First things first: the name.

We borrowed it from Hollywood where it’s a well-known term. To punch it up means to build something up, to make it even better – to help it go the extra mile. And that’s what we do. We use the development of creative talents to help people punch up their professional and personal skills.

First things first: the name.

We borrowed it from Hollywood where it’s a well-known term. To punch it up means to build something up, to make it even better – to help it go the extra mile. And that’s what we do. We use the development of creative talents to help people punch up their professional and personal skills.

Our interest is in creativity and communication in a commercial setting. Or, to put it another way – what happens when you’re doing it for money.

As creative professionals we’ve spent the last few decades offering our imaginations for hire. We know all about the challenges that can arise when you’re developing ideas within the context of commercial relationships. It can be very rewarding but – well, tricky.

And so we set out to explore this complicated territory, to develop workshops that would help people punch up the skills and attitudes needed to flourish in this kind of environment. Workshops that we, as demanding and easily bored professionals ourselves, would find stimulating.

And not just workshops. We work as consultants and we devise bespoke creative sessions. We facilitate discussion groups and run art sessions, teach improvisation skills, kick start writing groups, organise storytelling sessions, set design challenges, run retreats and direct performance workshops. We coach, we direct, and we edit. Sometimes we just sit and listen.

After all these years we have a very big bag of tricks.

A word about this word: Creativity

We’re very well aware that the word 'creativity' has been just about drained dry by overuse. A dental surgery offers 'creative dentistry'. A plumber's van advertises ‘creative plumbing’ – and how inappropriate is that?

Our definition of creativity is a very broad one. It involves flexible thinking and insatiable curiosity, being comfortable with contradictions and relaxed in the face of uncertainty. It involves being able to recognise the desire to compete and control, and choosing to collaborate and withhold judgment instead. It's about giving yourself permission to be surprised and not demanding quick wins; being willing to simply hang on and enjoy the ride for a while.

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To flourish as a professional working in or around a creative business, you need to be skilled in these areas. You don’t have to be a natural. You might need some techniques and practices to help you develop your skills and finesse your talents. You might need to fake it till you make it.

It’s equally important to your success that you’re aware of what can trip you up. There may come a time when you start feeling stale or getting cynical. It happens. You need to know what to do when it does.

Groups can also get stuck. Unspoken rules and implicit assumptions can trigger defensiveness that gets in the way of brave thinking. We can help you shake out those inhibiting subtexts.

And humour?
It’s essential. And not just as a short cut to the kind of disruptive thinking that leads to innovation. Humour puts things in perspective. As the saying goes: Life is tragedy in close up and comedy in long shot. Working in the commercial world can be stressful. We aim to provide a space where people feel comfortable to step back and take things a little less seriously.

Of course, all this applies equally to organisations that aren’t within the creative industries. And so we also work in business and education, inside and outside the UK.

About our clients

About our clients

In the beginning we set out to design sessions that would help people flourish in the creative industries. But of course, confident communication and imaginative thinking are needed wherever people come together to make things happen. And superior craft skills, a grasp of the big picture, intelligent collaboration and sound judgment make for a happier and more successful work life, whatever you do.

And so, we’ve run workshops for management teams and technology professionals, for psychologists, teachers and students: on retreats and at festivals, in lecture halls and in boardrooms, at conferences and on self-development courses, in theatres and cafes, in bookshops, in a yurt, on a boat, and once, memorably, to 60 people in a tent on a very, very wet day in Finland.

If you’d like to know more about our clients, contact mjw@punchitup.co.uk

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Punch It Up sessions are for grown ups. So, no sticky names badges, no frisbees, minimal use of the flip chart and, unless we really can’t avoid it, no PowerPoint.

The workshops are low tech and highly interactive. We move around, we sit on the floor, we use pictures and props, we laugh a lot. But we won’t make you feel like you’re back in nursery school. You won't have to fill in questionnaires, learn acronyms or pretend to be a tree.

Everyone gets to have a go and put ideas into practice, but nobody is put on the spot in an embarrassing way. Introverts have nothing to fear here. We’ll just ask you to keep an open mind and be interested in what happens.

Creating a safe space for brave thinking is part of the message; exploring ways to work together that play to strengths and ignite creativity.

‘I’m known as a negative, cynical bastard, but that was great.’

Creative Detox participant

We can, as far as is possible, promise to build confidence and inspire creativity.

We can punch up craft skills and enhance creative sensitivities. We can encourage spontaneity, demonstrate the power of positive attitude, and help people to collaborate in a way that suits their style.

We can make people better presenters, better listeners, more fluent writers and more confident storytellers. We can help them to recognise the choices they make in their work, and encourage them to explore alternatives. We can help them understand what’s holding them back. We can also work on what we rather grandly call 'non destructive feedback' – that is, how to evaluate work in a way that doesn't shut down creativity or make people cry.

That’s the short-ish answer. For a longer one, contact Mandy Wheeler

Punch It Up is run by Mandy Wheeler – writer, director, and formerly creative director of the production company Mandy Wheeler Sound Productions.

Also involved are Luke Sorba (improvisor, TV and radio comedy writer), Amanda Schiff (screenwriting tutor), Malcolm Kennard (designer and lecturer), and various other industry professionals.

We’ve all been involved in professional development for many years. At the same time we’ve been working as writers, designers and directors in advertising, design, broadcasting, performance and publishing. (For what it’s worth we’ve also won lots of awards, D&AD pencils, that kind of thing.)

We were founder members of the D&AD Workout programme and designed and ran some of their most popular sessions for ten years. As well as our creative industry projects, we’ve also worked on corporate programmes for team building, change management, leadership, presentation and personal development.

Mandy is a visiting lecturer at University of Lincoln, Falmouth University and Buckinghamshire New University. Luke is a Senior Tutor at The Comedy School and a visiting lecturer at Falmouth University.

