WH: Hello and welcome to TL Life: Crosscurrent.
Today’s episode is a Crosscurrent Spotlight, focusing on The Swallowsfeet Collective, a group of dance alumni who have been curating festivals since their graduation in 2013. This weekend, from Friday to Sunday, they will be putting on the first ever Oops Festival in Brighton. It’s not too late to book tickets and you can use the offer code they’ll be sharing with you in their interview for a discount on Friday tickets.
Here they are to tell you more about their collective, Oops Festival and how to become a successful arts entrepreneur.
Interview: The Swallowsfeet Collective
JLH: Hi, I’m Jessica Léa Haener and I am from Switzerland – Geneva, to be exact.
GR: And I’m Gordon Raeburn and I’m from the North-East of Scotland. The name of our collective is The Swallowsfeet Collective.
JLH: We all five have graduated from Trinity Laban in 2013.
GR: The other members of our collective are Sivan Rubinstein from Israel, Rosa Firbank and Jessica Miller, and they’re both from Brighton.
WH: Could you tell me how The Swallowsfeet Collective formed?
GR: It was the Swallowsfeet Festival, started by Jessica Miller, when we were all in our final year of study at Trinity Laban we’d all been working all year on our Independent Projects. She wanted a way to show our works outside the context of the Bonnie Bird Theatre (now called Laban Theatre) and so we took works to Brighton.
JLH: This was back in 2013. Since then, we’ve come a long way. We evolved from having a one-night event for two years to developing to a two-day festival and this year we do a three-day festival.
GR: To begin with, it was a way to perform and show our works to a paying audience. Then we were looking for emerging artists. After a couple of years, we needed to take some more time to think about what is it we want to represent and what we want our festival to be.
WH: The festival’s a little bit different this year. You have a new name.
JLH: This year it’s called Oops Festival. Last year we didn’t produce the festival. This was a decision to take a year out to simply reflect; have the time to see what we are passionate about; what do we want from it? How can we support artists better? We wanted to ask other artists in the UK and all around the world by doing a survey.
During that time, The Swallowsfeet Collective became an entity in itself so it felt important to have an entity which is Oops Festival and The Swallowsfeet Collective which are the individuals who make that festival possible.
WH: How would you describe the aims of Oops Festival?
GR: We want to create a festival that represents the independent dance scene and also the current trends within the dance world; within fashion; within culture and society; and how artists who use the body are reflecting that.
JLH: We are a small organisation, but we are not afraid to see big, and that means bringing artists not just from London or Sheffield, but we are bringing people from all over the world. And this is, for us, a statement to support artists beyond borders and do it ourselves.
WH: Could you tell us about what we can expect to see at the festival?
JLH: For the opening on Friday, we will have a piece called This Is How We Do It from an exciting duet: Oded Zadok and Kazuyo Shionoiri. It is a UK premiere. It’s about the meaning of life and death, and the life of a couple in between that time.
GR: On the Friday, we’ll have a more of a traditional setup with the seats all out. On the Saturday, the idea is that we’ve broken down the space a bit more. The floor’s going to be open and we’re going to have different works programmed through different parts of the theatre. We will have one which is in the back of the space called Phrases, and that’s a one-man solo and it’s a blend between contemporary dance a bit of stand-up. And then on the stage we will have a trio from Spain, Anverso, and that’s a lot more abstract movements.
JLH: And also, our very own Sivan Rubinstein, she will present her work Maps. It is bringing 50kg of salt into the space, creating the map of the world.
And this year we have a promenade by Boni Santé which is a duet between and Tickson Mbuyi from Democratic Republic of Congo and Cleophee Moser from France, and they will be doing a promenade through the sea-front back to the old market, so we are very excited about this.
GR: And so, that’s where The Swallowsfeet Collective will come in with ‘happenings’. The idea of these ‘happenings’ is to help guide the audience – helping them in terms of what they’re expected to see and also literally move them if they’re facing the stage then they need to face the back. And so we’ll do that through some little dances, we have some musical sections and we have rollerblades.
WH: Am I right in thinking that it’s not just live dance?
GR: As well as us bringing together live acts, we had a call-out for film works. We were looking for something that was a bit more surrealist. One of the films is an animation, one of them is a mixture between the two, and the only thing that really ties them together is they have the body as the centre.
