INTERVIEW: Together Festival programme co ordinator Anthony Lau
In anticipation of Sheffield Theatre’s return with the premiere of The Together Season Festival, a programme of work from local artists; curated by a panel of artists, audience members and theatre representatives, we caught up with programme coordinator Anthony Lau to discuss the festival of thirteen works, which takes place from Monday 24 May – Saturday 5 June at the Crucible.
How did the idea to host a Festival in the Crucible come about?
After the year we’ve had, we wanted to fill the Crucible with life again. In doing so, we wanted to acknowledge two things – both how difficult it has been for freelance artists during the pandemic and the sheer wealth of talent we have in the region. We wanted to find a way to champion these local voices as well as giving them a platform to share some of the work that was either curtailed by the pandemic or that has germinated in these uniquely difficult times. Bringing as many local artists together as possible and celebrating their work on the Crucible stage over a two week festival felt like the best way for us to do this.
Can you talk to us about how the Festival was programmed?
The festival was programmed by a panel of 12 local artists, audience members and Sheffield residents, facilitated by myself. We were interested in engaging with our audience and the people around us, really hearing what it is that they wanted to see as well as opening up our programming process to the outside world. We wanted to be transparent about the way we programmed work at Sheffield Theatres and share some of the conversations and thinking that goes on when we consider work for our stages.
The Festival is the first set of performances to reopen the Crucible after many months of its doors being closed. What feels exciting about reopening with this programme?
What feels really exciting is that, in a first of its kind at Sheffield Theatres, this programme of work has been selected by a panel of local people in a celebration of local talent. It feels inclusive and there is a breadth of work programmed that hopefully speaks to the great diversity of tastes and people in the city. We hope that there is something for everyone here, from comedy and dance to a live radio show and hard hitting drama. It’s also exciting to welcome lots of new artists who have never performed on the Crucible stage onto that space – it’s a brilliant and unique stage and I am looking forward to seeing their work on there.
What has been your favourite part of the process?
I’ve loved hearing from such a large and brilliant group of local artists, all of whom were full of energy and ideas. There were over 60 submissions from artists, which shows the depth of talent here in the region. Being new to the city, it has been a brilliant way for me to get to know some of the artists living and making exciting work here. It has also been a joy working with the panel, watching them wrangle with the same questions that we do in programming meetings and seeing how passionate they have been at advocating for art and artists.
What can audiences expect when they come to see the shows?
Audiences can expect a real variety of work that spans lots of different genres. There’ll be something to make them laugh and something to make them think. There’ll be one person shows and dance companies. Shows that stay with them long after they’ve left the theatre and shows that make them forget the world outside. Most importantly, however, they can expect to be reminded of how there really isn’t anything else in the world that is quite like watching people onstage, in real life, and sharing that with other people, strangers, around them.
Which performance are you most looking forward to seeing?
Come on, that’s like asking me to choose between my kids!
Tickets for The Together Season Festival are on sale now at www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk.