Ferment: A Fond Farewell

27 Mar 2024
(L-R) Ben Atterbury, Nancy Medina, Tanya Follett

There are some exciting times ahead with Bristol Old Vic's evolving support for new writing, but that means Ferment - our 15 year old New Work initiative - sadly comes to an end. 

We couldn't start a new chapter without a fond farewell to Ferment...

Today we announce an exciting shift taking place here at Bristol Old Vic; our ambitious new plans to support the development of new British writing at Bristol Old Vic. This includes the return of a dedicated Literary Department which will focus on supporting writers, stories and script development. The announcement marks one year of Nancy being in post as Artistic Director and a setting out of our creative agenda for the coming years.

This marks an evolution of Bristol Old Vic’s artist support activity and it means that we are making some really clear shifts. One of the biggest changes is a decision to shift away from our long-running Ferment programme and towards a new model that aims to make clear how 'artist development' is indivisible from any other aspect of Bristol Old Vic's programme.

We realise this is big news; Ferment is a programme that has been running for nearly 15 years, it was part of a first wave of theatre-based ‘artist development programmes’ and it has done some fantastic work supporting artists and companies to test out bold new ideas and fostered a spirit of adventure, experimentation and anarchy, providing a launchpad for many makers across the region.

We want to reassure anyone who might be worried about the end of Ferment that we are carrying the essence and spirit of that programme into what we do next & we are continuing to provide opportunities for artists to be supported by us in this new model: it’s an essential part of our mission.

At the same time, it is true that Bristol Old Vic, the region, the country and the rest of the world looks very different now to the way it looked 15 years ago & over the past 12 months we’ve decided it’s the right time to take a look around and make some choices about what we do best and how we can do more of it. When we began looking at some of the shifts that we’re announcing today we took the opportunity to ask ourselves some hard questions. Questions like;

  • Is our model of support still working in the contemporary landscape?
  • How is artist development different from any other aspect of Bristol Old Vic’s programme?
  • Is it helpful for an organisation like Bristol Old Vic to have a separate ‘brand’ for this work?
  • How do we break through silos & ceilings so that artists can move freely throughout our organisation?
  • Is Bristol Old Vic’s offer clear enough?
  • How can we support artists to better know if their work is a good fit for us?
  • How can we use the resources we have to make long term impact in the sector now?
  • Do we need to make deeper investments in more targeted ways to have a greater impact?

We will continue to ask these questions of ourselves, and many more, over the months to come and as we learn more about the decisions we’re announcing today. If you’ve got questions too, we really welcome them and we’d love to hear them.

An image of artists sat in a circle in conversation

Ultimately, by bidding a fond farewell to Ferment, we are now saying that all the ways in which we support artists are coming directly from Bristol Old Vic, not from just one ‘bit’ of our organisation. We have decided to focus our support on writers because we feel that is where we can make a real difference at this point in time. We can’t solve all the issues that are currently at play in our sector but we can do what we can with what we have; today’s announcement is hopefully just the start.

Our New Work team take up new roles - with Ben Atterbury as Literary Manager & Tanya Follett as Literary Producer. This is a natural move for us, formalising changes that have been taking place over the past few years as both Ben & Tan have grown the scale and scope of their work in the organisation. We also want to thank both Kate Yedigaroff and Emma Bettridge, who did some incredible work leading Ferment in years gone by.

The Literary Department focuses Bristol Old Vic’s support on writers through a range of opportunities; including new initiatives, evolved commission strands and writers’ residencies as well as partnerships that deliver specific support within the wider creative ecology in Bristol and the South West. We have announced a revamped associate artist and companies programme & a revitalised version of our network The Artists Forum. We remain committed to supporting and developing the work and practice of artists and companies based in and from the South West region & though the main focus of this work will be writers, that work will of course intersect and encounter opportunities for other creatives and disciplines.

So, with respect, love and gratitude; goodbye Ferment and thank you for path you laid, we all learned so much and we carry that legacy forwards.


If you would like to find out more about our new support for artists:

For Artists | Bristol Old Vic