Fierce Festival works with a diverse range of local, national and international artists eager to challenge expectations and presumptions about the nature of art – and modern life.
Because 40 per cent of Birmingham is now aged under 25, this year’s festival features several projects aiming to shift our perceptions of youth and what young people do.
But it’s also hoping to try to save one of the city’s finest historic buildings, too.
Along with colleague Harun Morrison, Laura McDermott is the festival’s joint artistic director.
“The diversity of the artists in the festival mirrors the city,” she says. “It seems fitting that bold performance should take place in the melting-pot of Birmingham.
“Because Birmingham is the UK’s youngest city, we’ve programmed several projects that might shift your perspective and help to see the radical potential of young people.”
One of the festival’s highlights is A Museum of Water, which requires visitors to take water that is special to them, such as the water from a baby’s first bath.
This will create a temporary museum at Moseley Road Baths (details www.museumofwater.co.uk).
Two Australian artists are also leading an accompanying project called Parting Waters.
There will be projections onto the outside of the building, after dark; a live performance in the pool itself and playlists that can only be heard by swimmers underwater (www.partingwaters2014.tumblr.com).
Laura says: “The events at Moseley Road Baths highlight the work that everyone is doing at this particular moment when it’s under threat of closure.
“We would love to see it continue as a swimming pool and community resource so we are here to celebrate a very unique space.
“Simply bring your water donations to the museum – it will make people think twice about something we take for granted that is fundamental to human survival.”
The importance of the listed Moseley Road Baths as a building is being highlighted by the fact that artists Laura Delaney and Lisa Stewart are coming from Australia.
The baths are on English Heritage’s national list of Buildings at Risk and are due to close to swimmers in September next year.
Harun says: “Images will be projected on the outside of the building showing what’s happening on the inside with people.
“The underwater spaces and specially made sounds will highlight sounds made by the users of the baths to encourage people to appreciate what’s on our doorstep.”
“Having people coming from Australia means it’s not just our local view of the building,” he says.
“It does have a very widespread appeal that speaks to people. Our continuing complaint is that the council sees it as a problem but we see it as an asset.
“It’s not just in recent years when it’s become critical, the building has been neglected for 100 years. It needs a huge amount of money to be spent on it to bring it into a decent shape.
“The Government has been reducing local authority funding, that’s true. But even before the crash, this and other historic buildings were low on the list of priorities.
“Birmingham to its credit is a very progressive city and this manifests itself in terms of making new things like the library and the NIA.
“Some politicians take a delight in embracing the new and rejecting the old, which is a very false priority.’’
* Fierce Festival runs from October 2-12. Weekend passes on sale now. A limited number of multi-show passes are available for weekend 1 (October 3-5) and/or weekend 2 (October 10-12) of the festival. The passes represent a saving of at least £25 on a weekend’s activities. A multi-show pass is the easiest way to see the maximum festival programme, on a guided itinerary. Festival pass holders will also be offered priority booking for limited capacity shows. For more details visit www.wearefierce.org
OTHER FIERCE FESTIVAL EVENTS
Authentic Boys: Rehearsing Revolution mac birmingham, Cannon Hill Road, Birmingham Until Sunday, October 12. Free
In Rehearsing Revolution, the Authentic Boys created a “performative training ground” for groups of Birmingham teenagers in the outdoor arena at mac. These 100-minute workshops focused on change and rebelling against personal habits. They were a light-hearted experiment to test the ‘revolutionary potential’ of Birmingham teenagers. Details: www.authentic-boys.com
Tania El Khoury: Gardens Speak AE Harris, 110 Northwood Street, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham B3 1SZ October 2-5 / 9-12 October: Thursday & Friday 3pm, 4pm, 5pm; Saturday & Sunday 11am, 12pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm, 5pm (Duration 40mins) £10
Across Syria, many gardens conceal the dead bodies of activists and protect their living from the violent thrusts of the regime. These domestic burials play out a continuing collaboration between the living and the dead, the dead protect the living by not exposing them to further danger at the hands of the state and the living protect the dead by conserving and nurturing their identities and their stories in the ground, by not allowing their deaths to become instruments to the regime through potential disappearance, anonymity and forgotten history.
Gardens Speak is an interactive sound installation containing the oral histories of 10 ordinary people who have been buried in Syrian gardens. Each narrative has been carefully constructed with the friends and family members of the deceased to retell their stories as they themselves would have recounted it. They are compiled with found audio that evidences their final moments.
Mammalian Diving Reflex: Eat the Street October 3 to October 9, various times.
Join young children as they eat posher food than they are used to – and watch them review what they find.
