Bread & Roses Pub Theatre talk about Clapham Fringe Festival 2021

Officially established in November 2014 by co-founders Tessa Hart and Rebecca Pryle, The Bread and Roses Pub Theatre, based in Clapham, has continued to fulfil its commitment of supporting new writing and emerging theatre companies and artists. Having received a 2020 commendation for ‘Pub Theatre of the Year’ from the London Pub Theatre Awards and an award from The International Centre for Women Playwrights Award three years in a row (2015, 2016 and 2017), the venue has proven just how vital the work they do is. Currently under the leadership of Artistic Director Velenzia Spearpoint and due to stage the sixth edition of the Clapham Fringe Festival, taking place from the 22nd September until 10th October, the Bread and Roses Pub Theatre tell us more about what to expect from this year’s event!

Hi Bread and Roses Theatre, you’ll be hosting the sixth edition of Clapham Fringe Festival from the 22nd Sept until 10th Oct. How are you feeling ahead of the event?

We’re really excited and nervous, in equal measure. We have a very varied line-up this year, from companies showcasing their work in front of an audience for the very first time, like PRIDE and Missing You which will be work-in-progress performances, to shows returning after successful runs at Camden Fringe and other excellent Festivals, like Paperboy and Jam Tart/Lemon Kurd and we’re thrilled for these to be shared with audiences in our local area in Clapham.

Nervous because, like many colleagues, running our venue at this time has been far from smooth and COVID hasn’t completely gone away. We’ve had to learn to accept that there will be changes, uncertainties and often at the last minute, which I’m sure we will embrace innovatively..

The festival includes a mixed programme of theatre, devised work, comedy, cabaret and family & children’s theatre. How have you approached curating this year’s line up?

Similar to previous years, we have an open process and a window of just over 2 months where artists and companies can submit their work to be considered for Clapham Fringe. We’re always open to new ideas, those testing out new work. When finalising the line-up, it comes down to ensuring there’s a good mix of different genres, to ensure there’s something for our local audience and that there isn’t, for example, too many shows exploring the same theme/ too many one-person show. We’re always trying to strive a balance between offering a platform for emerging artists to take risks, meeting the appetite of our audiences and ensuring we can meet ticketing income targets too, as an unfunded venue, both ourselves and artists we work with rely on that to survive.

The festival will open with its signature launch event on Saturday 11th September, this offering the opportunity for companies to network and discuss their shows further. What does it mean to be able to create this supportive platform for creatives?

We’ve been utilising digital technology to communicate, connect and collaborate so much in the last 18 months, and so grateful that they exist and creates new opportunities, but we also understand and recognise the value of connecting in person, and simple things as able to move around, flow between conversations and allow it to organically happen. So in short, we’re really hoping our artists and companies will not only forge a relationship with the theatre through performing, but with each other too, and hope that opens new doors for all!

This year marks the festival’s sixth edition. In what has been a challenging 18 months for the arts, you within this time also being able to continue with your mission of supporting new work by awarding the ‘Emerging Company Award’, the ‘Emerging Director & Producers scheme’ and presenting the 19/20 Bread and Roses Award winning show ‘I and the Village’. What have you taken away from this unique time period? How has this fed into this year’s festival?

When we organised and supported the Emerging Company Awards, the wonderful Velvet Smoke Productions and Leading Light Collective and during pre-production of I and the Village, we’re in lockdown/working around strict restrictions. For our tiny team who all work part-time and juggle other jobs/life/caring responsibilities alongside our roles, these COVID logistics, brings an added layer of challenges, including requiring more time than usual to do everything, from organising COVID test to working out the socially distanced seating plan & ticketing system. We’re so proud of the projects we’ve done, all the companies we supported and all the team members involved. We’ve taken away how to better prioritize, manage expectations, look after our own and other’s wellbeing and mental health, problem-solve in trying situations and so much more. This will be fed into all aspects of our work in future

What are your hopes for the festival?

The most important thing would be that everyone involved is safe & happy

What can audiences expect from this year’s festival?

Laughter, tears, the opportunity to experience society from a different perspective.

What would you like for audiences to take away from the event?

That there is so much talent in performing arts, requiring support and platforms in order to progress their careers. We’d really hope audiences would be more open to taking risks and seeing work by new artists.

Questions by Lucy Basaba.

Clapham Fringe will take place from Wednesday 22nd September until Sunday 10th October at the Bread & Roses Pub Theatre. To find out more about the festival, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop