Blog: Kevin Jamieson

Home’s senior producer of theatre on nurturing local talent at Push Festival and beyond

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My role as the festival producer in the 14 months or so I’ve been at Home has been to see a lot of work in the Manchester area and find companies we want to work with, because theatre-makers in Greater Manchester are high on our agenda to have as the beating heart of Home.

We’ve found six companies to work with for this year’s Push Festival, and they’ve been given the chance to either revive something we’ve seen previously, or premiere an entirely new piece of work. We’ve put together a two-week schedule of productions and, as well as the performances, there will be a series of workshops as part of the festival.

We hope there will be an audience for the productions – that’s the whole point of presenting the work – but it’s also about us showcasing the exciting and fascinating work going on in the region. There’s vital work, I think, being made in rooms above pubs, small fringe venues and so on, and Push is our way of giving the companies opportunities to showcase their work in a professional theatre setting. The hope is that we can continue to work with the companies on new pieces, as well as giving them hopefully a platform to reach a wider audience for their work.

To give a couple of examples, we have one company, Sheep Knuckle (pictured), which is based in Manchester and Melbourne. Its production, A Brave And Startling Truth, will be performed here at 12 noon when it will be 11pm in Melbourne. It will be live-streamed Down Under because today’s technology allows it to do that. The vast distance is no object to making work together. It’s a fascinating company.

In terms of stories, a lot of the appeal of the pieces in Push is what the companies are saying about society today. Another company, A Mighty Heart, has two productions in the festival. Both its pieces are verbatim theatre, where it’s interviewed thousands of people. From all the transcripts it then performs people’s real words back to the audience. The subject matter couldn’t be more different – celebrity culture body image in women and mental health – but both are extremely topical.

We have three performance spaces at Home: the rehearsal room and two theatre spaces. In the long term, what we can offer is the possibility of a longer run to allow a theatre company to progress and evolve. The idea that it can do some research and development or present a work-in-progress is key to what we do, and that transition in a company’s life and its work is absolutely why we do Push. We have to have that ambition for the work we put on.

We collaborate with so many local theatre-makers, and you can’t say to a company “you’re stuck at a 150-seat level” and that’s it. Since we opened last May we’ve had around 250 local artists and performers in the building, and opening our spaces to allow people the freedom to explore work they want to make without the financial pressure of hiring a rehearsal space is so important.

Sometimes a company needs a week in a rehearsal room to discover if its idea works. If it doesn’t, it hasn’t necessarily lost anything, and that can be as important as when it does work. That’s at the core of what we do, and Push is a perfect example of that policy in action.

Push is at Home, Manchester, 14-24 January

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