"It has been a highlight of my year. I've never felt like I was part of a cultural scene or community before but this festival showed me I am."
"Such a brilliant range of high-quality performers, great to celebrate local talent and also put Newcastle on the map for national/international performers, an amazing addition to the culture of the city."
NEWCASTLE IMPROV FESTIVAL 2019
NiF 2019 truly was an inspirational summertime of joy! Over 9 days, there were 35 events, made up of improvisational shows, workshops, masterclasses and creative activities for adults, young people, children and families, featuring national and local artists.
The festival hub was Alphabetti Theatre, with 23 events happening there, and 12 more satellite events at The Cumberland Arms, Seven Stories, The Stand Comedy Club, and Jurys Inn.
Over 1000 visitors came. The vast majority of events sold out, attracting repeat audiences, not only from the Northeast, but many making special trips from across the UK and from Europe to watch, learn and participate in improvisation in a variety of forms:
Theatre, Comedy, Music, Dance, Film, Creative Writing and Well-being.
The festival brought together some of the best national talent with the brilliant local improvisers of the North East. The venues were great, the workshops well priced and well facilitated. I felt very welcome at every event. The passion of the organisers shone through.
WHO WAS INVOLVED?
We are super proud and happy to have curated an improv festival of such high quality entertainment and engagement. A festival full of fun and friendship, that was warm and welcoming to all, that included and involved people of all ages and walks of life in its creativity, whether they were improv fans already or introduced to it for the first time.
We had brilliant headline acts and teaching performing artists, all well-known and established improvisers and cross-over artists working in the UK and internationally, including: Stella Duffy OBE, Pippa Evans, and Suki Webster from London, Jason Perez and his company Couch from Glasgow, Ed Scrivens and Francesca Forrestal AKA Dragprov from Oxford, local music and dance artists Beccy Owen, Ken Masters and Conor O'Kane, and of course the Suggestibles and festival founders Bev Fox and Ian McLaughlin who hosted, taught and performed throughout.
More than 60 improvisers took to the stage. Veteran improv professionals bringing their unique shows, performing together, and also supporting emerging improvising talent and newcomers to the stage for the first time. Over 80 participants took-part in workshops and live show-backs.
Then there were 40 filmmakers and 20 professional actors involved in the 4 Hour Film Challenge. 10 short films were made in 4 hours and screened that same evening to a packed house for our closing event. It's rare, probably unique, that members of the general public can watch a film being made on the streets of Newcastle, then head over to the theatre and watch it on screen just a couple of hours later! The awards for best film, actor and actress was awarded by our industry panel of judges: actors' agent Janet Plater, Tyneside Cinema CEO Holli Keeble, and Northern Film and Media Director Alison Gwynn.
‘" Improv’isation is the spark of creativity, the creation of an idea, the idea realised. It is present, alive, in the moment. An open road, a journey with no end decided, just an instinct to play on it. It can be funny, daring and moving. It is an original act every time that involves and connects people in new and exciting ways. Audiences are not a passive. They stimulate the performers with their ideas, and see them brought alive instantaneously.. They are as much a part of what is created as the artist. This is what Newcastle Improv Festival set out to celebrate."
Bev Fox, Festival Director
As a long-time ambition of Bev and Ian's to put Newcastle improv on the international map, 2019 felt like the right time to launch the festival with it being The Suggestibles 15th anniversary year, and having significantly raised the profile and popularity of improv in the Northeast over that time.
The success of the festival was achieved by incredibly hard work and passion, the talent and commitment of our artists, and our wonderful festival team of 25 volunteers from The Suggestibles' School of Improv who gave their time, skills and energy freely. We are forever grateful to our sponsors, Picture Canning and Royal Grammar School for donating £500, City of Dreams who donated £900 to pay for a young intern during the festival and towards several bursary places for young people to attend, and to our five partner venues for showing support of our venture. Thankfully, the vast majority of tickets sold out and we broke even on the festival costs.
The entire festival was produced without any Arts Council funding.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Having been turned down by Arts Council England in 2019, Bev and Ian took the risk to pilot the Newcastle Improv Festival themselves. As you can imagine, a 9-day festival of this scale, and without funding, took 6 months of unpaid planning and preparation, and a huge amount of personal resources.
Our aim remains to make the Newcastle Improv Festival an annual event, a jewel in the cultural crown of our fine city.
Following the festival, we ran a comprehensive audience survey, which resulted in outstanding feedback - proving there is cultural demand, support and good will for a festival of this kind in Newcastle. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of improv festivals globally. There are only a handful of shorter improv festivals the UK, and none as ambitious in scale as Newcastle Improv Festival
With much painstaking deliberation, we've concluded we need to skip presenting NiF this year. It's integral to Newcastle Improv Festival's future that we have the time to put a larger planning team together and secure funding for next year.
NiF will return in all its glory in 2021
In the meantime...
The first ever Carry On Improvising Retreat is happening this summer. A long weekend in Northumberland, for improvisers to immerse themselves in the thing they love most - Improv!
And of course we'll continue to bring you fantastic improv shows, classes and projects throughout the year.