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How to Curate a Fringe Festival

BA (Hons) Fine Art OPOA Features / Course news / Make

BA (Hons) Fine Art alumnus and former Student Union President Dan Broadbent isn’t afraid of a challenge. In 2015, he curated Bournemouth’s second Emerging Arts Fringe festival. He explains how he showcased almost 500 artists through 150 different events.

ALTHOUGH BOURNEMOUTH’S ARTS BY THE SEA FESTIVAL IS WELL ESTABLISHED, THE EMERGING ARTS FRINGE FESTIVAL WAS RELATIVELY NEW. HOW DID YOU COME TO CURATE IT?

The Bournemouth Emerging Arts Fringe was established in 2014 by Bournemouth Council to provide a platform for local artists and musicians to become involved in the Arts by the Sea Festival.

The Fringe was really successful in its first year, running on a zero budget side-by- side with Arts by the Sea. It quickly made a name for itself as a festival that was not only accessible to anyone, but also offered a chance for previously unknown or unseen artists to showcase their work.

For two weeks, the artists of Bournemouth emerged as one—showcasing everything from photography exhibitions to spoken word poetry events and performances. It made Bournemouth stop and stare in awe!

Six months later, it was time to start planning again for 2015. I joined a steering group and, along with a team of volunteers, we began to carve out a plan for 2015’s festivities week-by-week.

I began to take on more and more responsibility. Before I knew it, I was sat in a small garage-cum-office along with one of my best friends and we were planning a festival together.

It involved organising over 150 events and juggling communication with almost 500 artists. It was mental! We were doing 80-hour weeks on no money and little rest.

DID YOU FEEL ANY PRESSURE TO DELIVER, GIVEN THE RELATIVELY LARGE NAME [BOURNEMOUTH ARTS BY THE SEA FESTIVAL] THAT IT WAS ATTACHED TO?

I don’t think any of us really felt pressure that we had to live up to a name. We were real artists with a real burning desire to show the world what we had to offer.

We weren’t armed with stacks of cash, but we had hearts filled with passion and a small team of volunteers. We had nothing to lose, aside from sleep and a social life! The Fringe became my life and I wanted to make it as great as it could be.

YOU MENTIONED THAT IN ITS FIRST YEAR, THE FRINGE FESTIVAL HAD ‘ZERO BUDGET’. HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT CREATING SOMETHING SO BIG OUT OF NOTHING?

We fundraised like crazy. We made a Kickstarter video, organised events to raise more funds, and were generously sponsored by Bournemouth Scene and supported by Arts University Bournemouth. Most importantly, we relied on the incredibly hard work of Bournemouth artists and creatives who joined together for the benefit of the Fringe festival.

WAS THERE ANYTHING ABOUT THE BOURNEMOUTH ARTS SCENE THAT YOU DISCOVERED FOR THE FIRST TIME, OR ANYTHING THAT SURPRISED YOU ALONG THE WAY?

I was overwhelmed by the diversity of what Bournemouth had in the way of arts organisers, ambassadors and genuine talent. It all seemed a bit hidden beneath the town’s tourist-centric exterior and often summer-focused events. Autumn was taken over by arts, music, theatre, film and comedy and it felt great!

HOW DID THE UNIVERSITY SUPPORT YOU, AND HOW DID IT FEEL TO HAVE THIS BACKING AS AN AUB ALUMNUS?

Not only did AUB generously support the Fringe festival financially, but we saw huge efforts come from the students, staff and alumni. Over half of the festival events were ran directly or indirectly by AUB associates. Being a Fine Art Alumnus myself, I took great pride in seeing my University peers produce some of the most fascinating arts events that Dorset has seen.

WHAT’S THE HARDEST PART OF CURATING A FRINGE FESTIVAL?

We were exhausted by the end. You end up dreaming about spreadsheets and whether your logo looks better in pink or blue. It can be hard, but that’s the fun in it! Our biggest challenge was raising funds. We started with nothing and had to pay for publication printing, website maintenance, liability insurance, equipment hire and loads of other costs. I still wonder how we did it.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO ANYONE TRYING TO DO SOMETHING SIMILAR?

I’d say just go for it. I’m a firm believer that if there is something missing where you live or if you want to make a change, then get out there and do it. You’d be surprised how many other people are thinking the exact same thing. Organise some meetings with like-minded creative types and start planning.

Don’t let money stop you. If your project is more ambitious, Arts Council England offer grants. It’s always worth trying. If you don’t, someone else might!

DAN’S FIVE FAVOURITE FRINGE FESTIVAL MOMENTS…

A Handful of Dust

Up there in my top acts has to be AUB senior lecturer Martin Coyne’s installation A Handful of Dust, which was in the Lower Gardens Bandstand. It was inspired by T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land and used projection mapping, sound and light. It was the first time in my life that I’ve shed tears because of a piece of art.
The incandescent glow of light from the Bandstand could be seen from a distance which, when approached, would respond to the movement of your footsteps. As you approached the glowing, heavenly light, two fabric sheets and a large plant burst into a projection of ames, only extinguished by the retreat of your own footsteps. It was both self-indulging and self-destructive at the same time.

Transmission

A night of live music and alternative
DJ sets. Funk to punk, soul to psych and everything in between.

Headspace

A sound installation created by Language, Timothy! especially for the Bournemouth Emerging Arts Fringe 2015. An audience of one entered Language, Timothy!’s pop-up bobble hat, donned headphones and was taken on a three-minute sound journey through someone else’s mind.

J.U.D.I.T.H.

Discourse-theatre with poetic-abstract choreographic elements. Based on a drama by Friedrich Hebbel, it questioned structural social power relations.

IDEAS Bournemouth

IDEAS Bournemouth provided a networking opportunity for creative people to come together and share ideas and opportunities for new and exciting projects.

The festival is now in the process of applying for funding applications and is due to return in Spring 2017. If you are interested in getting involved with anything Fringe related, including volunteering, event enquiries or sponsorship, contact info@b-e-a-f.co.uk