How do you build a completely new, multi-strand, three day festival, from scratch, over the Christmas holidays? We don’t know the answer to that one. But we can tell you how to make two cases of wine and a people carrier-full of Cadbury’s Roses disappear over roughly the same period.
Less impressive? Probably.
When SevenStreets first met with Chris Carney, co-curator of next month’s Threshold Festival, last December, details – as they say in CSI – were still sketchy. Heck, even the name hadn’t been agreed on.
Since then, they’ve only gone and created Europe’s largest indoor festival, while we were queueing in H&M to return our comedy Y-Fronts. Nice work, chaps.
Mind you, with the combined weight of Chris (cantmixwontmixshdntmixdontmix – far right, r) Carney, Under the Influence’s indefatigable Kaya Herstad, and CUC’s new man, Ingi (Nice Festival, general Icelander-about-the-town) Thor, you’ve already built up a head of steam. And one hell of a contacts book.
“We were lucky,” Carney says, over tea in Bold Street’s Leaf, “our respective contacts seemed to plug each other’s gaps. I’ve got a theatre and clubbing background, and with Kaya’s musicians and LIPA connections, most of the city’s bases were covered.”
Maybe, but it takes more than a pulling-in of favours to arrive at the stats splashed across the festival’s jaunty new poster: 160 bands, 200 acts, 12 stages…what the?
“People were really responsive, it really wasn’t a hard sell,” Chris says, “the festival’s all about trying out something new, experimenting, and mixing it up. I think that’s what made it so appealing.”
Hence the name, we guess? A festival of art, music and theatre on the edge, in a city on the ‘threshold to the ends of the earth’. A voyage of discovery. A leap in the dark.
“The brief we gave out was simple: ‘if there’s a project that you’ve always wanted to do, but have been worried about whether it would get an audience, whether it would work, or how it would be received, this is the place to try it out,” Carney says.
It’s this cavalier attitude, and seat-of-the-pants aesthetic that sets next month’s weekender apart from the rest. And it’s why so many bands, theatre troupes, artists (and hangers on like us) said ‘Yes!’
“Liverpool needs a grass roots festival, to give performers that creative freedom,” Carney says, “and the ‘not for profit’ element, I think, sets us apart from lots of other events out there.”
“Novas are really keen to get the word out,” Carney says, “and a big part of their remit is about using art and creativity to change lives. That’s exactly what we hope the Threshold festival is all about.”
Every quid spent at Threshold (and they’ve a nifty Paypal-esque system operating there, too, so you don’t have to make the schlep back to down when it’s your round) gets ploughed back into Novas’ work, and profits re-invested towards next year’s event.
“We’ve always believed in the building’s potential, and we think this is the event that will finally show it off – all six floors, every corner of it,” Carney says.
Lest all this talk of try-outs and improvs scare you, we feel you should know: this is no half-baked dress rehearsal of a festival. Over the three days, Threshold will premier new and genre-spanning work from the region’s most exciting theatre companies, there’ll be master-classes, workshops and discussions covering everything from the rise of the DIY record label to Philosophy in Pubs. There’ll be a post rock meltdown in ‘The Beast’ (hello Minion TV!), tasty disco courtesy of Butterfunk, a Pillbox Vintage Fair, Culturepool, cupcakes and, er, us. We’re manning (sorry, attending) the Media Hub on Sunday. Come over, write a review on the hoof, and join our special family.
Dare we ask for highlights?
“We’re really excited about ‘Living with Macbeth’, the latest production from Liverpool’s StormTheatre,” Carney offers. Nearly four years in the making, the piece is a psychological drama about ‘reminiscence and regret’. Carney continues to name check exciting local artist Robyn Woolston commissioning a site specific piece, a Burmese tent populated by ceramic sculptures, hip-hop flautists, Kabarett Babel…inner city sumo, as yet, remains unconfirmed.
But, outside the random acts of strangeness, the strolling players, revues and sketches, big-name and upcoming bands, Carney warns us to save most of our energy for the nights.
“Waxxx are hosting one of the Saturday night parties alongside Discoteca Poca, and the after show party, on Sunday, follows on from an all-day techno bunker in the Crypt…I might just let my hair down then and have a bit of fun…”
If Carney and co pulls this event off, we think they’ll have earned it.
February 11-13, CUC Liverpool
Tickets: £10 weekend/ £5 day tickets