Launching next month, Jacksons Lane’s Postcards 2013 will be a cabaret kaleidoscope of circus, comedy, song and dance. Franco Milazzo speaks to the man behind it all, artistic director Adrian Berry.
It may be slightly off the beaten path but Jacksons Lane, a unique performance space a hop, skip and tumble from Highgate station, should be on the map of every fan of live entertainment. It was one of the key venues behind last year’s Circusfest and in June it will host its own circus-accented festival.
Postcards 2013 will have enough rare and wonderful shows to sate even the most dedicated cabaret fiend’s appetite. The Double R Club make a rare foray west to kick matters off on 13 June. Following them, is a full programme including the album launch for Marcus Reeves, a new show from Mat Ricardo, lashings of circus and a finale gig on 29 June curated by Piff The Magic Dragon and Marawa.
What’s behind the distinctive name of the festival? Do you feel that it is still relevant?
More than ever actually. All manner of clichés come to mind – short, international, summery, colourful, even a little saucy as postcards can be – but happily these descriptions still apply.
It’s more succinct and condensed than in the previous two years. I looked at the programme the other day and thought “is this enough for a festival?” But then looked again at all the detail within and how every night is specially curated or created and felt very happy and proud of this year’s Postcards. Keeping ticket prices tiny has also been important. Postcards are cheap. Tickets for Postcards should be cheap. Then you can see and do more.
There has been talk from the government in recent days of the necessity for a “mixed model” in the arts and art paying its way in the world. What is your take on that idea and could you see Postcard events or the festival itself being sponsored by a corporate in future years?
Essentially, in principle it’s nothing new; there’s always been an element of that mixed economy and ecology. It’s what organisations like Arts & Business or the older Barclays New Stages programme set out to do. And we only receive about a third Arts Council and local government subsidy at Jacksons Lane so we have to be entrepreneurial and look for other sources of income and be very canny ourselves.
But as a long-term and sustainable alternative to public subsidy? It just wouldn’t work. You get one more giant recession like the one we’re just emerging from now and that would be it for culture. The arts is always the first thing to go where corporate approaches and big businesses are concerned. It’s still seen as a luxury and indulgence by the current government – it’s just passing the buck.
As amazing as Piccadilly Circus Circus was (and it truly was), it’s the Olympics which is the greatest example of how the subsidised arts sector works. Martin Green, the producer of the opening and closing ceremonies last year, confirmed the other day at the Circus Now conference that pretty much all the artists who performed came through the subsidised arts sector. Most of that would have been within Labour’s time in government I have to say. We need to protect our model of subsidy in the same we protect the NHS. It’s all part of our lifeblood.
New York recently celebrated its March Is Cabaret Month. Would you support a similar London-wide festival covering circus, burlesque and other forms of cabaret (perhaps in non-CircusFest years)? http://www.thisiscabaret.com/the-story-behind-new-yorks-march-is-cabaret-month/
I guess so. You have to be careful in the capital as there’s Circusfest, and the new Circus Now showcase, London Wonderground is a kind of festival in itself…it would have to be carefully thought out and planned, but the notion of a giant celebration of what to me is the most exciting hybrid of art forms around – I’d buy into that and be part of it. Why not?
Last year, you pointed to dance, comedy and cabaret as the future direction of the Festival. Is this still true and how has the vision for Postcards Festival changed over the last three years?
There’s a lot of dance and physical work within the circus programme in Postcards and actually the French company i19 are dancers who integrate their performance with ingenious and dexterous use of the Chinese Pole.
There will be comedy but it will be dark: Lynchian, cross-dressing, ambiguous, androgynous comedy. Put it this way – you ain’t going to see John Bishop at Jacksons Lane. It’s become more and more about taking the circus and cabaret artists out of their West End venues and corporate gigs and giving them time to breathe, develop, have good techs, dress runs, really work on their craft.
Some of the artists like Marcus Reeves are taking advantage of every nook and cranny in the building that they are offered. Marcus has given himself nearly two months here to develop his new show. That’s amazing for us and amazing for him. And totally wonderful for audiences.
There’s certainly an eclectic mix of circus and cabaret on display during the festival. How do you select which acts appear?
Well, for a start we don’t advertise. Some are artists we already have a relationship with like the trick cyclist Alice Allhart, or through Circus Space who host residencies as part of their Lab:Time programme. But then we get out of the blue international artists who want to come and showcase their work to UK audiences, like i19 or Finland’s Robert Jagerhorn. It’s a pick ‘n’ mix approach but with all the bitter green ones taken out.
The packed out success of last year’s Piccadilly Circus Circus showed the immense appetite for free outdoor circus. Have you considered running events tied into Postcards Festival which are either free or outdoor?
That’s for further down the line. We’d need a good sponsor to be able to do that, but we’d love to at some point. Instead we offer other alternatives, like Mimbre’s Falling Up. That was originally done outdoors at Watch This Space outside the National Theatre.
We’re helping them develop it as a site-specific piece around the building where audiences are divided into groups and tour around Jacksons Lane with the work seen in different locations and contexts. They’ll view our building in a whole new way. Funnily enough, we are about to announce our first outdoor circus show in August with aerialists Scarabeus, so watch this space.
Postcards 2013 runs from 13-29 June. Full details on shows, timings and tickets can be found here.