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  • Writer's pictureHinton Magazine

Festival Co-Artistic Director Paul O'Donnell

Shoot Festival returns this year with a mix of commissioned pieces and showcases of the best of Coventry’s arts scene. The festival features commissioned artists in performance, sound and visual art, as well as a programme of local artists, whilst also giving opportunities to emerging producers from the area. Festival co-Artistic Director Paul O'Donnell tells us about the importance of the festival and the opportunities it offers.

Can you tell us a little about Shoot Festival?

Shoot Festival is an organisation that supports and develops creatives in the Coventry and Warwickshire region. A beating heart of our activity is the biennial festival itself, this year’s happening on the 23 April – 7 May. It offers audiences a chance to experience the culture being born from their own city, whilst offering the regions artists the opportunity to make (often) their professional debuts in a supportive space, whilst getting paid, and showcasing their work to industry professionals.

As artists ourselves Jen and I, and the core team around us, have worked to find creative solutions and opportunities to the problems we have faced in our careers to date.

How important is it to nurture upcoming talent from the Coventry area?

It’s important to nurture upcoming talent not just in Coventry, but everywhere. There is a real shortage of opportunities across the country for upcoming talent to take necessary steps on their impossible journey to artistic perfection. When we read the applications for our opportunities there are a whole host of weird wonderful and/or exciting ideas that have never ever been done before and without events like ours they might never.

Coventry and Warwickshire is crammed full of creativity, artists and makers. We hope we are a step in helping the world-renowned artists of tomorrow on their impossible journey to artistic perfection.

Can you tell a bit about how you're seeking to make the festival accessible to all audiences?

We are on our journey to make our festival as accessible as possible and have been for a number of years. The journey towards access is one that is always a work in progress, you learn more as you trial, make errors and adapt. Understanding of different requirements is also always evolving.

For Shoot Festival 2022 we are BSL interpreting our live events, we are adding audio description where it is appropriate, we are only using wheelchair accessible venues, we are finding ways to meaningfully communicate with audiences regarding any requirements they might have. We are learning as we go but are doing everything we can to make people’s experiences of the festival as rich as possible.

Importantly, we are also encouraging our artists to do the same. For us this is particularly exciting, as we meet artists at the start of their careers we are encouraging them from the word go to implement accessible practices into their work. We hope this will make a much longer impact than just the festival itself, and that from Coventry and Warwickshire there will be a whole host of widely accessible art.

How are you looking to support emerging producers from the area?

Arts Producers often learn on the job, in voluntary unpaid roles without much mentorship or support. We are doing what we can to change this offering seven PAID assistant producer roles (and one marketing assistant role) for early career producers to learn on the job under the mentorship of highly experienced producer Sarah-Jane Watkinson and with China Plate’s Optimists Training course for producers running throughout. The assistant producers essentially own the festival, with our support wrapped around to enable them to make it the best that it can be, and hopefully learn how to produce events of its kind going forward. Our main hope is that these producers will go forward to create more widely ambitious and exciting events in the region.

What are your hopes for Shoot Festival in the future?

As an organisation that has a relatively small, and purposefully so, geographical remit I am excited by the things we can put in place and the models we can trial that can be rolled out further afield. Sometimes the most significant impacts are the ones that start as something really small. I am excited to discover what this might be for little old Shoot Festival.

Shoot Festival runs from 23rd April - 7th May 2022 at various venues across Coventry. Tickets and further information available here.


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