London-based theatre company Part of the Main and the Virtual Collaborators Network have teamed up to launch the Virtual Collaborators Festival, a 2-week live and digital festival taking place over August 2020.
With the indefinite closure of the UK arts industry and the cancellation of this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the Virtual Collaborators Festival will provide emerging artists with industry support and a platform to connect and create new work. The producers of the festival are Olivia Munk, Artistic Director of Part of the Main, and Danusia Samal (Theatre503 Playwriting Award), founder of the Virtual Collaborators Network.
The Virtual Collaborators Network was founded in March 2020 by Danusia Samal as a response to the closure of the UK theatre industry due to COVID-19. Over the course of April and May 2020, Danusia organised teams of one writer, one actor and one director to create a new piece of theatre under lockdown conditions. Over 50 creatives were involved. The Guardian served as media partner for this inaugural Virtual Collaborator programme, promoting the scheme and sharing selected pieces over three weeks. Olivia participated in Danusia’s first round of Virtual Collaborator matches as a director, and the two decided to team up to turn the network into something even bigger come August.
The Virtual Collaborators Festival will feature up to 100 participants, sorted into teams of one writer, one director and 1-2 actors. Applications are open July 1-8, with all participants notified of their outcomes by July 12. Artist teams will be challenged to create socially distanced films, audio dramas, web series, interactive plays, and more. Should government and venue guidelines allow, socially distanced live theatre will also be a possible medium for participants. Performances will be streamed, publicised, and take place live between August 17-31. The Guardian will once again be featuring the work produced by the Virtual Collaborators.
The Virtual Collaborator Festival is collaborating with numerous venues and companies, including The Space, Theatre 503, Shoreditch Town Hall, the Finborough Theatre, interactive theatre company Coney, TV production companies Little Door and Balloon Entertainment, producer Jake Orr and publisher Nick Hern Books to support participants through masterclasses, venue space, industry guidance, and publicity. Masterclasses will be delivered over Zoom, and will be available to all participants free of charge.
Learn more about the Virtual Collaborators Festival on its website (https://virtualcollaborators.co.uk/). Applications and the festival brief can be located at bit.ly/VirtualCollaboratorsApp. Learn more about Part of the Main and its public workshop series on its website (partofthemain.com).
““It’s amazing to see what people are making online, how creative they’ve become,” said Samal. “It’s going to be hard to rebuild theatre, it won’t be the same, but I think artists will work hard to adapt and support each other.” As for the forthcoming Virtual Collaborators dramas, she said: “I’m as excited as anyone to see what is made each week.” —Danusia Samal, in an interview with Chris Wiegand on the initial launch of the Virtual Collaborators Network, The Guardian, April 27 2020
“Virtual Collaborators was born out of the desire to connect artists and build a support network to help us through the Covid crisis. With many facing uncertain futures, VC allows artists from a diverse range of backgrounds, disciplines and experience to make work on their terms. We believe that artists can lead the way creating relevant, inventive, creative content whilst juggling minimal resources and complex restrictions. Now with the support of a number of brilliant organisations and venues, I’m looking forward to finding out what we can do next.” —Danusia Samal, founder of the Virtual Collaborators Network, Co-Producer of the Virtual Collaborators Festival
“While Part of the Main have supported emerging artists through affordable training workshops since 2018, the need to support new voices and talent has never been more acute. As artists around the world adapt to make work for laptops and mobile phones, it is emerging artists who run the highest risk of being lost in the noise. Our hope is that this festival will create new and fruitful artistic partnerships, as well as connect artists to industry leaders through masterclasses and to audiences through our platform. Though the coronavirus poses unprecedented challenges to the arts, we hope it can inspire unprecedented innovation, too.” —Olivia Munk, Artistic Director of Part of the Main, Co-Producer of the Virtual Collaborators Festival
In addition to the launch of the Virtual Collaborators Festival, Part of the Main has released 19 new affordable theatre training workshops available to the public throughout July. Workshops include QLab and Lighting Programming training, introductions to Sound Design, Improvisation and Puppetry, crash-courses on Political Theatre and how to be a Drag King, and much more. 20 bursary spaces have been made available for Black artists. More information on individual courses can be found on Part of the Main’s website (bit.ly/partofthegrid).