Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The madness of running Festivals

How about this for a day (this is yesterday)?

6.30am. Check email and send a few. Run for the train.
8am. Meet Nancy, Terry and Owen to discuss marketing and PR strategies in the last week before the Festival. An hour's discussion over intense coffee.
9am. Back up to the Wood Green office. Lots of emails and phone calls. Includes important stuff on Press coverage etc.
11am. Hardial Rai pops in for an hour to discuss the funding application he's doing for us. It's due in Brussels on Friday. I contact several people for information on it!
12 noon. Buy lunch ot east on the tube.
2pm. Arrive at Heathrow. Been texting for much of the journey (whenever the train's above ground!). Run out of credit on my phone. Discover Terminal 1 has no banks.
2.30pm. Cup of tea. The plane is late. I work a bit on my speech for the Opening Event.
3pm. James Ashcroft, of Taki Rua, appears. I ask him if he feels jet-lagged, New Zealand being quite a way. He says he's been working so hard that it just feels normal. I say that sounds familiar.
4pm. Leave James at the hotel. Very relieved that it's so close to the tube, and seems very comfortable.
5pm. Run into the BFI to check email en route to next appointment. It includes proofs of press ads and posters. Dash my comments back. There's also a very interesting email from the Australian High Commission about some Elders who are coming to repatriate some remains. Talk to Nancy about the relationship between this and Dark Science.... while running for the train.
6pm. At Resonance FM to be interviewed for their On the Fringe programme.
7pm. Another quick glance at email. The press ads need to be signed off before the end of the day. There are still a couple of things wrong.
7.30pm. Spot Time Out on the way home. Nice stuff on the Festival.
8.30pm. Back home. More bloody email..... Collapse.
And now it's the next day...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Pete Postlethwaite

We've found an Elder of the British Theatre to welcome the artists to London at the start of Origins: Pete Postlethwaite. He's an ideal choice, really - very clearly indigenous to England, and very much in the mould of the Aboriginal "uncle". In fact, he tells me when I phone him to talk it through, Pete was given the title "uncle" when he did something similar to welcome some Australian Aboriginal performers to LIFT last summer. Great that he's already got some sense of what this task is. That's probably why he said "yes" so quickly to what is, after all, rather a strange request!

First Nations people set a very high store by ceremony and protocol. That's probably why their performances are so wonderful - they are used to performing their lives on a daily basis. They would find it very odd not to be given a ritualised greeting on their arrival here; just as Chinese people believe in taking you to restaurants, and Indian people invite you into their homes. For the First Nations, the key thing is that an Elder shows you their hospitality.

It's reassuring that Pete - who is, after all, not THAT old - has no objections to being regarded as "an Elder", but embraces the idea very warmly. "Uncle", he tells me, "is not a title that they bestow lightly". And I can hear him glowing slightly with a tinge of pride.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Olympic Inspire Mark

After months of negotiation, we've finally heard today that Origins is now part of the Cultural Olympiad. Just in time to get the mark on the brochures before we send them out. We're still trying to find out if we can use the mark on the programme, given that we will sell those... and a few things like that - but it's a very useful move forward, and an endorsement of the whole idea.

Only three weeks to go....

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Bain Stewart and Leah Purcell

A very productive hour with Bain Stewart. I last saw him in Brisbane in 2007, when I went to the Dreaming. Now he's in London, because his partner, Leah Purcell, is rehearsing When the Rain Stops Falling at the Almeida. Apparently the idea had been to do this Australian play with an English cast, until Michael Attenborough saw Leah performing, and decided she had to come. Given that it's not a case of finding an indigenous Australian to play an indigenous role (Leah plays a white character), that's quite a compliment. And well deserved - she's an amazing performer.

She is also the director of Black Chicks Talking, which we are screening at Origins. Sadly, the screening clashes with a matinee for her, so she can't be there - but Bain, who produced the film, will come and introduce it. And it looks like Leah can be part of our panel on identity - which is a key theme in her film. Bain tells me that the film got really interesting reactions in the US, where there was a very diverse audience. He points out how the questions it raises about ethnic and cultural identity have become some acute in America that people have specific quotas of blood which allow them to claim a native identity. But, he says, that's imposed by the white government - it's not how native people feel. This is one of the central concerns of Mohawk Girls, which I've programmed to screen straight after Black Chicks Talking. He's going to stay on and watch it!

Sunday, April 05, 2009


I spent the afternoon at the Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, watching a German-Taiwanese co-production called Ghosted. The publicity had given me the sense that this might have overlaps with some of what we’re doing with The Trilogy - I wasn’t wrong!

Ghosted is about a lesbian affair between a German video artist and a young Taiwanese woman. There’s a lot of exploration of cultural difference - particularly around the importance of family in Chinese culture. Ai-Ling is in Germany to try and discover whether her uncle is really her father. Sophie feels that "where you come from" is less important than "where you are right now". When Ai-Ling’s mother phones her every day, Sophie is very dismissive. She rarely speaks to her parents because "we haven’t got much to talk about." "And you think that’s a good thing?" asks Ai-Ling.

There’s a death too - and the film even ends with a Chinese mourning ritual… Where Ghosted is very different from the Trilogy, however, is in its treatment of the ghosts themselves. In this film, the dead character is manifested as another "real" person, tracking the survivor. I guess this is to do with the physical literalism of film as a form - you can’t make ghosts manifest with the same poetic truth that theatre allows.

I’m not bothered by the similarities. It’s just interesting to know that these things are in the air.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

In case you hadn't guessed from the title, I'd like you to look at the website for the Festival, which the amazing Sam from Phuture Design has created (he's also re-designing our whole site as I type this). The site lists everything which is happening during those two weeks in early May, and very exciting it is too! Four plays, twenty-four films, a workshop, lots of panels, a lecture from Alanis Obomsawin and a whole programme of learning and participation. Plus there's going to be a wonderful opening ceremony on May 4th at the Scoop at More London - with Ngati Ranana performing a traditional Maori welcoming, and others responding in their own traditional ways.

If you think all this takes a lot of organising, you're right. I've hardly stopped since I got back from China, to be frank. Just finished the contracts - and realised I'd forgotten the Appendices. Also writing to the tax people to request reductions in line with the overseas performers' allowances, editing the programme, checking the venue brochures.... you name it. Luckily there's a great team working on this with me - Terry Adams on the marketing, Nancy Poole PR and Jon Hare as Production Manager. Plus huge thanks to Paul Glen at Canada House who designed the branding for us. They are all earning their keep! Yesterday I sent out the e-flyer to our mailing list - so it's all up and live now. Exciting times....