona Matthews, Paul Appleby, Barny Hole, Justine Schneider.; Innovate Edge Uk, Lois Barton, Lee Hutchinson MShed.

A trip to Canada for an award ceremony

2BU’s play Silva Lining’s Care Plan, recorded in lockdown, was nominated for a Rockie Award. Whilst in Banff, Canada at the World Media Conference, Elspeth went to an excellent Indigenous summit, and was happy to meet many fabulous people, including a few First Nation and Indigenous people, who shared their unique perspective on tobacco use.

The first inspiration for the play

Thank you Professor Andrew Russell for the inspiration of your book, and all your advice and gentle guidance as the project develops.

Tobias and Syd illustration by Maria Herreros. Photo Credits for the page: Tom Sparey, Elspeth Penny. Big thank you to all our unparalleled creatives, advisors, contributors and funders for supporting this work.