The Fierce Festival is Birmingham’s festival of the performing arts (essentially) and was started in 1997 by Mark Ball. Since then it has had an immense impact on Birmingham’s culture and has gained a reputation for edgy, underground and sometimes tongue in cheek presentation of the finest in contemporary art. The company Fierce Earth has grown and moved on from the festival alone. The festival is currently reinventing itself and experimenting with new directions under the artistic directorship of Laura McDermott and Harun Morrison who took over in 2009. One of the main things I’d say they bring to the mix is a totally open mind and no agenda. They are not from the Midlands and as such are gazing on the landscape like explorers, learning as they go, taking their time to learn the ways of the people. Having had two ‘interrobang’ events away from Birmingham (one in Warwick Arts Centre and one in Wednesbury at The Old Post Office and the Town Hall), i think the best thing is to expect the unexpected, which has always been the way of Fierce.
I have been a fan of the festival since before I considered myself an artist and along with Vivid, Fierce had a lot to do with me getting involved in the arts. I volunteered as early as 2004 to help out with the festival and was employed by Mark Ball on a few occasions. I also met some good friends whilst being involved. People like Rich Bate and Anne-Marie Pope, who were involved in the organisation of the festival. Meeting ‘the pope’ was also the beginnings of my involvement in the Project X Presents series of events.
So when the opportunity came up to apply for the Platinum artist development program i gave it some thought, submitted and Harun and Laura chose me, I’m very pleased to say. The aims of the program:
Platinum is an exciting opportunity for artists to develop their work with Fierce Festival.
Platinum provides a space to network & make connections with key internationally acclaimed artists to focus & develop your own work in a supportive environment.
Fierce has a reputation for celebrating risk and for encouraging the expression of a myriad of voices, perspectives and artforms.
Fierce is particularly interested in its curatorial agenda being led by the artists it engages with. Forthcoming Fierce festivals will involve 8 – 12 artists who develop their projects over a ten-month period. This emphasis on process is very much at the heart of the thinking around Platinum. We are less interested in finished products than the development of long-term strategies to sustain your career as an artist. Platinum artists are very much a part of the activities and enquiries of the festival itself.
So even if i don’t come up with something at the end i have achieved something. Seems I can’t lose. I do feel obliged, however (if only to myself) to create new work from this and have decided to come back to where I started creatively as a youth, and have been creating some music, with the aim of performing a fully live Audio Visual set of my own creation from beginning to end, using found footage, my photography and animation, field recordings, and live performance.
The program started last April and through Laura and Harun’s zen-like guidance I have been developing my ideas, and communicated them to the other artists on the program. Mentoring of the group discussions has been by performance artist Kira O’Reilly, who is extremely inspiring and perfect for facilitating the group. For instance on the first day we met, she instigated, not an icebreaking waffle fest of artists spouting about themselves (I know I do) but a silent walk around the surrounding streets where each member took turns to lead. We learnt as much about each other in that hour than if we’d talked for three.
Each artist has a budget for the program, two-thirds of which can be spent on kit. The remaining portion to be spent on exploring, e.g. courses, travelling to festivals, and mentors of the artists choice. I decided i would like to talk to AV legends Coldcut (why keep it mortal?), mentioned this to Laura and she got someone from Ninjatune to contact me a couple of weeks later! I’m about to arrange a meeting with Matt Black, so I’ll report back when I have done.