Jordan Blackwood, Producer of Army@TheFringe, introduces a special online initiative for 2020 – Army@TheVirtualFringe.
When it was announced that the Edinburgh festivals weren’t going ahead this year, I felt a mix of relief and sadness. Relief that we were out of a strange limbo that meant we didn’t know whether to continue with planning our 2020 Army@TheFringe offering or to put a halt to it. Sadness that for the first time in 70 years the streets and venues of Edinburgh wouldn’t be filled with a community of people from across the world craving a shared experience – whether that’s some theatre, a drink in one of the many pop-up beer gardens or simply walking down the packed streets at any time of day embracing the atmosphere.
The question that remained for the Army@TheFringe team (including Lieutenant Colonel Wendy Faux – who will soon be contributing her own blog post) was where do we go from here?
We didn’t have all the answers but we were optimistic and clear about a few things:
- We wanted to find a way to support artists
- We wanted to remain open to alternative engagement activity
- We wanted to encourage creativity in some way.
And so that’s what Army@The VirtualFringe is – an opportunity to support artists through somewhat new digital territory, encouraging participants to be creative and curious about the relationship between the Army and the arts. Audiences might need to wait another year before they can see us on site at Hepburn House Reserve Centre, but until then we’re going online with dozens of free workshops, readings, sharings, live-from-home performances and conversations. We’re paying artists for their involvement and hoping to engage with new audiences through our activity.
From 10th – 27th August, we’ll be broadcasting from our living rooms and those of our artists to yours. Week one focuses on film and photography; week two on theatre; and week three on poetry, books and visual art. There will be practical workshops, advice and insight bringing work to the fringe and various opportunities to engage with our artists.
Highlights of week one include a session with Army Photographer of the Year Rebecca Brown, an online premiere of Rosie Kay’s 10 Soldiers followed by a live Q&A and various events exploring the use of film and photography in different contexts.
In week two, we celebrate theatre and the process of making live performance – from live readings of two plays we hope will be seen on Army@TheFringe’s Edinburgh stage next year to a live-from-home performance of Oliver Yellop’s I Am Gavrilo Princip and a series of workshops that explore clown, movement, mask work, design and more. We kick off the week with a conversation for performing companies about bringing shows to Army@TheFringe.
We round up the festival in week three with a multi-artform offering including a poetry night and workshops from Tim Marriott (who brought Shell Shock to us in 2018), a conversation with Anatomy of a Soldier author Harry Parker and evenings of music and variety to enjoy.
Throughout the festival, we embrace the power of dialogue with a host of “in conversations” events – some hosted by the National Army Museum – that will look at diverse themes. In short, we’re opening the doors to art in all its intricacies and inviting anyone who is interested to join us over Zoom, Facebook, YouTube and other platforms for one, two or 40 events.
Army@TheVirtualFringe is for artists interested in developing new skills or gaining advice on making work for a fringe context. It’s for audiences interested in going behind the scenes. It’s for those who want to actively engage in discussions and workshops, but also for those who want to get cosy on their sofa and watch live performances and screenings. There’s a military flavour to a lot of what’s on offer, but we’re exploring much wider themes too. We hope to see you in the Zoom where it happens this August.
- Events are free but places need o be reserved – see https://www.armyatthefringe.org for details.