Maxi More Photographed by Indrek Galetin
Ausform Micro-Fest is a 4 day burst of progressive performance, music, parties and discussions hitting Bristol next week. As the festival team get ready to host over 25 artists, several tonnes of glitter and a healthy selection of wigs, co-curator Eleanor Fogg aka johnsmith answers our questions about how the festival came to be…
How did you get involved with Ausform and when did this collaboration start?
I’ve performed with Ausform twice in the past, and worked with Lina (Ausform founder/Exec Producer) both as an artist and a producer. Lina got in touch earlier in the year about the Micro-Fest because she saw a video I’d made as my drag persona, johnsmith. I think she was interested in how that work linked into a bigger scene that’s becoming more and more visible at the moment. We talked and it grew into a collaboration to create this programme exploring some of those ideas. We decided not to use the term ‘drag’, but to open it out to look at artists who use ‘make up’, or ‘making up’, to change the world in some way.
What lead to the framing of this year’s Micro-Fest, your interests?
Over the last few years I’ve been seeing a lot of work that uses make up, hyper costume and ‘drag’, and thinking about how it works and why its so interesting for me. I’m aware of an explosion of the popularity of drag in mainstream culture through shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race, but there isn’t much discussion of what its doing, politically or socially, and why it affects people.
There are so many socially engaged people using these techniques for different purposes, so we decided to put together a programme of work that explores this. I hope that by putting side by side artists who, loosely, use ideas of ‘make up’ and ‘making up’ to change the world, each in their own way, and giving them a space to say what they want, that people who come and watch can have some ideas about why ‘drag’ is so popular right now, and see its potential for social or political change.
When is the Micro-Fest and how is it different to other festivals in Bristol?
Whats unique about the Micro-Fest is its DIY feel and its commitment to risk taking work. Ausform was set up to bring things to Bristol that haven’t been seen here before, and to create a space where artists and audiences can share new experiences. This year’s Micro-Fest is bringing political cabaret and queer punk to a cinema, high drag lip sync and dance to a converted church, a pop up community for gift giving to a gallery space, and parties all over the shop. We’re collaborating with artists from Bristol and further afield, collaborating with fresh faces and established artists – on one night we have the legendary David Hoyle followed by brand new Bristol night Thorny – I can’t wait to see them both on the same stage! Its all about crossing genres and placing things in unexpected contexts.
The Micro-Fest is 25-28 November, happening across Bristol. The venues are the Island in the centre of town (our festival HUB), the amazing newly renovated church space at Trinity Centre in Old Market, and the Cube Cinema in Stokes Croft.
Rachael Clerke : Béton Brute, photo taken by Paul Samuel White
In your opinion why should people get involved and what are you most excited about?
As my Facebook friends will be sick of hearing, I am SO excited about our programme… so its hard to pick a few things!
But off the top of my head – Maxi More and IMMA/MESS are two drag queens from the London cabaret scene who are collaborating to make a new performance just for Bristol. I can’t wait for this, because firstly its taking the way that they work – this highly visual and sonic experience with lip sync, dance, make up and wigs – and transposing it to a different context. And secondly, I never hear drag queens talking about why they work with these things or what it means for them – and I know Maxi and IMMA both have really interesting ideas around their work, which they’ll be sharing and inviting you to discuss with them. So I’m excited to bring this work to Bristol, to a new audience, to see these two performers together, and to have this space to hear their ideas.
As for things to get involved in – for anyone interested in drag performance, we have two amazing workshops as part of the programme. Both on the Saturday – master of lip sync Foxy & Husk will be running a practical workshop on lip sync techniques (if you haven’t seen her yet, you have to look at this video link below she’s amazing!), and our poster girl Maxi More will be running a make up workshop in association with Beacons, Icons and Dykons. These will be great for anyone who’s curious about drag, alter ego or cabaret performance. I am actually gutted to miss these cos I’ll be teching at the Cube!!
What can people expect, are there any expectations?
EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED…
Erm…. expect colour, beauty and grotesquery, live music, parties and dancing every night with DJs from Horseplay, Dirtytalk and Housework/BRSTL… expect drag kings, drag queens, and creatures from the depths of the lagoon… most of all, expect to be entertained and not bored, but come with an open mind, because someone might just change it.