More than 80 delegates gathered at Lighthouse, Poole last month to present their work, share experiences, pitch ideas, celebrate and develop ideas at the venue’s first Dorset Artists Festival.
Alongside artists and creatives, representatives from venues, agencies, promoters and funders, also attended the two-day festival at Lighthouse to enjoy a busy programme of abridged performances, work-in-progress sharings, workshops, and discussion groups.
“We are so glad that we have been able to provide a supportive moment for creatives who have been so badly impacted by the pandemic to meet with each other and feel celebrated for the brilliant work that they make,” says Elspeth McBain, Lighthouse Chief Executive.
"During the Covid crisis, Lighthouse made a quiet promise to provide more support for individual professional artists and companies based in Dorset because the work that they do is exemplary and needs to be seen.”
Having focussed on supporting local artists during the lockdowns Lighthouse is committed to continuing that support post-Covid restrictions and despite being rescheduled three times due to the pandemic the event was finally delivered in May.
“This was a big step, so we were delighted at the level of support it received from artists and the wider industry,” says Paula Hammond, Producer: Artist Development at Lighthouse.
“It can be quite isolating for artists wherever they work, but the distances involved in a large rural county like Dorset make it particularly true, so to be able to bring people together from all aspects of the industry was enormously beneficial and demonstrates a real appetite for more of this.
“We worked closely with artists to find out what they wanted and it’s important Dorset Artists Festival is not an isolated event, which is why we’re now working on follow ups with colleagues from Activate Performing Arts and the Arts Development Company.”
A full day of performances and presentations from Dorset-based theatre makers, musicians, comedians, and circus performers – plus some puppets – was followed by an evening performance of circus eccentric Charlie Bicknell’s Dearly Beloved, and a second day of five-minute pitches, debate and discussion between delegates.
“After two long years of relative isolation, it was joyful to be with so many talented theatre makers, celebrating their craft and collectively wrestling with future challenges,” says David Lockwood, Arts Development Chief Executive. “Lighthouse Poole were exemplary hosts, creating the conditions for collaboration and comradeship, and championing Dorset's theatre community.”
Kate Wood, Artistic and Executive Director of Activate, adds: “Theatre and performance relies heavily on people being able to come together in a live space, so the Dorset Artists Festival was an important moment for theatre in the county area. We were delighted to be involved and looking forward to more opportunities to showcase the rich talent that we have in Dorset.”
Among those artists taking part were: Aanka Batta, Angel Exit, Charlie Bicknell, Diverse City, Dorset Born, Gemma Alldred, Gobbledygook, Joli Vyann, Louise Jordan, Rohan Gotobed, Rowan Prescott Hedley, Starecase Productions, Stuff and Nonsense Theatre Company, The Working Boys Club, Theatre Vivo and Transtlantky2.
“Dorset Artists Festival has contributed to the ongoing dialogue between artists that ultimately benefits not only artists, but also audiences and the ticket buying public,” says Paula.
Dorset Artists Festival was made possible with support from Garfield Weston Foundation.
Photos by Richard Budd