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

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Image: Future Perfect by Action Hero, Mia & Eric

I’m sure you don’t need reminding that this time last year we were all scrabbling around trying to figure out how best to do our jobs in the face of an escalating pandemic. Many arts organisations were determined to future-proof their practice as much as possible, and embraced the virtual world we found ourselves trapped in.

As huge swathe of events have been forced online, cultural practitioners are keen to embrace all they’ve learned over the last 12 months when it comes to delivery and audience enjoyment.

One such example is GIFT – Gateshead International Festival of Theatre – who were among one of the first multi-day festivals to successfully move their programming online as the pandemic took hold in May last year. The transition to online delivery meant that thousands of audience members across over 50 countries were able to access performances by a varied range of practitioners, building on GIFT’s promise to provide a platform for performance which is not normally programmed in the region.

This year, GIFT continues to innovate with the launch of The GIFT Exchange, an online event which reflects on opportunities on the international stage and explores concepts of global cultural exchange. At a time when Brexit and Covid policies throw up more barriers than ever for cultural collaboration, this truly international event will provide artists with a chance to connect.

Kicking off on Friday 30th April, highlights of the programme include an opportunity for those in the cultural sector to discuss the region’s international relationships. The North East Culture Social: Let’s Get International event will talk about the international cultures that exist in the region with the input of (international!) speakers and hosted by Unfolding Theatre’s Annie Rigby and Curious Monkey’s Amy Golding.

At a time when Brexit and Covid policies throw up more barriers than ever for cultural collaboration, this truly international event will provide artists with a chance to connect

On Saturday 1st May there’s an opportunity to meet brand new network Wear And Tyne Festival collective, who aim to promote festival culture in the region. Meet The Festivals will introduce members of Harambee Pasadia, MAPS, Moving Parts, Curious, GIFT, Summer Streets, TUSK and Vamos to audiences. Also on Saturday 1st, performance company Two Destination Language will chair a discussion session around their online residency programme, FIELD.

New models for international collaboration come under the microscope as Canadian artist duo Mia & Eric discuss their multi-year engagement project, 3 WOODS, during which they will create three interrelated works in response to three different woods located in Germany, Norway and our very own Chopwell Wood in Gateshead. The duo have been working with local artists to create site-responsive work which delves into how communities are connected by their relationships to wooded areas. Mia & Eric will present their findings so far and host artist focused workshops about their creative practice.

There’s an option to network with like-minded folk at The Breakfast Club on Sunday 2nd May; the informal meet up is hosted by Newcastle theatre company The Six Twenty. To round the programme off on the Sunday, festival director Kate Craddock will be in conversation about her vision for GIFT’s future, which is certain to provide some insightful food for thought.

The GIFT Exchange will pave the way for an even more inclusive GIFT next year, when we’ll hopefully be welcoming practitioners from around the world to Gateshead venues – and meeting them in person! once again.

The GIFT Exchange takes place from Friday 30th April-Sunday 2nd May, with all events taking place online. Events are free of charge but booking is required

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