Welcome to Unrestricted View, a series of written responses to Fierce 2017 from local writers.
Response to the Launch Party and Director’s Q&A by Lexi Wardle
How are we all?
As promised I would blog about being at Fierce Festival. Katy, Fierce’s Volunteer Coordinator asked me to write two blog posts. This one is just a taster. The first proper blog post will be about the first night: the launch party.
Can I make a confession? I’ve never been to a launch party of any kind. I know, I should really get out more. In all honesty, I’ve never been invited and not really the partying kind.
Picture this: it’s ten to seven on a Tuesday evening. The sun set fifty minutes ago as the cold nights start to rush in. Still within the confines of the city, the route stretches to a road called ‘Floodgate Street’ that feels like it leads to a deserted place nowhere in particular. The third left down this road is a short street and you wonder if you’ve come to the right place. Just before the end of the road (literally) is a place that is easily missed when you are looking for it. This is the Quantum Exhibition Centre its entrance is deceptive, inside it looks more like a cross between an SU bar and a common room you see at school or college. Then there are two massive rooms behind that one resembling the size of a standard nightclub, the other, a school assembly hall and let’s not even mention backstage! I wouldn’t be surprised if you found the wardrobe to Narnia somewhere here too.
We met each other, were thanked profusely for giving up our time, and given the tour. The scheduled events were laid out on the table and this was where I discovered I was not a volunteer at all, as my primary role would be as an online writer for the event. There wasn’t any disappointment in this discovery. The events we would see would be quite full on and designed to make to you think and feel something about them. What those feelings will be is difficult to gauge right now.
So being entirely unfussy about things, I had to choose my events. I chose the launch party because I have never been to one. The second one was the Director’s Q&A on Sunday at noon. It was chosen because I’m curious about what it takes to put a festival like this on, the challenge of bettering it every year, what acts you have in the programme etc. I’d love to have been a fly on the wall whilst those decisions were being made. I was surprised to hear that this festival has been going for the past twenty years. Not being a local I had obviously never heard of it, but across their social media it is waiting for that big viral hit that puts it on the map and brings millions from around the world flocking to the city.
That’s enough from me for now.
Hope you are well.
When I walked into the Quantum Exhibition Centre to watch the launch party the Artistic Director of the Fierce Festival Aaron Wright was already giving his speech to kick festivities off. He spoke of his admiration for the acts, his respect for his team who had helped put the festival together and his hope that this festival would be the best that Birmingham had put on to date. Aaron’s fellow director’s aught to take a leaf out of his book in the way he spoke of his team.
The first act of the evening were part of another act performing later on in the festival. Aaron described it as a musical extract . Although it was 9 minutes long there is much to talk about the performance. It was musical but was not a musical as we know it. I’d much rather describe it as spoken word put to music interspersed with sung verses that did not sound remotely musical-esque. The words uttered, spoke of a nostalgic childhood full of humour, based on one decision to quit a dance class. It was thus followed in quick succession by the rest of the clubs previously joined. However, it was the recounting of the conversation the singer’s mother had with the relevant individuals, that was most receptive to the audience with laughter bouncing between the walls. The singer graciously stopped mid-song on occasion to let us laugh before continuing, something reminiscent of a comedian. I’m not fond of musicals but this was funny and I really enjoyed it.
Aaron was right; the festival was off to a corker.
The second act I saw, ‘Durational Rope’, a swedish-brazillian collaborative piece involving the manipulation of a 1km piece of rope to the ominous rhythm of what sounded like a fingered bass guitar (as opposed to a picked bass which has a different tone). For the majority of the time, I was watching the rope and listening to the bass and suddenly this rope took on a life of its own. Once I thought it was a recognisable synchronised heartbeats like the ones you see on a heart monitor.
The next it looked like the resuscitation of a human being after being shocked. I have no idea why I thought this whilst I was watching the performance. It is described in the brochure as an animalistic ritual but I didn’t see anything remotely resembling this. Both ‘subjects’ in the piece had piles of rope dotted about the room reembling that of a clock-face, each part had something new and different to offer the audience. I saw it as some sort of weird celebratory dance to each stage of life.
The next installment will be posted shortly, so stay tuned.
Here is the last installment of my experience at Fierce.
I’m not sure about you but when I picture a director’s q&a, I see said director onstage face-to-face with the interviewer microphone in hand. Perhaps the reason for this was to create more of an inclusive environemnt in which everyone could share ideas and experiences.
I say this because everyone was sat in a circle and Aaron Wright (Fierce Festival’s Artistic Director) was using eye-contact to make a connection with his audience and encourage them to add to the experience. It was almost as if he too was the artist in a performance as well as the artistic director who had lovingly the co-creator of this year’s entire festival. In fact the more he spoke about the event in its context, the more I thought in terms of art, he is a modern progressive and with all things art-related, he does not want to create an ‘us-and-them’ or ‘me-and-you’ type of a setting. Judging by what he said and the sorts of artists he has brought together for the festival, he is pro-dicussion in an open and welcoming space between artist and audience and anti-fourth wall.
Wright said he felt he had a responsibility to put together a program that is as varied as society and has the capacity to reach the far corners of the globe. There is no greater responsibility than to represent the under-represented. In order to do that, he has included events that are a mixture of both low-brow and high brow art. The acts he gives this opportunity to are often within his own network or people he hears about through contacts in his network. This is a program that has been tailored beyond Wright’s tastes. He maintains an open-mind and expects the same of the audiences who come to Fierce. He provides them with a platform in which to perform their work live to potentially a brand new audience, and by breaking the mould, could potentially change both perceptions and attitudes of what mainstream live performance is all about. By breaking down the barrier between artists and audience, it’s an opportunity for the audience to watch and participate in exciting forms of new modern performances including experimental.
There have been no less than eight UK premieres and six world premieres of live performance at this years’ festival. This is important for both the acts and the predominantly UK-based audiences at Fierce as it gives the acts the opportunity to test-drive their material on us. We are well known for our dry, sarcastic black-humour according to many nations and sometimes this can come across as rude. But seeing shows from across the globe opens our minds to what art is, and according to the artists who have frequently ventured to our shores have said that we Brits are the most receptive.
There is so much more to discuss but I don’t want to harp on. Perhaps another time soon for another blog?
Please keep your eye out later for another blog post on CBSO after the workshop this evening.
Hi there, I’m Lexi Wardle, a writer based in Brum who is keen to spread her passion for the arts whether in traditional or progressive formats.
Time is a valuable commodity these days and I would like to think that by blogging about my experiences in the art sector as a volunteer is a productive and proactive way to give a little something back to the world.
Although I am not currently able to write full time, I do use what time I have daily to write about the things that I love and share the conversations started in a studio to a bigger audience online. The more we talk about the current art issues of the day, the bigger and better the ideas we can create together to develop and sustain our arts sector.
You can find more of Lexi’s work at The British Storyteller’s Blog.