Phoebe Davies: Influences Fierce Festival Hub @ The Edge, Cheapside, Digbeth, Birmingham October 3 (5pm - 8pm) and October 4 (12pm - 5pm). Free
Phoebe Davies collaborates with groups of women, exploring current attitudes to gender equality, feminism, female expectations and individual agency. Drawing upon the contemporary culture of nail art, these dialogues result in a series of printed nail designs depicting people of personal influence or significance, specific to participating groups.
Dina Rončević: Car Deconstructions Eastside Projects, 86 Heath Mill Lane, Birmingham. October 3-5. Fri 6 - 8pm, Sat 11 - 5pm, Sun 11 - 5pm, drop by during these times. Free
This work involves a group of seven Birmingham-based girls aged between 10 and 12 years old disassembling a car to its nuts and bolts over three days. Prior to this the girls have undergone a basic introduction to car mechanics under the guidance of Amsterdam-based Dina Rončević.
Dina Rončević is an artist, a textile designer, film animator and car mechanic from Croatia. She graduated from Animation and New media department at Art Academy in Zagreb, Croatia. For her graduate work she made a professional retraining to be a car mechanic. During this three-year-long project (2007-2010) she worked on issues of social identity and gender roles in this male dominated socio-cultural niche.
Narcissister Fierce Festival Hub @ The Edge, Cheapside, Digbeth, Birmingham Saturday, October 4, 8pm (Duration 40 minutes) £10/£7
Narcissister is a Brooklyn-based artist and performer. Wearing mask and merkin, she works at the intersection of performance, dance, visual art, and activism.
Club Fierce Festival Hub @ The Edge, Cheapside, Digbeth, Birmingham October 4, 9.30pm to late £12 (£15 on the door)
Club Fierce returns with an eclectic selection of DJs, AV sets and live music. Highlights include Sri-Lankan born Londoner Suren Seneviratne aka My Panda Shall Fly; electronics, folk instruments and noise-making are blended to compelling effect.
The evening will also feature a Fierce hosted ‘Algorave’. This is an emerging genre of music, where emphasis is placed on the live coding of what you’re dancing to!
Sarah-Jane Norman: Concerto No 3 Birmingham Conservatoire, Paradise Place, Fletchers Walk. October 5, 11am - 11pm
This is a free durational performance, audiences can come and go as they please throughout the performance.
Of all the works in the classical piano repertory, Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 3 has perhaps one of the most fearsome reputations: it is a work of cruel and unusual technical difficulty. Feared and made famous through performers such as Joseph Hofmann and David Helfgott, the so-called “Rach 3″ has become darkly mythologised as one of the most difficult, even dangerous, pieces of piano music ever written.
So, what if a group of non-pianists, failed pianists and traumatised former child prodigies were challenged to play it publicly, entirely by sight-reading?
Originally from Sydney, Australia, Sarah-Jane Norman is joined by five other “post-virtuosic” pianists working in shifts to sight-read their way through this mammoth score in a gruelling 12-hour musical experiment.
Miguel Gutierrez: Heavens What Have I Done DanceXchange, Birmingham Hippodrome, Hurst Street. October 5, 7pm (Duration 55 mins) £12 / £8
In a UK premiere, provocative New York choreographer Gutierrez makes works that translate the experiential nature of performing into a sensory experience for the audience. In this solo a rambling and comic monologue unravels into a bold and ferocious dance. Set to music sung by renowned soprano Cecilia Bartoli.
Dana Michel: Yellow Towel DanceXchange, Birmingham Hippodrome, Hurst Street, Birmingham October 10, 8pm (Duration1hr 15mins) £12 / £8
In a UK premiere, Dana Michel revisits an imaginary world of her other self in a ritual performance without cover-ups or censorship. With a blend of gravity and buffoonery she digs into the stereotypes of black culture, turning them upside down to see what is revealed.
Ian Johnston: Dancer mac birmingham, Cannon Hill Road, Birmingham October 11 (duration 60 minutes) £12 / £8
Dancer is a performance created by Ian Johnston, Gary Gardiner and Adrian Howells. Dancer is a gentle provocation on what it is to be a dancer. Ian and Gary both love to dance in public. Neither are trained dancers. Dancer asks questions about visibility, opportunity and experiences; as well as sharing a few of Ian & Gary’s dances, to songs by Kylie Minogue, Lady Gaga and Nick Cave.
Fierce Slowdance Polish Centre, Bordesley Street, Digbeth, October 11, 9pm – late £10 admission includes a Dancecard-booklet.
(Queer) Slow Dance nights are conceived and hosted by Sherwin Sullivan Tjia. The nights run regularly in Montreal and Toronto. With a lending library of designated dancers for all you wallflowers, and a dancecard-booklet to set up dances in advance (should you choose to), a Slowdance Night has all slow songs, all night long.