The Big F.A.T. Weekend

If you had asked me three years ago to make a theatre piece in just two months with only £100 budget, I probably would have run a mile. But, in March 2019, that’s exactly what the final year students of the Applied Theatre course at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire did.

Sophie Fisher
Applied Theatre BA (Hons)

For the final project of our degree, we were tasked with producing a site-responsive theatre piece, including the entire process from crafting the creative content, to marketing and financing the event. This would be a culmination of everything we had learnt during our degree and a chance to put it all into action. Each of the pieces produced would become part of ‘The Big F.A.T. (Festival of Applied Theatre) Weekend’.

To start off the project we had to form our own theatre companies from scratch. This was a real test of character as you had to think carefully about who you would be compatible to work with on a professional project, who you have similar creative interests with, and what strengths people had which you may find useful within a company. Everyone in the class had different interests and aims for the project, so this was a great chance to either create a group focused on one key aspect (e.g. musicians and singers) or a group hosting a range of talents such as poets, actors and producers. 

From there, each company had to create their brand, including a company name, logo and company background. Forming groups was a tough process but I loved having the opportunity to work with people I hadn’t worked with before.

The location for our festival, The Old Print Works, sits in the heart of Balsall Heath, just south of the city centre. The venue is a wonderful creative hub, rich with history and culture, and host to many artists/creatives collaborating every day. Our companies had to choose a space within The Old Print Works, and use this as a stimulus for creating our own devised pieces, as well as our stage for the big event.

We then had roughly two months and a tiny budget of £100 per company to bring our ideas to life in the form of a short performance piece, which we not only devised ourselves, but performed in and stage-managed too! Now was the time for us to flex our skills, and make use of the connections we had with other artists, as well as interacting with the local community of Balsall Heath. Not to mention ensuring the smooth running of festival planning and marketing – it’s safe to say we had our work cut out! During the project we had the privilege of being mentored by our course lecturers, who had taught us everything we knew over the past three years. This was a truly special experience; it was great to receive their guidance and for them to see how far we had come since first year.

On the day of the event, The Old Print Works was buzzing with people coming to see the Big F.A.T. Weekend and what it had to offer. Family, friends, and members of the local community gathered in The Gap Cafe, before being whisked off to different parts of the building to watch the performances. With all of the shows happening in the same building, it meant people could conveniently hop from one show to the next, and with the growing buzz of the festival we quickly found our shows selling out, we even had to squeeze people in for last minute additions! 

The Big F.A.T. Weekend will always be remembered by our class with a huge sense of pride in what we achieved. The hard work we all put into the festival paid off, and I now feel confident going out into the world as a graduate in my ability to take on more creative projects. We all hope that the festival has left a legacy for future Applied Theatre students and others to make something even bigger and better, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for the festival module! 

Sophie Fisher

Applied Theatre graduate 2019

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