27 July 2018

 From Scarborough to Hull and now Leicester in three years. 

We plan to be in Leicester for the foreseeable future. Hull proved that having everyone so close together with no venue further than a five minute walk increased inclusivity.  De Montfort campus is a delight and all the superb venues were as close as Hull and just ten minutes from the equally stunning Curve theatre, so we had the same feeling of all being in a village and all in it together.

We had 78 workshops, 8 forums, 5 discussions, 6 late night events (Bingolicious! anybody?) and 16 productions (the largest number in the last 6 years) staged in 9 different theatres and the promenade Seeking Intimacy in connecting studios. 55 performances in just 6 days. The programme of shows was as varied as ever; some very challenging and socio-political. Some very personal…part confessional and part…'this is me'. And others delightful, funny and moving at the same time.

But at the heart of the festival was something I and colleagues were all striving for but were delighted they were so prevalent. Inclusivity. Friendliness. An ease between people.

The Forums were a new addition to the daily discussions on all the shows. Selectors and visiting artists sat in on the Forums - but they weren’t chaired. Voices were heard and advice given. Questions asked and answered. They proved immensely popular and I am sure they helped create our own festival ‘momentum’. Kickstarted by the panel discussion on what artists felt needed to be fixed in the theatre industry. Prema Mehta, Suba Das, Lucy Ellinson, Sean Linnen, Cathy Tyson, Roy Alexander Weise, Debbie Korley and Kerry Kyriacos Michael (thank you all) gave their thoughts and chair Chris Thorpe moved the discussion out to the audience for questions and points of view.

In my welcome in the programme, I wrote;  ‘All the conversation and discussion will drive the agenda.The festival is yours to own’. And so it proved.

The forums and discussions really did drive the agenda. As did all the conversation in corners and corridors. The real Momentum movement and Establishment ‘certainty,’ #MeToo, bullies and offenders in power called to account (caught), coupled with Brexit and the US/UK foreign policy has almost swamped us over the past 2 years or more. But while we were not talking specifically about those above, it seems to me that they all heightened the desire (the need?) for many students at the festival to be even more considerate and listen and respect opinion even more during the week.

And consider the way they make work and the process of collaboration…and how we should behave when we have power in the work place. A Manifesto was drafted at the festival. It is still in draft stage but the overwhelming drive behind it - it seems to me - is a feeling that while we may not able to change something like US immigration policy, we can make things better in our immediate world. Certainly, the wish to talk and listen and have a voice was even more at the heart at this year’s festival.

So much of the conversation was about inclusivity, the freedom to express an idea and the need to claim space and make change.

Leading on from the drafting of the Manifesto we are planning to have an Open Discussion on Making Change in the Autumn based around the Manifesto content and ideas and the need for the its aims to prevent potentially harmful misunderstandings or upsetting practices and to promote inclusivity, accessibility & diversity.  Please follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more detailed news of this in the next month. We are @nsdfest.

We have alrewady had 46 show entries for 2019.

What are we looking for?….it is an oft asked question and the answer is usually ‘we select the the best shows we have seen’. But actually, while that is true, there are other considerations…and as best I can, I will articulate: We select the productions we think are the best we have seen but with an eye on the process a company has undertaken, the subject matter, the diversity of casting and ambition. We consider work that is ‘in development’ if it is well acted and well produced. The mix of work is always varied - new plays, musicals, devised work, extant plays - staged in ‘traditional’ theatres, found spaces, immersive and site specific or site responsive. We champion risk and work that reflects the political and social conversation.

Put simply, we are looking for the best work by people aged 16-25 in the country. And you don’t need to be a student and it does not have to be a drama society production and we welcome work by youth groups and schools. Whoever you are, whatever you do, we can’t wait to meet you.

Michael Brazier