You’ll find a list of ready-made workshops under each heading below. Make sure you take a look at The Creative Detox. This is our ‘foundation session’. The ideas in here underpin everything we do so it's an ideal place to start your punching up.

For more details about individual sessions and session leaders contact mjw@punchitup.co.uk

The Creative Detox

The Creative Detox contains just about everything we’ve learnt through years of critical observation of our own and others’ creative practice. We took those observations to psychologists, business consultants, creative practitioners and their clients. Then we put it all together in the Creative Detox.

The result is a mix of games, exercises and chat, a lot of collaboration and a little self-reflection. It’s a workshop not just about skills, but about developing a mindset that welcomes the unexpected and thrives on being in the moment. Whether you work in the creative industries or not, it will widen your comfort zone and you will surprise yourself. We promise.

If you’re interested in any of our workshops we heartily recommend you start with a Creative Detox.

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Creativity

The Creative Detox

We describe it as a wake up session for ideas people. And by 'ideas people' we mean anyone who ever has to think.

A Masterclass with Malcolm Kennard

For anyone who needs a break from the screen – a chance to make real things, in the real world, with designer Malcolm Kennard.

Improv for beginners

A starter kit of improvisation techniques to punch up creativity and boost confidence.

Storytelling

However and wherever you use stories, it’s good to know the techniques. Structure, character, point of view; how to start a story running, how to wrap it up, what to do in the middle. How to shape material, and how to craft stories from the unlikely and the mundane. We custom built these story sessions, so please get in touch to tell us what you need.

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Writing

How to write like a human

Writing and editing workshops for anyone who has to write at work. And who doesn’t? A chance to rummage around in the mechanics of writing, to dump unwanted habits and find a confident writing voice, free of jargon, waffle and breathy adjectives.

Writing comedy

An in-depth look at how comedy techniques work – and why they sometimes don’t. Very useful if you write or commission comedy scripts or ads.

Lessons from Screenwriting

Stories, character, dialogue, pacing, narrative arc and, of course, product placement. The movies have lessons for anyone who creates stories.

Storytelling

However and wherever you use stories, it’s good to know the techniques. Structure, character, point of view; how to start a story running, how to wrap it up, what to do in the middle. How to shape material, and how to craft stories from the unlikely and the mundane. We custom built these story sessions, so please get in touch to tell us what you need.

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Presenting

Presentation skills

Speaking out in front of others can be a horrible and stressful experience. Our presentation workshop is for people who would rather save their adrenaline for something more worthwhile. The techniques in this practical session will help you whenever you need to communicate in speech, be it to one person or a hundred.

One to one coaching

For work on a particular area – vocal delivery, for example – or to finesse performance for a specific event.

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Comedy

Why is that funny?

An in-depth look at how comedy techniques work – and why they sometimes don’t. Very useful if you write or commission comedy scripts or ads.

Comedy improv

Creating comedy on your feet, without a script, without a net. A masterclass with Luke Sorba.

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Radio

Before Punch It Up there was Mandy Wheeler Sound Productions: sixteen years, a couple of thousand ads, numerous radio programmes, and a shelf full of awards. We’re no longer a production company but we still teach the skills needed to make good radio.

Writing and directing radio

How to tell a story in sound; where to put the product in an ad; how to recognise a good radio idea when you see one, and how to know a good radio actor when you hear one. How to prepare for a studio session and, when you finally get there, how to run it. These sessions are custom built so please get in touch and let us know what you need.

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Over to you

You can mix and match the ready-made sessions as you wish. Or, if you want something else, just get in touch and we will custom build a session for you.

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The practical info

Workshops most often run for a day, with between 6 – 20 participants. They can also be run for half a day, an hour or a week: as an introduction, a refresher or an in-depth training session. They’re available off the shelf or custom built, in-house or off site. We don’t need a monitor or a projector, but we do need a bit of space and to be able to make noise without upsetting the neighbours.

If the space is big enough, we can run sessions for larger groups: 60 people a tent is the current record – we’d rather not break it.

All these variables mean that costs vary but, in general, a one day workshop costs between £1000-£3000.

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If you want to book us in any other capacity – as writers, copywriters, or script doctors; for casting, studio direction, or as consultants – just get in touch. We charge by the day for writing and consultancy; by the hour for script doctors and directing.

We advise our clients to avoid making claims that would never appear in reverse.

Who ever wrote a mission statement that said 'We put our clients last?' And who ever posted a testimonial that said 'This workshop stank?' With that in mind we won’t reproduce our happy sheets, we’ll simply keep it to a few elegant written responses. They’re our favourites:

If you’d like to read more, get in touch and we’ll mail over a selection of the nice things our clients have said.

'Clever classy workshops that are also bloody good fun.'

Workshop participant

‘When I was a copywriter at BMP, I just wanted to write TV commercials and become a Creative Director with a Porsche Carrera and a posh PA. Then I met Mandy Wheeler and it all went horribly wrong. She taught me about the addictive joy of radio, the addictive joy of casting and directing; but more than anything, about the addictive joy of writing. Inspired by Mandy, I moved on from writing ads to writing novels. My third has just been published. Now I've got to write a fourth. I haven't got a clue what I'm going to write about. I haven't got a Porsche, I haven't got a PA. I owe all this to Mandy. I don't know whether to kiss her or curse her.’

Paul Burke. Radio writer / novelist

‘Mandy once got me to have a conversation with my hand.

Hello hand.

I can't think of anyone else on this planet who could have done it. But she did. And I learned a lot from it. That's all I'm prepared to say. You'll have to ask Mandy about it.’

Patrick Collister. Head of Art, Google

Mandy Wheeler on mjw@punchitup.co.uk / 07973 835920