Submerge Festival: An interview with Festival Director Mike Pony

Submerge Festival director Mike Pony talks festival radical cross-curation, discovery and exploration.


Tell us about Submerge Festival

Submerge is a brand new, Bristol based festival of audiovisual arts, live performance and electronic music. It’s the first of its kind in the Southwest, presenting mixed bills of music and arts in a hybrid format. 

Why do you think Bristol needs/suits a festival like this?

Bristol is a festival city, full of people up for getting out there and trying new things. Submerge is a festival which allows audiences to dip their toes into arts they wouldn’t normally encounter. Bristol audiences are playful and inquisitive, so we are responding to this with a playful curation, mixing together music, arts, film, lighting design, audiovisual content and liveart. 


You are cross-curating all sorts of work at the eight events, how is that going to work?

Every event is a mix of artforms. Each event has at least one musical component and a performance artist involved. Choice is a key feature in the festival, most of the events allow audiences to choose which artist to spend time with; you might choose to listen to live electronic music, or to watch a performance artist elsewhere. It’s about making performance and music accessible to audiences, and allowing audiences to try things out. If it isn’t for you, there’s usually something else to see instead.

What’s been the biggest challenge so far?

It’s a very ambitious festival, which has launched out of nowhere and exploded into life fully formed, on a tiny budget. What we’ve achieved with minimal Arts Council Funding is huge and has involved a lot of people working like crazy to make it a reality. The whole thing has been challenging, but brilliant. Now we just have to make sure people come and see the amazing work we have programmed. It’s tricky when you have such a broad spectrum of work to make sure that each community knows about what you’re doing – we’re reaching out to experimental music fans, live art audiences, visual artists, film lovers and many more. It’s really important to let all these audiences know about the festival, but also to emphasise that it’s a festival about discovery, exploration and trying something new. 


What are you most excited to see at the festival?

I’m really looking forward to hearing (and feeling) Rrose play James Tenney at Ghosts. I’m also looking forward to the unpredictable bits that are curated by others, particularly what Steakhouse Live are going to bring! I’ve never seen Francesca Fini perform live, as she rarely comes to the UK. That should be exciting. 

Can you recommend three artists to see at the festival?

The opening concert Dive features a performance of The Well by Koreless and light artist Emmanuel Biard. It uses high powered lasers and mirrors and it really is an incredible, immersive work. I’d also recommend Olivier De Sagazan performing Transfiguration in the Ghosts concert, and johnsmith performing a durational version of We Are All Made Of Stars at The Ascent. 

Why should we come?

You should come because a lot of heart and soul has gone into Submerge to curate a journey for audiences which progresses from a tiny splash to a deep, dark underwater adventure and back again. You’ll stay dry, but you might find yourself holding your breath at times. I can’t wait to see it explode into life! 


Submerge is a new festival of audiovisual arts, electronic music and live performance, which takes place  across a number of venues in Bristol, from 18-20 Nov. The festival aims to present music and visual arts together in mixed bills, creating shared immersive experiences for diverse audiences across eight unique events. Audiences can attend the whole festival, or choose individual events. Tickets and programme information is available from

Submerge Festival 2016: Fathoms (Teaser)

Submerge Festival is Arts Council England funded and has received support from Theatre Bristol, Mayfest, Watershed, Crack Magazine and Colston Hall.


FESTIVAL -18/11/2016 – 20/11/2016