How Theatre Bristol Supported Mike Pony

Mike Pony, Director Submerge

Theatre Bristol has supported me throughout my 12 years in Bristol, from my days as an early career performance artist and maker in the city to my current role as the director of Submerge: Bristol International Digital Arts Festival. What started as an “I wonder if I could produce my own festival” became a reality for me with the support of the organisation.

“Without Theatre Bristol ambitious people wouldn’t get the realistic, critical and valuable support that I was lucky to receive.”

I came to TB having produced my own performance work, developed nightlife events as a promoter and DJ and with some basic knowledge of festivals and Arts Council funding. I wanted to start a new festival in Bristol and I had no idea where to even start with that, beyond working from my own experiences of working in festivals as an artist and producing festival performance/art party events for In Between Time and Bristol Pride.

Theatre Bristol was behind me all the way with bespoke support and face to face mentoring, encouraging me to get to the core of what I wanted to do and what the city needed, and to ask vital questions about the viability and feasibility of my idea. The mentoring was on-going and ad hoc, and Theatre Bristol helped me throughout my journey as I developed my ideas, structures, festival concept and funding bids.

With the support of TB, the plan for the pilot edition of Submerge came together and a funding bid submitted. It was a success. Theatre Bristol continued to support me with ad hoc advice, marketing support and mentoring as we delivered the first festival.

“Theatre Bristol was behind me all the way with bespoke support and face to face mentoring, encouraging me to get to the core of what I wanted to do and what the city needed”

Submerge delivered its pilot festival in 2016 and I continued to have meetings with TB as I prepared a second application for funding on an even more ambitious scale. No question was too stupid!

In 2019 we are delivering our expanded vision: Submerge: Bristol International Digital Arts Festival. We continue to use Theatre Bristol, listing our events on the website (a valuable resource for people to find out about arts events, networking, jobs and socials) and I know that if I have a tricky question, someone at TB will know the answer.

Since receiving funding, we have developed a business plan for Submerge which positions the company as a UK wide digital arts producing brand, of which Bristol International Digital Arts Festival is just one of the things we deliver. As we grow our ambition and develop our work into new areas in the UK, we’ll stick by Theatre Bristol as our colleague, mate and mentor.

“I know that if I have a tricky question, someone at TB will know the answer.”

Without Theatre Bristol ambitious people wouldn’t get the realistic, critical and valuable support that I was lucky to receive. Always delivered with care, the organisation were pivotal in helping me gain focus on what was possible, desirable and necessary, and to think about the bigger picture and how my work could intersect with the work of others. My organisation was developed in partnership with many organisations in the city, and Theatre Bristol were essential as an impartial partner who could offer an overview of the city and the relationships that might be useful to me, with no financial incentive. I am very thankful to Theatre Bristol for all of the support I received.

 

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