Theatre Bristol and Mayfest Commissions


Theatre Bristol and Mayfest were thrilled to award the 2016 Theatre Bristol/Mayfest commission to Selina Thompson, who made a new piece entitled salt.

Using aspects of installation, performance and re-enactment, salt. is concerned with migration, place, colonialism and how bodies hold histories through generations. At its heart, it is the story of a young woman, coming to terms with her ancestry and is one of a series of works that Selina is making, which explores what it is to be Black, to be British, and to be Female in the UK in 2015.

It went on to perform at the Yorkshire Festival and is currently being developed for international touring in 2017.

We made a provocation in our callout in 2015-16 to seek out projects that would bring something new, alternative or unfamiliar to how we understand the prevailing social issues of our time – and we were overwhelmed by the response. Thank you to everyone who applied. We received over 100 proposals, and had genuinely humbling conversations with the artists we interviewed; which made for our most challenging selection process yet.


Theatre Bristol and MAYK for Mayfest’s 2015 commission was Salt in the Sugar Jar by Nikesh Shukla

In December 2013 Mayfest and Theatre Bristol held a comission for a new performance piece by an artist or company based in the south west. 39 proposals were submitted and 9 applicants were interviewed. The commission has been offered to Nikesh Shukla for ‘The Time Machine’ which is the development of a novella he wrote about food, memory and bereavement. As part of the commission, Nikesh was ‘in residence’ at this 2014 Mayfest and featured on Mayfest Radio.

‘The Time Machine’ became ‘Salt in the Sugar Jar‘ and was presented in a house in Totterdown during Mayfest 2015, followed by a rural tour.


Theatre Bristol and MAYK for Mayfest’s 2013 commission was Hook, Skip, Repeat by Jeremiah Krage & Heidi Dorschler.

Hook, skip, repeatUsing a giant crochet hook and an large drums of brightly coloured rope, Jeremiah and Heidi invited passers by to help them create giant, intricate,spider-web-like structures which were installed around Bristol – between trees, from bridges, off buildings – as the festival went on: a playful, interactive, funny celebration of collaborative effort and (sometimes daft) human endeavour.

The piece took inspiration from Bristol’s industrial heritage, most directly referencing the city’s history of rope-making, an important export linked to Bristol’s shipbuilding industry. And the crochet sculptures drew on the traditionally ‘woman’s craft’ of doily-making. The piece was an invitation to make something together, with friends and strangers that could proudly be displayed for everyone to see.

Jeremiah Krage & Heidi Dorschler are both performers and makers, excited and inspired by site-specific based practices. Individually they have created and performed work across the Southwest,including for; The Northcott, WildWorks, Dance in Devon, The Works, and the Hall for Cornwall. Together they have created and performed numerous site-specific works for The Eden Project and Ha! Theatre.

You can read more about the piece here


Mayfest and Theatre Bristol’s 2012 co-commission was Made Up, a bespoke storytelling project created and performed by Byron Vincent and Molly Naylor.

For Made Up, Molly and Byron wrote and performed bespoke stories created especially for the people whoMade Up image ordered them. Using ideas generated from a city-wide call out, these acclaimed wordsmiths crafted uniquely personal story experiences to mark celebrations, to give as gifts to loved ones, or to simply entertain you in the comfort of your living room. Throughout Mayfest, they visited workplaces, homes, and other locations to deliver a series of stories for and with the people of Bristol.

The invitation was to be part of a storytelling map of the city which culminated in a finale event that wove them all together.

The project was documented at

There has since been a Made Up Norwich


Theatre Bristol and Mayfest’s commissioned site-specific work for Mayfest 2011 was by Search Party.SaveMe

Save Me was an intimate conversation, stretched across the city. Positioned up to 500m apart, for two hours a day, everyday, for the duration of Mayfest, Search Party created a live semaphore soap opera. Using flags instead of spoken words, this rolling and improvised narrative communicated playfully across the city, exposing stories that were hidden, encoded, and simmer beneath the surface. Search Party de-coded their intimate exchange of secrets, half-truths, veiled threats and warnings, documenting the conversation as it unfolded, exposing what is too often left unsaid. Passers by helped to de-code messages and draft responses, dipping in and out of this accumulative soap opera, going about their daily lives as the narrative unfolded around them.

Save Me was developed with Home Live Art and Rules & Regs, and Mayfest and Theatre Bristol commissioned a new 10-day version of the work which ran right through Mayfest 2011.

Save Me has subsequently been programmed nationally and internationally including Les Tonnerres De Brest 2012 festival as part of the Theatre Bristol Leonardo project. You can read about their experiences in France here


S.I.T.E (Space, Ideas, Time, Expertise)

In 2010-11 The Tobacco Factory Theatre and Theatre Bristol worked together to provide a studio residency programme for 4 company/artists. The programme included producer support, space and a fee. It was an open, international call aimed at mid-career artists (people with at least 3 professionally produced shows to date) wanting to make a NEW show. Makers of all kinds of live performance work (dance, theatre, live art, circus, puppetry etc) were encouraged to send in a proposal.

The selected artists were:

Ed Patrick: Kid Carpet and the Noisy Animals
Toby Hulse & Vicky Andrews: My Secret Garden
Dancing Brick: Captain Ko and the Planet of Rice
Full Beam Visual Theatre: M Butterfly

You can read more about the 2010-2011 residencies here

In 2011-12 the residency was repeated for one company/artist, the project selected was

Holly Stoppit & Sarah Fielding: Behind Closed Doors

Theatre Bristol and Bristol Old Vic Commissions 2009

In 2009 Theatre Bristol and Bristol Old Vic worked together to commission 5 live performance projects from Bristol artists to appear in Bristol Old Vic’s programme in 2009/2010. There was an overwhelming response with over 100 applications, the selected artists were:

Champloo: White Caps
Luci Gorell Barnes:  The Tragic and Disturbing Tale of Little Lupin 
Timothy X Atack: Buzzard
Tom Wainwrigh: Pedestrian
Uninvited Guests: Make Better Please

Most of the commissions went on to be prestented nationally and internationally.


The Bristol Do Commissions

The Bristol Do, a festival with a mix of outdoor arts, dance and circus took place in the September of 2008 – 2010
In 2009 and 2010 Theatre Bristol worked with Bristol City Council to commission work for the festival and beyond.

In 2009 the commssioned artists were
Once – arts and ceremonies – Picnic
Onion Features – Cupboard Under the Stars

In 2010 the commissioned artist was
Stickleback Plasticus – The Cat’s Choir