JLH: We brought Olga Guse, who is from Russia, and what was really exciting about her film was that she used her own drawing and it ties with how we can express artistically social and political views in a very colourful and quirky way, with great music as well.
GR: Throughout the festival, we have the Waterloo Room, which is a room in the theatre, where all these films will be playing. Then on the Sunday we will be showing on our big screen Ping Pong Supernova which is a fantasy world that combines arthouse cinema with experimental hip-hop.
WH: I like the sound of experimental hip-hop.
JLH: What to expect, escpecially on Saturday and Sunday, is to be challenged, to view dance in a different way, to be moving as well yourself, and really enjoying and having sometimes a laugh.
WH: For listeners who are really excited by all the pieces you’ve just been describing, when is the festival and how can we buy tickets and find out more about it?
GR: You can find out all the information about the works that we’re bringing on oopsfestival.co.uk and the festival is this week – starts Friday 22nd March and ends on Sunday 24th March.
JLH: It’s going to take place at the Old Market Theatre which is only a 20-minute walk from Brighton Station, so very easy access. And also what is special is that you can come just for one of the days, or you can as well come for the whole festival.
GR: If you use the offer code ‘OOPSDANCE10’ that will give you a reduction from £15 down to £12 for our Friday night performance.
WH: This year, for the first time, Trinity Laban is running its Innovation Award. This is where students in their final years of study on the Undergraduate course can apply for at least £1,700 of funding and one-to-one mentoring for a professional development project that they pitch.
Jessica and Gordon, what advice would you have to give students who are thinking about applying for this funding next year or for budding arts entrepreneurs in general?
JLH: My biggest advice would be to seek the support and look at who is on your side, rather than always looking up, because sometimes it’s the people with whom you graduate – your friends who are at the same level of their career – who actually will bring you forward and you develop something unique together.
GR: Yes. My advice would be, get your work out there as much as possible and find as many people to see it as you can from different walks of life, different ages and different places.
JLH: One last piece of advice I have to give you is to not take “no” for an answer, especially when it comes from above.
GR: Throughout the years, we’ve sometimes had Arts Council funding, sometimes not. Thankfully we’ve always had a good support base, especially some private funders to help us push our festival. The important thing is that every time we’ve decided to do a festival, we’ve actually gone on and organised it, even if we’ve received a “no” from the Arts Council.
GR: Once we’ve done the festival, we’ll come altogether and we do an evaluation and then use that as a platform in order to start organising for the next festival and for some other ideas that we have coming up this year.
JLH: Yes, we’re very interested now to develop and expand into different locations like here in London: we have since seven months now, two of the collective members, Jessica and Sivan, who founded a dance space. It’s called Oh Creative Space at The Biscuit Factory in Bermondsey which is now The Swallowsfeet Collective residency. And we are really hoping to be able to do an Oops Series, hopefully in the Autumn, because the facility of the space, which is a warehouse, just gives a different way of curating work, which we would be very interested to do.
Hidden Gem Listening Recommendations
WH: Very last question for you: I’ve been asking people for hidden gem listening recommendations.
GR: An artist that I came across recently is Ebo Taylor. He’s a Ghanaian artist. If you like soul or funk, disco that was happening throughout the 70s, one track I would really recommend is My Love and Music.
And another one is a cover of the track Popcorn. The cover is by Herb Alpert. Even if you don’t know the name, you’ll know the tune. I just find it really fun – that kind of cheesy, gameshow-style music. It’s not on Spotify or iTunes or anywhere. You can only find it on Youtube, which is maybe part of the joy of it as well.
WH: Jessica and Gordon from The Swallowsfeet Collective, thank you very much for your time.
GR: Thank you.
JLH: Thank you very much for inviting us, it’s really a pleasure.
GR: We look forward to seeing people at our festival this weekend.
WH: TL Life: Crosscurrent will be back in your ears very soon. We’ll be hearing from alumnus Simone Sistarelli about his unique project, Popping for Parkinsons.
If you have an event, a performance or a piece of music you’d like to share on the podcast, or if there’s a hot topic you’d like to discuss with me in interview, what are you waiting for? Get in touch! My email is firstname.lastname@example.org .
Could the next Crosscurrent Spotlight be shining on you?
Cue: Outro music