July 21, 2015

Bristol Old Vic’s Ferment programme announces new funding awards

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Bristol Old Vic has announced major new funding for its artist development programme, Bristol Ferment, the largest theatre artist development initiative in the UK. It has been awarded three-year funding totalling £201,480 from Ferment’s long-standing supporters Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, and a new one-year grant of £38,000 awarded from Jerwood Charitable Foundation.

Now in its fifth year, Bristol Ferment was set up to support and nurture established and emerging artists from the South West, providing a safe and creative place for them to come and road-test their ideas. The Ferment team then help the artists that inspire them in a variety of ways: through development weeks, residencies and supporting projects, through to full-scale productions. This funding announcement comes during Ferment Fortnight, the twice-yearly showcase of work from the Ferment artists.

The work of Bristol Ferment is punctuated by two Ferment Fortnights of work-in-progress in January and July. This is where a fortnight of scratch and work-in-progress performances are staged in an informal and lively atmosphere that invites feedback directly from the audience.

A huge proportion of projects that originated in Ferment go on to further life all over the world.

Since 2011:

  • 800 artists have worked with Ferment to further their practice and/or present their work in a collaborative and nurturing environment.
  • 143 new Ferment-conceived projects have been presented to a growing public audience.
  • 27,636 people have enjoyed Ferment-originated work at Bristol Old Vic.
  • 7 non-UK countries have welcomed Ferment artists to perform for their audiences.
  • 55 nationwide organisations and local partners have worked with Ferment to develop or improve their own artist development work.

Bristol Ferment uses a grant from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation to invest directly in artists and the development of their work, through a bespoke programme of research and development, mentoring, dramaturgical support and a variety of public-facing performances and work-in-progress scratch events delivered by Ferment’s core team.

Jerwood Charitable Foundation will support additional specific elements of this activity, namely: Ferment production and research and development commissions; artistic retreats; and a new programme for 2015/16, Ferment Producer Bursaries.

Jon Opie, General Manager, Jerwood Charitable Foundation said:
“We are delighted to support Bristol Old Vic’s Ferment at a key moment in its development. It has a fantastic reputation amongst artists for the quality of support and career enhancing opportunities it provides theatre makers, and amongst audiences for the high quality work produced as a result. For us, it is vital for British theatre that this continues and we are pleased to help, especially in the way it supports the development of artists and commissioning of new ideas.”

Bristol Old Vic Ferment producer Emma Bettridge said:
“Ferment is now in its fifth year and without the longevity provided by Esmée Fairbairn’s continued support, and now Jerwood Charitable Foundation’s backing, we simply would not have the time to grow and understand the best ways to support our artists and this quantity of exceptional work would not exist. The Ferment model is one now deeply embedded in the artistic landscape and we are extremely proud to be able to work with the incredible talent that exists in our region.”

Bristol Old Vic Ferment is part of the theatre’s wider outreach programme, working with local schools and marginalised groups in areas with limited access to the arts, in Bristol and across the South West. It works with more than 1,000 children and young people each year, and welcomes over 20,000 as spectators to its productions. Whilst Ferment supports new work from both established and emerging artists from the South West, the award-winning Bristol Old Vic Young Company has 350 members, making it the largest group of its kind in the UK.


Ours Was the Fen Country. Image: Paul Blakemore