I was incredibly excited to have the privilege of attending the 2018 Fusebox Festival, where I explored a new city and became immersed in a different artistic community. I was naturally intrigued as to how a city-wide festival with works of international scale survives when all tickets are free, and I wanted to see how that affected the festival attendees, and their festival experience.
Similarly to Fusebox, our festival BUZZCUT is entirely pay-what-you-can and there are no tickets required to attend. It was founded on the idea that a festival is a unique opportunity for a mass of people to gather together and form a temporary community. We invite over 50 artists with some of the most radical, experimental practises in Scotland, the UK and abroad to inhabit churches, libraries, cafes, charity shops and dockyards in Govan, an ex-shipbuilding community in the south of Glasgow. At its heart is a huge social space with a bar, cafe and music in a 100 year old community centre and site of civic activism called The Pearce Institute.
From our experience we are acutely aware that ticket price is only one of the barriers that restrict non-regular arts goers to feel welcome or invited into an arts event or community. It is, however, still a big barrier, and imagining a festival model where everything is free allows for surprising and otherwise impossible encounters. For example, while at Fusebox, we really bonded with our amazing Uber driver called Miracle who had never heard of the festival. We were able to convince her to come along to the show we were seeing. Unfortunately, she didn’t enjoy it, however the ease in which she could just walk into the festival felt so welcoming that she was really excited to attend more events and keep an eye out for the festival next year.
We only saw a glimpse of the fundraising required to make this vision possible when we attended the opening fundraiser gala on the opening night. What was made overwhelmingly clear during this small glimpse was the passion behind the directors’ vision to create this alternative experience of the festival for audiences. It was incredibly inspiring to see our same ambition for an open, welcoming and free festival on such a larger scale, and we’ll absolutely be taking that energy forwards into our own practise.
My main highlight from Fusebox was the opportunity to experience it all with a group of inspiring UK young festival directors. Listening to them as they described their organisations with such clarity of history and purpose, informed by such urgent politics and radical visions for the future, was a total joy. I feel very hopeful about the future of contemporary performance and Live Art in the UK.