The rise of the microfestival

A still from Forest Fringe Microfestival. Source: BAC

No matter where you live in the world, festivals of any variety are hot property.  But over the last few years, there seems to be a new version of festivals emerging and on the rise – the microfestival.  I was reminded of this when Lyn Gardner recently tweeted: ‘Terrific day at #Sampled11 at Junction Cambridge yesterday. Some lovely work full of potential. Rise of the microfestival is interesting.’

So what is a microfestival and why is it on the rise?

Microfestivals range across genres and geographies from the Music microfestival in Perth to a theatre microfestival in someone’s home at the Edinburgh Fringe to the Movement & Play microfestival in Cali to the Poet & Geek microfestival in Prague (loving that name). Whilst these all share a few common elements, there seems to be no ‘definition’ of what a microfestival is so I went to one of the pioneers of the movement in the U.K., Battersea Arts Centre who hosts the Forest Fringe microfestival every year as well as Scratch nights and other, larger festivals (like the One on One Festival which I have mentioned before).

BAC’s Senior Producer provided me with his definition which I think sums up the microfestival rather well.  He described the microfestival as a short festival around a particular theme or idea, 3-4 days or a weekend. Because of the length, people often stay for the whole thing and can therefore generate a greater sense of community.  He also shared a view that microfestivals are often based around more emerging artists/ forms, hence the content is not something which is appropriate for a 2-3 week festival.

What his definition highlights, and why I suspect microfestivals are on the rise, is the duel benefit for producers/artists as well as the audience.  Microfestivals allow producers to explore the work of artists or themes which may not yet have demand for a longer, solo run.  They are particularly good as a way to gain feedback on an audience’s appetite for future work. Audiences are able to sample a lot of different artists/experiences in a short period of time, whilst also becoming part of a shared community.  The Independent referred to the Forest Fringe Microfestival as ‘whetting our appetites‘. The microfestivals I have been to are all high-energy, immersive affairs which I have left wanting more – never a bad thing.

So where can one look for a microfestival?

Microfestivals are occurring in more and more venues, although at the moment they appear to be far from mainstream, either in production or attendance.  On the production side, so far they seem to be hosted mainly by producers who work with new and emerging talent although that may change over time [e.g., the Almeida's upcoming Theatre Brothel, whilst not described as a microfestival seems to follow some of the same guidelines].  My advice is to keep your eyes peeled…and definitely check out the next one you see (or let me know if you have one coming up!).


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