UnShut Festival: Interview With The Curator, Charlotte Blackburn

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The first UnShut Festival begins this month at DINA bringing a wide variety of performance art to our venue over three days.

This brand new and bold platform for artists sets out to make its mark on Sheffield’s creative calendar by showcasing work in a professional environment outside of mainstream theatres.

One of UnShut’s curators, Charlotte Blackburn, decided to create an annual festival after producing a successful run of one-night events, Northern Art, at Theatre Delicatessen in Sheffield City Centre.

Charlotte said: “At the time there was nothing like it taking place in the city, and after doing ten of these shows in two years I decided a three day annual festival was the next step, something which would bring people together through a range of performances.

“It is about showing people that there’s more to performance than traditional theatre and how amazing and exciting these works are.”

charperformsCharlotte Blackburn

Charlotte’s background as a live art performer has taken her across Europe, working predominantly at festivals, before going into the field of production.

She said: “I accidentally got into producing as I was fed up of there being little opportunities for my work to be showcased, so I decided to make those opportunities myself.

“With my own work I use personal stories to illustrate ideas and challenge concepts. I love the idea of showing my work and also getting to see others and then meeting to create connections and a strong community.”

There are around 30 performances during the festival with an extensively varied range of performance disciplines.

Charlotte said: “We’ve got quite a large programme, from comedy and spoken word to dance, live art and one to one performances.

“We also have networking events and workshops and we have tried to ensure there is as a wide range as possible to give a great insight into the amazing things being created, making the festival on a pay what you decide basis, as I feel that performance should be available for everyone.”

Since forming the UnShut team with Valentina Contarino, Jessica Gibson and DINA’s very own Stan Skinny, work has been all hands to the pump to put the programme and logistics of the festival together, making an embryonic idea into a true, fully fledged reality.

Charlotte said: “When curating a festival I don’t think people realise just how much work goes into it. There’s venue booking, doing the call out for submissions and getting an image and presence to create that buzz, those are the easy bits.

“Once you have got your artists and workshops you then need to create the programme meeting the needs of those involved, ensuring there’s enough space for everything but that there’s no sound bleed across the venue.”

Charlotte added: “We also offer accommodation, support and travel to all our artists outside of Sheffield which is a quote a complex task, as not everyone is up here at the same time, so we have to try to organise everyone’s arrivals and meet all the tech requirements.

“To be honest the list is endless, but what’s most important to us is that we work well as a team and ensure that everyone involved feels supported.”

When UnShut finishes for this year there will surely be a time for reflection on how it went and what can be perfected when producing the next festival, however following that Charlotte will be keeping busy over the following months going back to her performance roots.

She said: “I’m currently preparing to tour my solo show Edgar And Me which is a true story about my friendship with a death row prisoner, and I’m just beginning to create a piece called A Proppa Lady exploring club culture for women.”

UnShut Festival begins on Thursday May 18 to Saturday May 20. All performances are on a Pay What You Decide basis. For more information visit www.unshutfestival.com

Article by Joey Winson

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