You know that you’re in the midst of interesting company when 50ft towers of industrial strength, hand-tied bamboo, Bournemouth gardens awash with fire and an illuminated Puppet family all make an appearance. Activate Performing Arts; originally based in Dorchester, have been running various creative projects for the past 26 years, initially helping to produce and develop local and mid-level artists. Yet organic expansion has seen productions multiply in scope and ambition, as is showcased by the Inside Out Dorset festival as well as Bournemouth’s Arts by the Sea.
Their focus on ‘outdoor art’ came from their artistic directors, says Dom Kippin, the (maternity covering) outdoor arts producer, citing Kate Woods and Bill Gee as central to combining environment with performance. “Street art is traditionally an urban art form” he says, and the intention was to experiment with it in a more rural setting. This is, Kippin beams across the table, a way to celebrate the extraordinary locations in the area. “It was about finding a way of adding to what is an already great landscape,” he delivers at an enthusiastically frenzied pace. UK Street art, Kippin notes, tends to be smaller in scale (less funding/support), therefore the organisation has often turned to France and Belgium for collaboration, as well as events such as the waterborne Oerol festival in the Netherlands.
It’s been a process of discovery, Dom notes, on how environment and performance find one another during the selection process. “Location within the connovation” often takes precedent, but with an awareness of audience particulars. When the organisation branched out from the Poole quay, their first performance saw the construction of said previously mentioned bamboo tower for the French circus troupe Cirk VOST, who used the structure as a trapeze-ready lattice. “I remember the tower in Poole Park” is a comment that reminds Dom of when he saw his own first performance, Bournemouth’s Fire Gardens with it’s floating caldrons. It’s because of this, he says, that he recognises the impact that these performances can have.
Mood and tone can vary, from the burlesque klezmer of Cirque Platzak to installations such Ray Lee’s hypnotic and hauntingly modernist sound piece Chorus. Students from AUB can also get involved with the organisation, an example of which was taking young creatives to nearby Slades Farm to employ a rather rain drenched area of land as a performance piece aligned thematically with global warming and climate change.
Arts by the Sea arrives on October the 21st. The APA is set to close the festival with a performance titled A Sense of Unity that sees collaboration between World Beaters, a kaleidoscopic LED percussion ensemble and Dundu Puppet Theatre (Stuttgart), who arrive on our shores with a family of giant illuminated puppets. “The show is really resonant for today” Dom concludes, “it’s a parade piece that brings a crowd together in joy and love and happiness of just a beautiful evening.” Though, Dom admits, the show has led to some “very strange email conversations” were he remains unsure as to whether it is the puppeteer or the puppets that he’s conversing with.
Well, we here at Bournemouth Scene welcome all the anthropomorphised marionettes and fantastical terrains that the festival can muster. Bring on the vaudevillians, the troubadours and the tumblers. Let the show begin.