Queer Cabaret Artist Aidan Sadler has announced that they intend to create an equal stakes collective that tackles the beasts of under-representation and accessibility at the Fringe. For too long, and all the more recently, the stories which we see brought to the Fringe rely on precarious funding applications and personal debt, or they are funded by the pockets of an already-wealthy and established elite. Representation at the Fringe is fraught across a broad range of characteristics – race, class, age, gender, queerness – the list goes on. In times like these, we need new ideas which challenge the long-established system of money-hungry artistic production, which doesn’t get involved in the processes that bringing about great theatre yet cashes in on it as soon as it can. We need ideas like Weird Wood.
Weird Wood is a grassroots, bottom-up way of producing performance. It will be community-based, with strong ties to local communities in England and Scotland, and residencies to be announced in local venues. The collective will have annual elections to appoint artistic directors, further widening the opportunities for Sadler sells the initiative on the basis that it will provide a new pathway for performers to bring an idea forth without the regular financial barriers, making every piece that is generated by the collective “A collaboration, a conversation, a protest.”
Aidan told us “There’s always been an issue of class in the industry, and it’s an uncomfortable topic to talk about. The big greedy producers scoop up these performers but usually their projects leave their hands the second the documents are signed. Weird Wood is going to change the entire way we think about the production process. Community based, equal stakes curation, workshopping and production. Simple pathways for performers to get from idea to stage without the financial barriers. From our soon to be announced London residency to major festivals across the UK, we’ll support them every step of the way.”
In a world where many have critiques and ideas about how we can change the Fringe, we need pioneers who are willing to step forward and take action. It’s deeply impressive to see Aidan’s progress in getting this off the ground, and the proof will be in the pudding to see how performers can collaborate and deliver new perspectives together. Fringe audiences clearly have an appetite for personal stories, which tell the stories of the under-represented and how we can change society. Shows across the programme this year delivered an impact an audiences from the aforementioned characteristics, now we need the space to offer more room to unheard voices, more scope to explore undiscovered corners. Community-led projects like Weird Wood can only help that – and I’m excited to see what goods are delivered.