Julia and I have had a very busy few months in the run up to the summer festival season. We were commissioned to make a piece for the Coventry 2021 city of culture bid launch, which was a great event all round (see Julia’s blog for a post about it!).
However in between we have been meeting with established artists and festival organisers who have been really helpful and generous with their time in telling us about their work and inspiring us.
As part of our a-n professional development bursary we planned to meet with artist who produce large-scale and outdoor work for festivals. We are particularly interested in works that are immersive or which the audience can engage or interact with. Ruby Soho of Marie Celestial kindly agreed to meet us to discuss producing work for festivals, her development process and how she got to where she is today. She makes outdoor interactive art and set for festivals and gave us some top tips for developing our own practice as artists.
Space to work always seems to come up as a topic of conversation when I’m talking to other artists and we soon got talking about it with Ruby. It is something that Julia and I need to consider as we progress with our project and particularly for larger work. We have previously had a studio space and currently use a creative office space, however as our project grows from the research phase to development, testing, material experiments and the project build, our space needs will change. Through our conversation, as well as hiring a warehouse space Ruby suggested applying for a residency for the development or making period. This is definitely something that we’ll look into, as it would give us the time and space to focus on the project without distractions.
As we are looking to produce larger scale work it will require a greater level of funding than we have previously worked with. Ruby gave us some helpful advice based on her experience.
- Kickstarter can be a great resource to get a creative project going, particularly if the project is of benefit to others. It can also be helpful as match funding if applying for other funding sources.
- Build up gradually to a larger budget and scale of work – it’s ok to apply for research and development funding and can help to prove that the idea has room to grow. You can always apply for further funding later on to fully realise the project.
- Apply early if there are several rounds of funding, then if the application is unsuccessful, with feedback it can be improved ready to re-apply for a later application round.
- Don’t give up! If the response is a no but you really believe in the idea, take the feedback on board, re-write the bid and apply elsewhere.
- Prove you know what you’re doing with the budget and activity schedule and that it has been well thought through, to show that you can achieve what you say you’re going to do. This point is definitely something that Julia and I have learnt through our work so far, however it becomes even more important when we are looking at working larger scale with a bigger budget and over a longer period of time.
It has been interesting to meet with different people who have a variety of approaches to funding their work. Julia and I will need to find our way to do this as we develop our work, but learning from the experiences of others is useful as we can assess the different possibilities to find the best approach for us.
Other questions we had for Ruby related to the practical aspects of working larger scale in a festival setting. For example risk assessments and wind loading if we create a larger structure. We discussed the use of trussing so that we can be self-reliant when create a base structure for our work. We may consider taking a welding course and Ruby also suggested having a coded welder sign a structure off for load testing. Through our conversation we made a list that of things that we still need to research further when producing work of a larger scale. This includes how it will pack, load and be transported, the set up and take down times and other tech requirements such as lighting. Although these are all points that we have worked with for our other projects, the demands of a larger installation mean that these aspects require extra consideration.
Overall our meeting with Ruby gave us lots of inspiration and helped us to narrow down the areas that we need to spend more time working on. Plus it is always great to get together with other artists to chat about projects!
You can find out more about Ruby’s work here: