At the end of this month, the UK will supposedly leave the EU – nearly three years post the referendum. What’s been apparent from this significant decision is the vote’s exposure of our divided nation, a division further worsened by the ambiguity of the leaving process. This feeling of ambiguity is defining how we approach the 29th March, we’re left unsure as to how this will truly impact all in the future. A decision that has left many feeling alienated, it’s incredibly important to celebrate the contributions made by international residents within the UK. In a time of division, it’s crucial to acknowledge our rich cultural heritage, one influenced by artists, practitioners and theatremakers globally. Ahead of the debut A Piece of the Continent Festival at the the Tristan Bates Theatre, Theatre Programme Co-Ordinator Will Mytum discusses this exciting new festival in collaboration with Voila! Europe.
Hi Will, the debut A Piece of the Continent Festival will take place from 8th to 27th April at Tristan Bates. How are you feeling ahead of the festival?
I’m incredibly excited! The 9 companies we have involved are all so diverse and at such a high quality – I can’t wait to see the work they’ve produced. I’m also intrigued to gauge the audience response to a season of European work, and also to see how work of this kind infiltrates the wider industry following Brexit.
A Piece of the Continent is a 3 week theatre festival celebrating the works of theatre artists across Europe and the UK – a topical festival in light of the UK Referendum vote. This will mark the first time you’ve collaborated with company Voila! Europe to curate this year’s programme. What inspired you to host the festival?
When a political event as huge as Brexit occurs, art and culture as a whole has a responsibility to respond in some way. When deciding how best to engage with the topic, it became clear that a positive angle was the one we as an organisation wanted to take – hence the celebration of European artists. We wanted to use our position as a prominent Off-West End venue to offer a platform of visibility, support and empowerment to those who are most directly affected by Brexit – Europeans. Partnering with Voila! Europe was therefore an obvious next step – I’d been a fan of their annual festival for a while, and together with their experience and connections in the European theatre community, we have created something I hope will end up being rather special.
How have you both worked together to curate the programme?
Both myself and Amy and Sharlit from Voila! have worked closely to curate what we believe is a programme of work that showcases the diverse and ground-breaking work that European artists have to offer. We worked together to tailor the submission call out, to filter through the submissions and ultimately to select which shows would be successful, and who would be programmed where. I promise I’m not exaggerating when I say that we legitimately could have programmed 5 festivals, such was the high calibre of submissions.
What can audiences expect from the festival?
A unique and refreshing theatrical experience. We hope that expectations of what ‘European theatre’ is will be superseded, that people’s cultural understandings will be expanded, and that audiences will have a thoroughly entertaining evening! The power of collaboration is showcased brilliantly throughout the entire programme of work – almost all the productions have creatives involved from numerous countries, and this cross-fertilisation of knowledge, approaches and backgrounds will create an original and inspiring three weeks.
What would you like for audiences to take away from the festival?
That a good story, well told, transcends borders, countries and continents. That ‘permission to create’ is no-one’s to give. That despite whatever may be happening in Parliament, art maintains, and whether you’re coming to be educated or for escapism, there will always be someone, somewhere, creating something that can change your life for the better – and the more opportunities those artists have to showcase their work, the better the world will be for it.
Beyond this year, are there plans to curate future festivals?
We certainly aren’t intending this to be a one-off event. We will of course debrief and discuss once the festival is over to see what the next steps might be, but I for one am confident that the Actors Centre will be a place that European artists will feel welcome for many years to come.
What advice would you give to any aspiring festival curators?
Create a submission call out that is as detailed and specific as possible. Take time and care over each application – bearing in mind that written forms are not necessarily everyone’s forte. Appreciate that people have taken time and energy to apply and deserve a detailed response. Give yourself more time than you think you need. And have a clear objective as to what you want to achieve with the festival, namely, what artists are you targeting, and what audience are you targeting, and why? What does this festival offer to the sector that isn’t already available elsewhere? And above all – enjoy being surrounded by so many wonderful creative people!
Questions by Lucy Basaba.
A Piece of the Continent will take place from Monday 8th until Saturday 27th April 2019 at the Tristan Bates Theatre. To find out more about the festival, visit here…