Tom Spencer, 28 January 2013

Session called by Tom Spencer and attended by Robert Daniels, Sally Christopher,

Andy Roberts, James Baker, Bridget Floyer, Aimee Corbett, Ilayda Arden and Tom


The session was called (quite selfishly) in response to a number of audience members

over the last year or so commenting that Fine Chisel's work (which is very live

music-based and often happens in pubs) ‘would be perfect for music festivals’, but not

knowing how to make that happen. It began as a pragmatic discussion about which

festivals programme theatre work, possible financial deals, how to approach

promoters and logistics of performing. It then moved on to a broader chat about the

type of audiences that attend festivals, what they're looking for and what that means

for us as artists.


Here's a list of some of the festivals that came up across the length of the discussion:


Big Chill (both Festival Republic)


Secret Garden Party

Bestival and Camp Bestival (great for family work)


Beacons Festival


Larmer Tree

End of the Road

Paradise Gardens

Hog the Limelight

The general feeling was that the festival circuit isn't a closed shop - it's just a case of

contacting people and pitching your work.

Offer your niche

There was strong support for artists approaching venues with more than just a ‘show’.

Theatre tents are often big, require serious amplification and are reserved for more

established companies. Rather, festivals are very keen to find new ideas to extend

their physical sites, stagger groups of people across a weekend and appeal to a wide

variety of audiences. For instance, it was suggested that Fine Chisel - as a company

who often perform in pubs - should approach festivals with the idea of creating a bar

space specifically for our work.

The guys from Bootworks Theatre offered some really useful comments on the

Outdoor Arts scene, coordinated by Without Walls. They said that the funding situation

was quite different to music festivals and can be financially viable. This led to an

agreement that family-centred work can often attract long-term audiences through

festival networks.


We were all reminded, by several graphic anecdotes, of the importance of careful

on-the-ground running of festival events. Where are your toilets? Is there somewhere

safe to store kit?

And even if everything is set up carefully, what's to stop (often unpaid) artists

disappearing in the moment of a festival?

Intimacy and community

We shouldn't go to festivals specifically to bolster long-term audiences. It's quite likely

that punters will have a brilliant, hedonistic weekend seeing all kinds of exciting work,

then forget all about it (and certainly won't remember your company).

We should go to festivals for the love of performing, for the sense of community, for

practice without pressure, to watch bands and have fun ourselves.

Tom and Bridget talked about Campsite, their project for intimate work in and around

campervans. They highlighted the fact that their work is, at this stage, primarily about

building a community amongst artists and audiences for very small-scale performance.

We agreed that there was room and desire for more collectives of artists coming

together with semi-curated mini-festivals on this model.


In response to this session, and just generally around D&D8, there were loads of great

conversations about bands and music that are inspiring or relevant for our

theatremaking. I suggested that we could start a playlist as a way to share our eclectic


#DandD8Playlist with your suggestions please!

Comments: 2

Deborah Henry-Pollard, 21 February 2013

If this helps, here is a link to a website which lists music festivals in the UK and also

arts festivals

Simon Dalley, 28 April 2013

Might be worth checking out Skiddle's 2013 festivals guide they've just launched a festival search that's fairly impressive: