24 April 2011

Interview with Mayfest’s Artistic Directors, Kate Yedigaroff and Matthew Austin

What can people expect from this year’s Mayfest?
Oh help, we’re in danger of spouting out some clichés here like ‘ooooh, well, expect the unexpected’ or ‘you never know what you’re going to get with Mayfest’ but that would probably just be a bit annoying. So we will resist. Every year we get asked if there is a theme or a particular guiding star that has led us to make the choices we make about what the shows in the programme are, or what the general focus & personality of the festival is and it’s always something that stops and makes us think.

We have often discussed “theming” the festival but for some reason something stops us, and perhaps this is because we don’t want to be instructive or create categories about what we do or do not see as having a place in this context. This year we have been drawn to a few more projects that are specifically located in this city. Companies like Proto-type Theatre and Search Party are creating bespoke experiences that make us think about the landscapes and architectures of Bristol – they happen outside the realm of a theatre space and so by their very nature are about the place in which they sit.

So you can expect a celebration of Bristol, a performance programme with a very broad range of different kinds of show which we think reflect a community of artists and audiences which come from a broad range of perspectives and experiences. You can expect to be able to do a lot of chatting and drinking in our late night speakeasy (The Blind Tiger) and in our brand new hub, The Mayfest Café on Park Street.

We hope that you can expect to have a good time, that if you want to you can be challenged and experience something you haven’t before. But above all you can spend some time in the company of inspiring artists who are curious and creative and who are able to share a version of the world we may not have seen before. We also think that it would be good planning to expect a hangover on the 6th May after the Mayfest Opening Party.

What is different this year?
Each year is always different. When it ceases to be so, it will probably mean we should stop doing it. Perhaps some obvious differences are that we don’t have a hotel on the harbourside, that the festival is slightly shorter in length, that despite the big space and the Paintshop at Bristol Old Vic being closed for refurbishment we are collaborating with more partners than ever before to present work in an increasing variety of spaces. This year also marks the first of our co-commissions with the fabulous Theatre Bristol on Save Me by Search Party.

In fact in general we have more shows from artists with whom we are developing a longer term relationship rather than just bringing in work to the city for a short visit which feels really good. We’ve never done a Robot Disco before either. We’ve also never done an online project before.

Oh, and importantly this year marks the establishment of our independent producing outfit, MAYK, which is really a consolidation of our creative collaboration and will be the vehicle by which we curate the festival in the future, as well as other exciting things.

What are you most excited about?
Is it too diplomatic of us to say that we are genuinely excited about all of it? Probably. We’re excited…
About meeting new audiences.
About welcoming new artists to Bristol.
About the moments that no-one can predict no matter how many spreadsheets we’ve done.
About the phone call on the 4th May that says we don’t need to worry because all of the shows have sold out.
About ten days of constant sunshine, but not too hot.
About flags waving across the water.
About holograms dancing in white spaces.
About the smallest show in the world.
About dancing and laughing and crying in a good way.
About waking up on the 16th May feeling like you all had a good time.

What’s the best thing about the Mayfest experience, for you?
The best thing are the people who make it - and by that we mean everyone from our core team to the person who comes along at random and will come again next year. It’s obviously a great pleasure to be in a position to be able to facilitate a coming together like this, to be able to watch something extraordinary somewhere and invite it into the festival, and we are consistently moved by the generosity and openness of everyone who we work with to be able to make these kinds of invitation.

It’s exhausting. It can be scary and stressful. We can get it wrong, but we work hard and we work well together. The best thing is getting to the first day and saying ‘there you are, it’s yours, it’s now beyond our control’. And the fish finger sandwiches at the Old Vic are pretty good too...

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