This week has brought excitement and inspiration, and simultaneously difficult and disappointing news at Exeter Fringe Festival.
First the excitement. We have programmed and sent (most) offers/rejections out for the 2021 festival. We tried a new, experimental way of programming, bringing on board paid Advisory Artists who joined our venue representatives (Exeter Phoenix, The Barnfield Theatre, Maketank, Exeter Library, and myself as Festival Director) making a 50/50 split on the programming team. We shared the programming responsibility, listened and learned from each other. Their input to the process was invaluable, and I’m going to write a blog about it to share our process with others.
We discussed the applications with care and, having all received plenty of rejections in the last 18 months, with the knowledge that the current climate is a particularly difficult time to receive a rejection. It is also hugely exciting that we’re able to offer spaces at all. This is largely down to support from our partner venues in the city, most significantly the Exeter Northcott Theatre who have generously supported the festival.
While this has been happening, we also found out that we had been unsuccessful in our Arts Council England funding bid. This would be difficult news at any time, but funding for the arts is tight, highly sought after, and desperately needed right now.
It’s particularly hard knowing how many more artists we could have supported had the bid been successful. I say all of this with the knowledge that the people making the funding decisions at the Arts Council are in an impossible situation and I do not envy them. Plus, the money that wasn’t awarded to us is going to other artists who are in need of the funding.
During the programming process for the Research and Development programme, the panel were so inspired by the quality and breadth of applications that our R&D venue partners have donated additional space to allow more R&Ds to take place than we’d originally planned. This is incredibly generous especially given that their resources are as stretched as ours. It will allow us to support almost double the previous number of artists we had planned to in the R&D programme. We are also in discussions with an additional R&D venue which we hope to announce shortly allowing us to expand our capacity still further.
We’ve also appointed a Press & Marketing Officer to help us get the word out about this year’s festival. I’m looking forward to sharing more about them soon.
You might be wondering how you can help make sure that events like Exeter Fringe Festival keep happening in the city, when public funding is so tight, and the answer is simple: support them however you can. Buy a ticket (or better still, tickets), offer sponsorship, share social media posts about shows and opportunities. Tell your friends about them and organise to come along and enjoy the events.
If you have any questions about the festival, drop us an email to [email protected], and we’ll do our best to answer. For now, my heartfelt thanks to everyone who applied to take part in festival this year, and for our job opportunities. I can’t wait to share our exciting programme with you and see you there live in person at the festival.
Alex Jackson, Festival Director
To be the first to hear about news, events and future opportunities at the festival, sign up to our email newsletter here.