Exploring Festival Performance as a 'State of Encounter'

Award Holder

Dr Alice O'Grady

Higher Education Institute

School of Performance and Cultural Industries, University of Leeds

Partner Organisation

Rebekka Kill, Leeds Metropolitan University


OK, so you’re at a music festival and it’s a good twenty minute walk to the next stage to see the next band. As you walk, you pass a group of men dressed as smurfs, a stag do, probably, then you see another group, part businessman, part horse, doing a series of choreographed moves, dancing with the crowd, is it performance? You take a picture on your phone for your Myspace, and text it to your big sister and your Dad - "chk ths out!" They’ve seen this kind of thing before.

"Relational performance" often happens adjacent to the main programming of bands and DJs and yet are integral to both the success of the festival and the way in which memories of the event are personalised and transmitted to others. These performances are often unannounced, informal and responsive to both the time and place in which they occur. They usually require public engagement to activate them and, as such, they provide an insight into audience/performer relations as well as notions of site-specificity and playful behaviour. We are interested in how new forms of interactive, participatory and experimental performance are emerging within this context.

This network will discuss the types of relational performance that occur at festivals. We want to explore improvisation and space; the playful arena; the transmission of memory and archiving; storytelling and the role of electronic media such as mobile phones, and the internet in creating the "field of festival culture" (excuse the pun) and festival memories.

We will hold four seminars over two years with a small invited group of academics, practitioners and industry specialists. The seminars will take place in Leeds with a view to establishing a national research hub based in the Yorkshire region.

See also Rebekkah Kill's article in the Times Higher Education Supplement

Recent article on Festival Performance in the AHRCs Podium magazine (summer 09)

Image: littlecards.jpgmichaeltlatitude08Isle of Wight 2009The Hurley Burley cafe. Where all the staff join in with a routine to Talking Heads' Once in a Lifetime.Beatherder 09. Floorspace.Latitude 2009, Music in the Sphere, photo by Nathan DaintyLatitude 2009, Flash Mob dance to Fame, photo by Nathan DaintyLatitude 2009, Walking on Water, photo by Nathan Dainty

Arts & Humanities Research Council: Each year the AHRC provides approximately £100 million from the Government to support research and postgraduate study in the arts and humanities, from archaeology and English literature to design and dance. In any one year, the AHRC makes approximately 700 research awards and around 1,000 postgraduate awards. Awards are made after a rigorous peer review process, to ensure that only applications of the highest quality are funded. Arts and humanities researchers constitute nearly a quarter of all research-active staff in the higher education sector. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. See Arts & Humanities Research Council website.