Back in 2021, a consortium of organisations including Battersea Arts Centre, Dance4, Fierce Festival, GIFT, MAYK and Transform were commissioned to realise a new performing arts showcase for England at the Edinburgh Festivals, Horizon.
Curating and delivering a performing arts showcase for England, within the context of a global pandemic, felt like not only an extraordinary opportunity, but a tremendous challenge. Unsurprisingly given the context, we spent the first six months of 2021 devising a number of scenarios for how a showcase in summer 2021 might be able to materialise, with parameters and possibilities in constant shift. Ultimately – what was possible at the time was a digital showcase focused on forging new relationships between artists making work in England and international partners. The 2021 showcase included streamed live theatre, dance and live art performances, digital works and other events for audiences around the world. Our international colleagues were supported to engage with the performances virtually, and whilst we weren’t able to visit Edinburgh in person, we were able to connect digitally with our partners the Fringe Society and more widely.
Seeta Patel, Rite of Spring. Photo by Foteini
Moving forward, from a year of mass cancellations and drastically reduced opportunities, for us the 2021 pilot signalled an exciting new possibility. Responding to the need for different and more flexible ways of thinking, we have been working to embed care, innovation, environmental sustainability and accessibility at the heart of our approach. Throughout the pilot we worked with a number of established independent artists including Project O (Alexandrina Hemsley, Jamila Johnson- Small), Javaad Alipoor, Kirsty Housley, Sonia Hughes and Renny O’Shea, and associate partners, Akademi, ATC, Bush Theatre, Circus City, The Cocoa Butter Club and Unlimited, to envisage a different kind of showcase, albeit in a very different model to that we had originally envisaged.
Following the pilot, Arts Council England gave us confirmation of subsidy to deliver the Horizon showcase in 2022 and 2023. Since then, we have been busy developing a model for onward touring support for our 2021 supported artists, offering subsidy and developmental support to catalyse future international collaborations and touring from Spring 2022 onwards. We are also hugely excited to reveal that the Horizon showcase will be a key part of the Edinburgh Festivals for one week during August in 2022 and 2023. For these iterations, the showcase will primarily involve live tour-ready performance works in Edinburgh, but wider engagement opportunities for artists and digital wraparound activities will be a significant strand of Horizon.
Taking on board the learnings from our 2021 pilot year, the 2022 and 2023 Horizon showcases will be curated via a series of distinct approaches responsive to the pandemic context we continue to live through.
A core value of the Horizon project is openness and transparency. The concept of Open Call Out and wide-access opportunities to as broad a range of artists as possible, has been at the heart of our approach. Another of our core values is artist care. Launching an Open Call Out for 2022 for presentations in a way that was viable or would not require artists to deliver to unrealistic timeframes wasn’t possible. Instead, we have been able to revisit some of the 400 applications we received for 2021 to increase the number of opportunities we were able to offer this pool of applicants, alongside taking a targeted curated approach led by our consortium partners based in London, Leeds, Bristol, Nottingham, Gateshead and Birmingham. We are now in the final phase of confirming a 2022 showcase programme which we are excited to announce in the coming months.
We are also thrilled to shortly be launching an Open Call Out which will engage artists in a number of different ways in Horizon activities in 2022. This will include a Residency Call Out for artists to test out new ideas, connecting projects at their earliest stage with international colleagues whilst supported by the Horizon team and partners. Artists will also be able to apply for Bursaries to attend the showcase in 2022 and connect with showcase artists and international delegates.
Finally, a Call Out for presentations for Edinburgh in 2023 will be launched in early March. We are thrilled to be working well in advance to give artists ample time to consider whether Horizon might align with their own plans and trajectories. We want to reach out as far and wide as we can to seek performance projects of all shapes and sizes – that can challenge perceptions internationally of what live performance created in England might look like today – formally, thematically, representationally.
This range of opportunities spanning 2022 and 2023 will follow in a full call out, with various deadline dates.
In the meantime, we are pleased to be reconnecting and planning what a different kind of international performance showcase can look like in 2022 and 2023. We hope you might join us in spreading the word or being part of the journey.
Love from Horizon