Interactive Storm Art Party Producer Mike Pony Talks IBT15
To Do List is heading down to Bristol next weekend for the IBT15 Bristol International Festival (12-15 February) – a celebration of art as a powerful force for change, featuring over 50 art works including a Fog Bridge by FUJIKO NAKAYA. The festival is packed full of international artists, across the art venues, streets, gardens and homes of Bristol.
One highlight is certain to be The Storm, an “innovative explosion of light, sound and colour” which aims to bring together technology artists, performers and leading DJs.
The official festival party of IBT15, The Storm will feature: the aural pleasures of Antoni Maiovvi, Dirtytalk, Horseplay, Hush and Duchess; performance artists David Hoyle, F.K Alexander, and Vickie Fear; awesome visuals courtesy of Fat Butcher and PrickImage Walkabout Projection; and an hourly storm of heart-stopping hurricane of strobe, sound and light from international technology artists Playmodes.
We caught up with The Storm creative producer Mike Pony, DJ and artist with a background in live art and performance and known for large scale arts and clubbing events in Bristol – and here’s what he had to say for himself…
Before we start why not click play on his latest The Storm Mixcloud:
Tell us about The Storm? What’s it all about?
It’s a sensory tempest; a huge immersive art-party which invites audiences to dance the night away whilst sheltering from a dangerous storm. The twist is that The Storm breaks through into the club! We’ve invited world-renowned digital artists Playmodes (Barcelona) to create a storm in the club and we are transforming an old police and fire station into a dazzling neon storm shelter, with smoke, strobe, live performance, video-art, cutting edge technology and some amazing DJs.
How did you get involved with In Between Time?
I’ve been involved in IBT since 2006. I first got involved as a volunteer and went on to present my own performance work at the festival in 2010. I run my own club-night, Horseplay, which quickly proved itself popular; Bristol Pride invited us to host their after-parties in 2012 (‘Dressage’) and 2013 (‘Plastic’) and my enthusiasm got out of hand; they both became huge themed parties featuring bespoke performances.
‘Dressage’ caught the eye of IBT creative director Helen Cole, who commissioned it as the festival party for IBT13. We worked together to increase the artistic content and the new version featured ten one-on-one artist encounters across the club. The event was a huge success and it was natural to work with the festival again.
For IBT15, Helen set me the brief; to create a storm in a nightclub. I commissioned technology and performance artists whose work I thought would fit the theme of “Storm” and came up with a narrative element to make it an immersive experience. With IBT backing, I applied to Arts Council England for a grant to create the event. ACE loved my proposal and wanted to support my vision as an emerging producer, so I received the funding. IBT made me an associate producer and from there on out I have been stirring up The Storm.
What makes your events different?
I’m interested in creating immersive art-parties which blur the lines between performance, theatre and clubbing. I want to push the boundaries of what a club-night can be and experiment with ways in which clubbing, performance and theatre can come together to tell a story. The Storm is an artwork in itself, an apocalyptic tale of Capitalism VS Climate. At its heart, The Storm is a huge dance-party, but if you dig a little deeper, you’ll reveal a devious plot!
What other events at IBT2015 would you recommend?
I’m a huge fan of Patrick Wolf, so the Night Songs project is exciting. IBT are collaborating with the National Trust (Trust New Art) to combine a Patrick Wolf concert with four performance works, and touring it across four National Trust properties. IBT have commissioned Patrick to write a new song especially for the event.
Fujiko Nakaya’s Fog Bridge is undeniably the highlight of the festival, a huge public artwork from an internationally respected artist. As a fan of immersive work and public sculpture, I can’t wait to experience it.
I’m also looking forward to the Paris Is Burning series, from Trajal Harrel. I fully expect to be vogueing in my seat!
Who inspires you?
I absolutely adore the work of Punchdrunk, whose complex immersive theatrical works are conducted with mindblowing elegance. The environment of The Drowned Man was so beautiful, I could have explored it for days.
I’m a big fan legendary performance club Duckie (“a post-gay independent arts outfit”), relentlessly committed to events which combine performance and clubbing. Their special events are always completely on the pulse; I remember being very proud to attend their legendary “gay-shame” parties.
I’m also inspired by everyone who is doggedly pursuing their desire to put on artworks, events and festivals. It’s exhausting work, but it’s very rewarding! I’ve recently met with some great producers working on festivals and events in Australia. I can’t say any more, but I hope we will get to hang out a lot more!
What are your favourite places to go in London or Bristol?
One of the most interesting areas of Bristol is Stokes Croft, it’s the creative hub of the city. Spearheaded by artists, the area has undergone significant re-generation; there are now huge murals on previously unloved walls, and loads of galleries and cafes. Some of the best places to eat are here; go to Katy & Kim’s Kitchen for breakfast, Sky Kong Kong for a bento box lunch, and Mathilda’s for a Texan Brisket Chilli dinner! At the bottom of the Croft, you’ll find ‘The Bearpit‘. Formerly an unpleasant roundabout underpass, the area is now undergoing significant construction work to make it into a thriving arts and market area. I’m looking forward to hanging out there this summer!
Bristol also has a number of really cute “secret” cocktail bars. Red Light is fun for a fancy drink with friends, with its faux-seedy entrance and red leather interiors. The city has a number of exceptional parties, the best of which is Dirtytalk, who has made its name by choosing strange and unique locations for their nights. Dirtytalk are vinyl junkies with an ear for the underground. Their nights have a house vibe, but to limit them to a single genre would be a disservice. They are crate diggers with rare and infectious tastes.
It was Dirtytalk who inspired me to shake up Horseplay, which started its life in a dirty basement but is now a quarterly party which spills out across unexpected spaces throughout the city. Focussing on putting bigger events less regularly has allowed me to make events which are much more playful and experimental, which in turn has meant our audiences have grown massively in the last year.
What are your favourite free or cheap things to do in London or Bristol?
Bristol is beautiful in the summer. There are loads of great parks with amazing views and a ton of free festivals every weekend. We have a gorgeous dockside which is brilliant for hanging out at the weekend. It’s really easy to reach the countryside from here, by foot, bike or car. I like a muddy walk in Leigh Woods, or further afield it’s a short drive to the Forest of Dean, to see the Sculpture Trail.
We also have lots of great galleries and museums. Spike Island have been host some excellent exhibitions in the last year, as have a number of Bristol’s independent art spaces. There is always an opening to go to!
What’s on your To Do List for this year?
I’m excited for Luke Jerram’s Withdrawn, which invites visitors to experience an unexpected encounter with a flotilla of abandoned fishing boats installed in the depths of a woodland. It’s an artwork that is simple and likely very beautiful.
Art In Bearpit launches in May, a new programme of temporary art works for a public realm. It’s a community-led regeneration scheme in Bristol city centre, and sees some great artists making new work, including Storm Artist Vickie Fear.
May also brings Mayfest, a brilliant contemporary theatre festival, which presents a huge range of contemporary theatre, dance, site specific, experimental, interactive and participatory performance as well as music events. I always volunteer to help with Mayfest, so I can see as much of the programme as possible, it’s huge!
Finally, Horseplay has some secret plans for events this year. We have a unique artistic collaboration coming up (currently totally under wraps) and we will also celebrate our fourth birthday this year, in a venue even more unusual than we have previously used. It’s going to be an exciting year!
Main Pic: Jak Flash