So it seems like only yesterday that Ferment Fortnight was beavering away in the Bristol Old Vic Studio, warming our cockles from the cold winter air with a whole host of performance tidbits. However a whole 6 months have passed and it's that time again. We caught up with Ferment Producer Emma Bettridge and asked 'What's it all about?"
So Ferment, is it to do with beer?
Why not? Tell you what let’s have a pint or two in our Celler Bar ™ which opens along with the Fortnight NEXT WEDNESDAY (eeek). So, along with beer it’s also to do with brewing ideas. Particularly from artists who excite us. Formally it’s the Artist Development strand of the Bristol Old Vic which exists all year long to support artist’s ideas and enable them to create the work that is important to them. So then we have the Fortnights, in January and July, which are the public face of the scheme. The Fortnights are there for artists to try things out if it feels like an appropriate time to do so.
Ah, so we have seen the Ferment stamp on other work throughout the year, so that is what goes on in the bits inbetween The Fortnights…..
The Fortnight is there for artists to show stuff that needs an audience. The rest of the Ferment year consists of going to see new works, meeting new artists, chatting to people, making connections, going on residencies and essentially providing a breathing space (whatever this might mean for the individual artist) for the work to be made. We can give rehearsal space, we can introduce artists to other artists, we can advise, we can connect people to venues, we can cover costs for things and generally embrace the process of creating ART. Sometimes there will be parties, just to get everyone together to dance to shit 90’s tunes. That’s right, 90’s. People say the 90’s didn’t have an identity. Let me tell you once and for all, it did and that identity moved to the soundtrack of Ace of Base and Shaggy.
So what can we expect from July's Fortnight?
Well… you can expect a lot of lovely people trying things for the first time. For small change you can come and witness the starting point of what will often be a much larger project. You can expect to walk into the Old Vic and be greeted by our excellent staff, directed to the Celler Bar (which will be an old man’s pub if you will), served up a lovely pint of something with perhaps a pickled egg and some bacon crisps to accompany this (apparently if you smash said egg into crisps you will unleash a world of pleasure), you can then sit back and watch something new and exciting unfold. Then you might have a chat about it and perhaps look at what else takes your fancy. This is a little insight to what we do all year, so we’re keen to show you what we do!
So it's not all theatre then
Don’t be silly! We have puppetry and rope work and dance and new writing and and and… and a Farmers Market and inspire sessions from cool people. It’s gonna go right off.
So as it's a Fortnight of artists 'trying things out' in front of audiences, what do you expect from your audience?
Lots or nothing! They can respond as they see fit. We want feedback on the work we put out, but that can be on paper, in the bar or 3 weeks after the show in an email. We want gut reactions to things. We want a reason to make the full show.
So would you recommend being a seasoned theatre goer to attend?
I would honestly recommend this fortnight of work to anyone. I know, of course I’d say that, but really we’ve got such a variety of things from new scripts to arial work that it’s worth having a look. We have a great ticket offer called ‘take a punt’ when you buy four tickets you get the fifth free. Tickets are only 4 spuds as well, so that’s well cheap. The work shown in this fortnight is simply part of the broad theatre landscape. Without this process there wouldn’t be War Horse, or Matilda, or Gatz.
So the fortnight is kind of like a gateway between audience, artist and work?
Goddamit I think you’re right. It opens up an informal space for chats about work. It connects up the dots between what the artist is saying, what the audience might interpret that as and how that might affect the work in the long run.
Do you think there are any negatives to this kind of process?
For sure. Particularly when it comes to printed feedback on the event, there needs to be a real awareness of how vulnerable the artist is in this stage of development. So I would only ask that people are respectful of that when they are responding. This isn’t me trying to stifle people’s reactions (that’s what we want!) but I guess it’s just being sensitive to this.
Well the programme for July's event looks pretty hot, what are your top tips?
Lord! I can’t answer that! We’ve not seen most of them yet (that’s the point innit) so it would be totally unfair to say. But I would suggest just taking a punt on the programme. They will all be very different and special in their own way!
And finally, perhaps the most revealing question, what is Ferment's inner animal
Well, mainly he is a little black Labrador x Springer Spaniel called Hobbs. Other days Sharon says it’s a badger. I don’t know what this means. I do know that they shoot badgers by roadsides and then pretend that they’ve been run over.