Last night a small party was thrown for Mark Ball. Mark was one of the founders of Birmingham’s Queerfest. He oversaw its mutation into the Fierce! Festival which he as its scale and ambitions grew. In parallel with the festival, Fierce! built up its year-round operation in the field of arts training and education. They picked up many contracts to deliver national Arts Council initiatives within the West Midlands. They took up the challenge of developing Live Art in the region.
About eighteen months ago Mark stepped away from day to day contact with Fierce! to take up a post at the Royal Shakespeare Company, developing work outside the company’s main stages. Now he moves on to become director of London International Festival of Theatre (LIFT).
LIFT has been in a period of flux. A few years ago the festival’s founders, Rose Fenton and Lucy Neal decided to leave. A period of organisational soul searching ended in Angharad Wynne-Jones being appointed Artistic Director and the festival moving towards East London and more socially engaged projects. Now Angharad has returned to Australia and into her shoes steps Mr. Ball.
Mark faces a big challenge in London. He takes on an established festival, possibly even a brand, not exactly in crisis, but certainly searching for its new identity. There are questions about the festival’s financing (there is a belief that money was, in part, behind its move East). With 2012 on the horizon, there are also huge possibilities. Mark is a great operator and has an eye for a headline grabbing act. His new post will be a fantastic test of his political and curatorial skills. It will be fascinating to see how his Fierce! aesthetic – principally Live Art – does or does not, map onto LIFT, which is after all a “Festival of Theatre”.
Back home Helga and Kevin face a challenge in some ways similar to Mark’s. How do you move on an organisation once its founder/s have moved on?
There will be those on the arts scene in the West Midlands who have had significant differences with Mark and will not mourn his departure, but it’s difficult to deny the prolific work he has done in promoting Live Art in the West Midlands and West Midlands in Live Art. He will be missed by many but of course he hasn’t died! It can only be good for the Wsst Midlands that one of its own has taken on such an significant post in London. We wish him luck.