Kate Craddock and Amy Letman reflect on the launch of Horizon Showcase 2022

This week marks the start of the first in person Horizon showcase. It’s been a long journey to get here. We first started thinking about the showcase this time three years ago, when Arts Council England launched a call out for a consortium of organisations to run an international showcase of performance by artists based in England, for the Edinburgh festivals. At the time, Transform, GIFT, Fierce, MAYK, FABRIC (previously Dance4) and Battersea Arts Centre started a conversation about what our own interpretation of what an international showcase might look and feel like for us. Some of us (particularly the smaller, newer organisations) felt like we weren’t necessarily the usual suspects to be tasked with running a national showcase. However, we all saw that we had a shared commitment to supporting artists in long-term and meaningful ways, and to placing international exchange at the forefront of our work. We were also brought together by a shared dissatisfaction of the status quo and what we perceived the typical notion of ‘showcasing’ in a Western context has come to represent. We were interested in the idea of shifting expectations around showcasing within the context of the Edinburgh festivals. Moving away from a more transactional buy and sell mentality, we wanted to cultivate a culture of reciprocity, dialogue and care.

Our first year delivering the showcase in person in Edinburgh follows on from last year’s digital iteration, which encompassed a combination of tour-ready performance works and artist residencies across England, connecting delegates and artists solely online. As a consortium we have continued to explore different ways to work together and model the showcase, and have invited other organisations and individuals to work alongside us – including our associate partners (Chinese Arts Now, The Cocoa Butter Club, Tara Theatre and Unlimited) and artist leads (Lucy Suggate, Natasha Davis and Seeta Patel). In spite of the setbacks and uncertainties of the last two years – we have continued to remind ourselves of those initial conversations back in summer 2019 – and why we came together in the first place. We believe international collaboration has never been so vital, and we want Horizon to be a space that facilitates dialogue around what this can look like in this changed world. We hope that this edition of Horizon can create space to think further about the role of a showcase in the future – and to invite a wider community to join us in considering how this showcase might manifest next year and beyond.

The artists who form part of Horizon 2022 are extraordinary – together they offer a snapshot of the breadth, inclusivity and power of performance in England at this moment. As part of 10 exceptional works presented in Edinburgh this week – we are inviting audiences and delegates to encounter voices and stories from across the country – from Bradford, to Manchester, Margate and beyond. Audiences will be invited to travel with us underground in a multi-story car park, to take a bus out of the city, to visit Portobello Beach, as well as to engage with the breadth of performance spaces across Edinburgh. Together we will grapple with the issues that are important to artists based in England right now – be that the climate crisis, gender representation, border restrictions, or the personal impacts of the pandemic. We are proud that the programme is so rich with empathy and curiosity, offering a balm for these uncertain times. In putting together the programme, we have tried to consider access and equitable working conditions at every level, and will continue to interrogate how the showcase can be as inclusive as possible.

Unlike our first virtual showcase, this week we will be joined in person by colleagues from across Europe, the USA, Australia, Africa, Hong Kong and the Middle East. It means a huge amount that such an incredible and varied group of international delegates are embarking on this journey with us in such precarious times. Following the showcase, follow -up connections will be made online with a wider range of global delegates, and we will continue to support the touring and further international development of the Horizon programme from 2021 and 2022.

There are many ways to engage and connect over this week and beyond. Whether you are going to be in Edinburgh or not, we invite you to take some time out to listen to our podcast series – via Horizon Radio, where you can hear artists in dialogue, exploring the themes that connect their work. If you are an artist based in England working in live performance – we also invite you to consider applying to be part of the showcase in 2023, and to look out for further opportunities via our website and socials.

We do hope you can join us in connecting with Horizon now and in the future.

Kate Craddock (GIFT) & Amy Letman (Transform)