Hello, I’m Suze and I’m the Artistic Director of the Bristol Shakespeare Festival.
I thought I’d catch you up with everything that’s been going on at Shakespeare HQ to get the show up and running for 2016!
Firstly, I can’t believe quite how quickly this year has gone. My beloved Gantt chart is telling me that our first BSF listing starts a week today (Watershed Sunday Brunch, Noon), and our first performance follows shortly after (Macbeth in the Redcliffe Caves, Wednesday 8th June). In previous years we have stuck quite rigorously to keeping everything in July, but with the sheer amount of Shakespearean activity taking place across the country this year, we’ve burst at the seams, spilling back into June too! This means there’s now two whole months of Bard activity for you to enjoy!
We started planning in earnest for this year back in September, at which point June seemed like a long way away. This is my fifth year working with the Shakespeare Festival, so I’d like to think we’ve got it down to a fine art (although there are always surprises along the way!).
I’m incredibly lucky to work with a team of enthusiastic and passionate creatives; people who say yes to trying new things and who work exceptionally hard to ensure all elements work perfectly. Running a festival as a volunteer isn’t easy, but with this committee at the helm I know that we can achieve anything we set our minds to.
So, back to our incredible festival. This year we have all my old favourites returning, along with some new blood! For me, the location is almost as important as the play: part of why I became involved in the festival was wanting to celebrate all the quirky spaces that Bristol has to offer. So many cities don’t look beyond their playhouses, and I think Bristol does a wonderful job of finding the obscure and making it shine. I’m particularly excited to be collaborating with The Wardrobe Theatre this year, as well as returning to Boiling Wells and to Windmill Hill City Farm.
At the moment we are busy finding additional volunteers for July, setting up training sessions and distributing programmes throughout the city, as well as driving ticket sales and liaising with each of our companies to ensure we give them the best coverage possible.
Although it’s often busy and demanding, I’ll use my final paragraph to share my favourite festival moment. Back in 2012, the first year I worked on the festival, I was sat on a gorgeously warm summer’s evening in Boiling Wells Amphitheatre watching Folksy. Sat next to me was a little girl no older than 6, and I remember thinking as she sat down that it might be a long performance for someone so young, that she might become bored with the language or tired before the end. How wrong I was: this girl sat captivated from beginning to end. She sat forward in her seat, and occasionally turned to her parent (and sometimes to me) wide-eyed with enthusiasm. She laughed in the right places (something I often have trouble doing) and made shocked noises at the moments of tension. She was immersed.
So, if you think Shakespeare is out-dated and inaccessible, I urge you to look at our programme, and to find somewhere to immerse yourself in the summer sun, with a delicious picnic and good company.
The rest, I promise, will follow.
I hope to see you there!