Friday, June 24, 2011

A series of rambles about festival management #1

I, and most of my purist street theatre brethren, are not immediately attracted to middle management type personalities.

Personally I detest corporate middle management peons with a deep molten fury. They are the type of servile clinging leeches who's lives, revolving around banal politics, blind them to the transparent almost radiant fact of their utter superfluousness. They are essentially binary switches with delusions of grandeur convinced that being given decisions to make, preordained by constrictions and dictates allocated from above, actually justify their inflated wages and ghoulishly hollow lives. They remind me of some falsely beaming, neatly turned out 10 year old teachers pet in the making holding a door open with all their obsequious worth, unaware the door is automatic, before smugly returning to sit and giving the class that look that conveys their own sense of gargantuan self worth and superiority.

However there are exceptions and they are those who facilitate rather than manage. They leave the core of the venture as unhindered as possible and simply do their best to make everyone happy knowing that that is their prime function. That and delegating the logistics as the required secondary focus.

Let me further define middle management. These are people who are paid via funds from one or a series of other sources and who in doing so fulfill a function in providing a public service while promoting their sponsors brand message. Whether that be the Epilepsy foundation which has provided for Toronto Buskers fest for over a decade [to hundreds of thousands of public] to commercial sponsors married to civic entities, {Halifax/Edmonton/ Windsor/Waterloo/ Christchurch/ Fremantle/etc}

Street festivals apply themselves to various social engineering objectives, to reassert atmosphere, to provide healthy family cultural events, to show commercial brand community investment and any number of other stated or unstated aims.

The top level of international street performance artists are an interesting tribe. Individualistic, skilled, usually fairly articulate in a general sense and also proud of their ability to survive entirely on their own terms.

What they create fundamentally is laughter and wonder and a sense of possibility outside of the ordinary to those they expose their talents to.

Predominantly these are folk who can, if given a public space uninterrupted, create from nothing a crowd of several hundred and entertain them for a time before receiving a freely given collective gratuity and having that be their commercial vehicle.

It is a rare thing and to do it well takes skill and a great deal of application, the rewards being once mastered the entire world becomes somewhat of a playground.

Now some 'producers' or 'managers' of festivals see this extraordinary talent by definition and harness it with affection and admiration and trust. Edmonton with Shelley and before her Mr Finkle, Lynne from Waterloo for one bright shiny moment when she was given the reins. Port Credit, which mirrors this attitude of lavishing the performers to reap the rewards of their happy enthusiasm. Hamilton in Canada for a time,Christchurch via Jodi, Auckland via Nick Nickolas doing casting and scheduling, Robert Nelson and Kumi have had a mitigating hand in Windsor, Furgus at Glastonbury fest, there is a larger list than this of festival producers who bring out the best in their performers and support crew and engender loyalty that pays dividends in the efforts made in extra shows and media promotion and charity add-ons.

Compare this to the administrative tragedy that is this weeks surfers paradise festival " Australian Street Entertainment Championships" on the Gold Coast in Australia.

First off it's a competition, it pits the performers, individuals who pride themselves on their originality, to compete to get paid at all.

It uses judges, dubiously unqualified self promoted nonentities with backgrounds in marketing or retail.

One of the judges is the same person who cast the festival in the first place,  an obvious bias.
This is the same individual who revoked Andrew Elliots contract because, even though he is a seasoned and sought after international act with over 20 years experience, he reveals at the end of his show that he's in fact an Australian and comes from Newcastle after fooling the audience into believing he's a bumbling yet very proficient Indian magician for 40 minutes.

The reason given? He says he's from Newcastle and it's an international 'Festival'

what pitiful bollocks!
apparently Australians don't count as international because everyone knows they are the worlds poor cousins and can never aspire to international success, even if they spend 20 years doing it.
 What a sad projected inferiority complex this judge [jon logan] has, that's perhaps why he overcompensates by being a transparently out of his element idiot. 

That this festival in part is designed to mitigate and obscure a prevailing spiral of domestic and urban violence that threatens to blight the always paper thin veneer of surfers paradise is funny when the way it's run is patriarchal and abusive by design. Perhaps a mirror would cost less than the festival.

This festival put's the 'judges' up in a hotel, presumably sucking from the same teat that pays the masterminds that produce it while the performers are expected to put themselves up and be grateful for the statistical probability of working for nothing while five of the cast get paid the allocated prize money.

One last minute maneuver  was the ADDED BONUS of a $200 gratuity towards expenses for the performers selected popped in days before the gig to stanch the hemorrhage.

Prizes 4th and 5th get awarded 10 shows at $100 a show. What an honor!

Of course there will always be performers to take anything that is offered, some simply curious, others with nothing better to do but by design a number of performers will not get paid at all and frankly that's just sad.

It's the kind of short sighted, blighted, venal and self important kind of management that thankfully the internet will strangle to death simply because unlike the preonline business model that presumes information is a scarce and valuable resource and runs on presuming stupidity on the part of the participants the internet is an informational and educative medium.

for example, the basic deceit, [and remember some of these people sell themselves as marketing whizzes] of the blurb in the press release that states...

"To battle for the much coveted title of Australian Street Theatre Champion" 

Given the 'covert' involved exists entirely in the mind of the hyperbolic copywriter, given the title itself, the competition itself and the concept itself is historically non existent and a lie sadly presumes people are stupid.
Heres a clue, people are not stupid, street performers are not stupid and it's a poorly paid one who presumes their audience is stupid because to presume people are stupid is, not to put too fine a point on it,...stupid. But provincial careers in marketing still limp along with this philosophy because denigrating your targets intelligence is the only way relative stupidity can bluff it's way towards demanding the fees required to maintain the charade.  

This particular festival actively promotes selfishness by allocating deliberately limited resources for the services offered. In doing so it shuns loyalty and community .

The gloriously delusively funny aspect of it is that the people who run it will defend themselves indignantly by huffing and puffing and stating they are doing performers a favor by even providing a venue in the first place, oblivious to the size of the world as it exists outside their tiny  insular and increasingly brittle fiefdom.

Street performers have existed for hundreds of years before haberdashery was invented and long before charlatans and real estate functionaries with delusions fueled by corporate liquid lunches learnt to cobble every half thunk concept at hand to feign social promotion while greedily sucking two thirds of the nipples available on the badly dressed sow whose excretions pay their hotel rooms, consultancy fees and wages.
  Such spectacular dysfunction should be obvious to those who are monitoring them as it is to those beneath them and in fact perhaps the only persons not jaundiced by their pointlessness might well be themselves.
I'm sure they are good at some things but apart from inflating their own self worth at the expense of the events they produce I can't think of any.

Good luck Gold Coast.

There will be more in this series as I can be bothered, the rest will be focusing on those positive aspects that future admins can adopt as proven by prior models. 

[this is unpolished certainly, written in one sitting, it's shaggy wolverine rather than shiny coated wolverine because of my diet. maybe if you people fed me?]
a follow-on from this...

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