Noel Witts - Professor of Performing Arts

GIFT festival 2012

May 14, 2012

GIFT FESTIVAL 2012 : Newcastle/Gateshead

I think that the whole event was quite extraordinary. First, the organisation, admin, technical teams were all great and showed no sign of strain whatever the crises might have been. (They obviously take their cues from the unflappable festival director). Then it was  also clear during the weekend that there is now a firm community of contemporary performance practitioners – some still at university, some already out in the field – that this festival helps to affirm in their ambitions, along with other  events that profile contemporary work. I think we , as visitors, all admired the way the whole thing worked, from the scheduling to the bars at Central, not omitting the Town Hall cafe staff!

Clearly all the networking and conversations about links and funding during  the year had paid off, as the print and publicity, programmes etc were a notch up on last year, all really well done ( who to credit?) It was clear that there was money available to make this a real step ahead from version 1. The fact that you could use both  Baltic Square and the Sage  also  showed how much this festival has impacted locally.

Although I did not attend any of the workshops, the performances were almost all of a really high standard, which would include the GIFT-ed stream, which is a really good way of profiling emerging/emergent student work, and Jenny is to be congratulated on her commitment and dedication to this  most important framework.

My key performance experiences were, in no particular order : the York St John ‘dancers’, the Raven Show, the Perec ‘Machine’, the Christopher/Brayshaw Baltic Square piece, Bruno Humerto’s ‘Land’, Pinchbeck’s” “Beginning”, Asmith’s ‘Commonwealth’, ‘Here Alone” (Facade Theatre). But there were so many more that were also interesting and, above all, really well performed and presented.

The only ‘turkeys’ for me were : “Clipped Wings” which I thought, given its ambitious scenario, turned out to be just another piece of rather dated contemporary dance, though it did attract a ‘dance’ audience! Then there was the” 40Ft project”, which did not seem to know what it was doing with some interesting material; and  “Trash”, which I thought was incoherent, but which one of  the Leeds Met students assured me was a comment on 1980s music. So that’s fine by me.

I thought the discussions were interesting and might produce some material, but if we follow the Sibiu model whereby we interview ‘key’ artists throughout the festival, then it might reveal some unique material. As it was I think we uncovered the lack of information about events, networks, even cities which support this kind of new work, which would provide a nice task for an MA student. The final discussion was perhaps too diffuse, and I was somewhat disappointed that the local arts supremos were not present.

The international focus is crucial and it was really important that you could build on the Croatian connection. Can we see more of these next year – Spanish (ACT), Sibiu,  etc. Maybe a connection with FLARE might help?

Finally, my six key images of the weekend were :

1. Teresa and Karen, their frocks soaked, walking arm in arm across the Millennium Bridge.

2. The ‘portable’ toilets  of Sophie Unwin’s piece.

3. Bruno Umberto’s gestures to the crowd to look across the river and up to the Baltic to see performers in the landscape.

4.The Raven and all its technical tricks.

5.  The dim lights of  ‘The Machine”.

6. Jenny Lawson and all those cakes!

And of course we might include the festival director singing…….. as well she might!

So many thanks,


Comments are closed.



    Just back from the funeral event for Mike and his multiple family , a  major figure in the development





    This year Liverpool Hope has made me a Professorial Fellow - an honour which I have been pleased to accept.
    Several years ago John Theocharis and I made a BBC Radio 3 documentary about the redoubtable Barbara,






    "Demarco's Travels"  is an ambulant performance devised for this year's Edinburgh fringe at the Summerhall



    BUXTON FESTIVAL, 2013 This is this the first Buxton festival under the direction of Stephen Barlow





    The response to Vaclav Havel's death outside the Czech and Slovak republics has been a strange mixture



    Just back from seeing the run of Andriy Zholdak's 'Mefisto', being shown at the State Theatre in Uppsala,
    Sally-Anne Kelly, an MA student from Central St.Martins, London, has just finished digitalising most
    Sad to hear of Dragan's death - one of the most interesting and combative theatre intellectuals I have
    Just back from a validating visit to Lasalle College of Arts in Singapore, an extraordinary glass building
    Heard last week of the death of Linda, one of he founders of the Performing Arts degree course at Leicester



    Just been present at a Kantor show at Rose Bruford College, London, where third year students were directed


    welcome to my website.please let me know what you think of it