1 July 2017

Why has NSDF decided to go to Leicester? 

 So we said goodbye to Scarbados…and hullo to Hullywood.


But what of the future and where do we need to be in the next few years?


There is no doubt in my mind, we must place three items at the top of the agenda; a wider society entering work and coming to the festival, keep the festival as affordable as possible and be relevant – finding work to excite and intrigue our audience.


Next year we will take the Festival to Leicester and specifically the De Montfort University Campus and the Curve Theatre. And I hope around the city. It would be great to use a venue in an unusual way if a show needs an empty shop for example or a large house for a site specific immersive show as we found in 2015 for The Nutcracker.


Why Leicester? At the heart of the country, it is the most diverse city in the country. The Curve is a highly successful producing and touring house. De Montfort boasts some of the best facilities I have seen.  The beautifully equipped and the venues we have at our disposal give us the variety of spaces we need to produce large scale events and shows, stage intimate plays, programme dance and movement workshops and create a technical training space. The Union has been refurbished with a nightclub, that can divide into two separate bars and it has plenty of areas for more relaxing, less noisy (alcohol free) spaces for socialising, and rooms for meetings and workshops. It will work wonderfully as the hub of the Festival.


As with Hull (and mentioned many times following the festival this year), De Montfort has a ‘village’ campus with all our venues very close to each other. Inclusivity and togetherness will be as in Hull. The more we see of everyone and the less stress of getting somewhere in a rush, the more conducive the atmosphere to conversation and concentration. And in addition to the festival, I feel it is vitally important we partner with De Montfort, Curve and the Council to offer opportunities to local young people and make every effort to integrate the festival into the Leicester cultural calendar. The city has several festivals throughout the year and I hope we will be as important to Leicester as I believe Leicester will be to the Festival.


Nationally, we need to work even harder to increase our reach and profile and to encourage more show entries from as many places around the UK as possible. And we need to continue to invite artists and who make all kinds of work to the festival - to share their thoughts and practice with us all.


In The Sunday Times review, Mary O’Connor quoted a Board Member saying the students had ‘got their politics back. Its just a few weeks after the General Election in which the younger generation (and many thousands of very motivated students) made their voice heard at the ballot box. It has certainly been my experience in the context of the festival, that many young people are not just aware and considerate of domestic politics and the economy but, as proved this year in the work they made, they have deep concerns about those less fortunate and the future of this country after the Referendum result last year.


The festival is all the more vibrant when some of the programme of shows are about what is happening now.


That said, and contrary to the odd comment – we are not seeking to turn the festival into a ‘new writing festival’. We will continue to stage the work we think is the best we have seen – new plays or extant work, Shakespeare or Chekhov, musical or play, verbatim or gig theatre...how exciting we have so much choice!


And we have now heard we will continue to be an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation for the years 2018/19 to 2021/22. The move to a new city and festival site and with core funding in place for the next five years, we are in a great position to achieve our ambition to be as inclusive as possible, as reflective as possible and as financially viable as possible for all who wish to experience this remarkable festival.