INTERVIEW: GIFT | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: The Talent by Action Hero & Deborah Pearson, image by Ana Viotti

Celebrating international independent theatre and the many and varied delights of performance and creativity, Gateshead International Festival of Theatre returns to venues in the town from Friday 3rd-Sunday 5th May.

We chatted with organiser Kate Craddock to find out more about the event…

The festival’s line-up is always so eclectic, what kind of thing draws you to the performers taking part?

I find the performers in lots of different ways! I am very lucky to be invited to other international festivals, and this is where I often make connections with artists who I then invite to be part of GIFT. Often, I will see something at another festival, or meet artists there, and I’ll immediately think about how their work would connect with GIFT’s audiences and participants. I think about how we could make that work something really special in Gateshead. I’m always keen to encourage artists to use GIFT as a space to try out new ideas, or do something a bit differently – so I guess I am drawn to artists who are up for that – who are interested in connecting with audiences and participants and making new connections through the festival. I often work with artists over many years, by inviting them to spend time in Gateshead on an artist residency, or to deliver workshops, or develop their work for a specific location in Gateshead – and this happens at a different point in the year outside of the festival. This way, visiting artists spend time making connections with local artists and audiences ahead of being part of the festival, which all feeds into creating a really strong community.

Have you focused on (or discovered the emergence of) any themes from the work being performed?

I don’t programme in a thematic way, but there is definitely a strong identity to the programme this year in that there are a number of performances that are intended for small audiences to experience. Both Manual and Je Suisse (or not) are experiences for one person at a time, and both pieces are by international artists who have previously carried out residencies with GIFT. This Endless Sea, which is a beautiful multi-channel film installation that will be housed in a hut on Dunston Staiths is designed for individuals, pairs or family groups to experience, and friend will only be performed by the participant performers in their own homes to their own family and friends!

By offering multiple opportunities for audiences to experience these kinds of immersive works either alone or in small groups allows for reflection between events. I hope it also builds audiences’ intrigue and curiosity, and their confidence to engage with contemporary performance and things that might feel a bit unusual or unexpected.

Another theme to have emerged this year quite strongly is the integration of non-professional performers in the performances. For both friend and The Beginning, we have recruited local participants who are performing as part of GIFT. I am really excited to see and hear about the outcomes of these collaborations.

How important is it to give North East practitioners a platform alongside internationally recognised work?

GIFT has always profiled North East practitioners alongside visiting artists. I think this is a hugely important part of what GIFT does – it brings artists together to share their practice and make new connections. By platforming local artists in GIFT, they have the opportunity to try things out in a supportive environment, and get feedback from artists who they wouldn’t normally have the chance to be in dialogue with. This can be critical for developing new networks outside the region, and for artist development.

This year, one of the performances, Manual, by Montreal based artists Christopher Willes and Adam Kinner, will also include local performer Rosa Postlethwaite as one of the performers in the piece. They have been rehearsing online, and will work together for a week in Gateshead in the lead up to the festival. 

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