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David Micklem On … Bursting at the BAC

David Micklem, co-artistic director of the Battersea Arts Centre, tells us what to expect from this year's Burst Festival, which kicks off on Friday (image from Ann Liv Young's Solo).

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This is the fourth year of the Burst Festival, but for the first time this year the programme genuinely feels like a festival. As an audience member you can come along to BAC and see half a dozen pieces of work in one evening. With previous festivals we've had a great programme but haven't managed to get the interlinking of it working efficiently, so people only saw one or two works of an evening. This year we're delighted to have a programme model that will, I hope, work really well.

This year's festival will be two weeks rather than three and thus much more concentrated. You'll get the full BAC experience; you might have a one-on-one encounter in the foyer, or see a piece of work with 150 other people in the main auditorium; you might even have a walk down to the local ASDA supermarket to see Rotozaza’s Wondermart. We hope it will have a feel similar to that of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where you can actually immerse yourself in the whole experience.

Another difference to this year’s festival is we have given a provocation to artists as a theme. In previous years Burst has been a concentration of what we do around the rest of the year but this year we wanted create a hook for all of that work. About nine months ago, on the day after Obama’s election victory speech, in a programming meeting with our producing team we all sat in the café with a strong sense of hope that was inspired by his words and we wanted to capture that in this festival. The festival isn’t about Obama or politics or America, but what we are trying to do is engender that sense of hope that came with Obama’s speech, and hence the “reasons for living” tag line. In this time of global meltdown, at BAC we are grabbing hold of hope for the future and this is reflected in the programme for Burst.

My two highlights of this year's festival are both American works. Firstly Reverend Billy and the Gospel Choir of The Church of Life After Shopping, which is about the 'irreverent Reverend' who comes in from the States and tells us how to recalibrate what we value in life. It's very tongue-in-cheek yet has a strong political heartbeat. My other recommendation would be Anne Liv Young’s Solo and The Bagwell in Me. She is a relatively young performance artist from New York who we have wanted to get to BAC for the last couple of years, so are delighted to be presenting two of her works. These are her first London gigs, so I’m looking forward to premiering these challenging works which are very engaging and very adult.

The Burst Festival opens at the BAC on Friday (15 May), running to 30 May 2009. For more info visit www.bac.org.uk.


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