13/06/2013 at 4:12 pm Leave a comment

There’s been a noticeable increase in festival activity in recent years, from the grass-roots to the random to the epic to the sudden hipsterfication of old favourites (look it up it’s a thing). As an arts festival veteran of some repute we thought it timely to present a handy guide to festival curation or “BYO Biennale”. You too, can be a curator, just follow these steps and you’ll be on the Al-Capone to Damien Hirst in no time at all!

1) Networking

Your staff are the key to getting this thing off the ground. So rather than do-it-all-yourself, it’s best to get an internship first so you can bludge lots of favours and get famous artists to be associated with your event without having to do much work. There are dozens of these available, assuming you’re under 25 with no real work-life experience, and you went to art college somewhere. Dozens. Try Major Theatre Companies, Literary Journals, Community Radio Stations or Other Festivals for the best shot at networking-with-the-stars as these are generally run by people who have never really had a real job anyway and thus won’t recognise your complete lack of real-world-skills.

Conversely, if by chance you didn’t go to art college or have already turned 25, your best bet is to set up a website and describe yourself as a “freelance publicist or social media consultant”. This may sound like an impressively scary skill set but it’s an industry secret that all they teach you in a Communications Degree is how to set up a VHS timer record. That, and Dioramas. The only thing you really need to be a publicist is a twitter account, a website, and the ability to shamelessly brown-nose magazine editors. Even with two-out-of-three here, you’re ahead of the game. You’ll be surrounded by your own pack of interns within six months, or your money back.

2) Planning

Once you’ve got your HR sorted, you’ll need to allocate roles. These are best handed over to close friends, because it’s never awkward trying to keep them accountable. HOT TIP: For important positions such as Marketing or Budget: your current boyfriend/ girlfriend/ significant other is ideal, because you can always keep tabs on them doing their job. This invariably works out just fine. As for those friends who miss out, don’t worry, they won’t feel jealous or bitter and you can always ask them to donate money or volunteer further down the track.

Think ahead. There are literally millions of funding dollars available, and there is nothing these government bodies like more than giving people money who have almost no significant production experience, but a shitload of industry connections to write them a letter of recommendation (this is why step one is so vital). It’s worth reading up on past festivals so you can drop words like “interactive polemical-substrata” into your application. If you don’t know what these mean, it’s OK. Nobody knows what these mean. It’s just a bloody big party!

3) Artists

This is by far the least important element of your event. You’ve got your venue, you’ve set the date – so artists will literally beg for the chance to be associated with you. And that’s great news, because you will probably want to have a few around to keep the audience from a full-scale riot. But all in all it doesn’t really matter. Put the word out and watch them line up.

Unlike those in the professional world (that’s you, remember) Artists have loads of time to put together these applications. So take as long as you like in assessing them and getting back to them with feedback. Also, unlike those in the professional world, they generally have nothing else going on for the next six months or so. They don’t need to plan eighteen months in advance (like you) because, well, they’re artists! They couldn’t organise lunch at Bunnings on a Saturday. So really, it’s fine. Let them know if they get the gig, naturally, but if they don’t, well… just get back to them whenever. Honestly they won’t mind.

If they happen to ask for feedback on their application, just tell them any old thing. Mention how there were a lot more applications than anticipated, usually something along the lines of “we can’t program everything we’d like” should suffice (because that isn’t completely fucking obvious anyway). Be sure and use the word “unfortunately”, as if you pretty much just tossed all the applications up in the air and theirs “unfortunately” landed face down. As we have said, despite having loads of time to put these applications together, they usually just whip them up at the last minute, so they don’t really deserve any further comment or objective analysis.

As for the ones who are programmed, it’s best to include a) your friends and b) anyone with a serious connection to an arts company or other major festival. Everyone else can get stuffed and start their own festival, really. The main thing is that important people know about it, and how else will they know about it unless one of their staff or interns is in the programme?

So it’s vital to put a few panels in the program to get some important people on board. It doesn’t matter what they’re about, so just pick some interesting subjects from other festival panels. Use the networks you made in Step 1; as if anybody wants to know what some unheard of independent nobody has to say? If there’s a shortfall on panel numbers, get your friends to do it, as often simply speaking on panels can be a valued addition to one’s CV, even leading to running the festival in years to come.

4) Event Management

There are only three things you will need to worry about once everything is set is place.

*Don’t set anything on fire

*No refunds

*Free entry and drink tickets for your mates and especially people who have full-time-industry jobs.

After that you’re apples.

so what are you waiting for? LET’S GET CURATIONAL!

Entry filed under: Sydney THEATRE.

Taking The Dickens THE ROAD TO HELL

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