Case Study - FullRogue
FullRogue – Wild Swimming
We spoke to Julia Head, Director of FullRogue about how she and the company began their relationship with Ferment.
How did you start engaging with Ferment? What was that process like?
I applied for a Leverhulme Scholarship and I didn’t get it, and then I applied again in 2018 with a bit more clarity about how the scholarship could be useful to me. Prior to that I’d done Young Company and I’d done Made in Bristol and I was an usher and I was on the bar and I was on Box Office, so I was basically living at the Bristol Old Vic.
And maybe Emma Bettridge [ex-Ferment Producer] was sick of seeing me every day, maybe it was out of guilt, I don’t know! But I got a Leverhulme Scholarship which was £5k and a load of mentorship – I got mentorship from an amazing woman called Tanuja Amarasuriya who runs _sleepdogs.
The money basically meant that I could afford to take time off work to attend free workshops, and I couldn’t do that before. With the scholarship, I could attend workshops on directing at the Young Vic and the National Theatre and learn about my craft.
It also allowed me to pay some actors and get them in a room to start developing a show, which was where FullRogue began.
What stage was your work at when you started collaborating with Ferment?
It wasn’t- er, it wasn’t. It didn’t exist! I hadn’t made any work outside of Made in Bristol and my work was bad because I was trying to be this different person. I basically saw loads of shows at Bristol Old Vic when I was ushering and they were beautiful and slow and calm and soft and so before I started working with Ferment I was trying to make shows that were beautiful and calm and slow and soft – and I was shit at it because that’s not who I am.
So that year, the Leverhulme Scholarship, allowed me to discover how my practice works and how I engage with it.
And as for FullRogue, we hadn’t started Wild Swimming, it was just an idea; they took us from idea to [full realisation].
What did you get from us?
As part of the Scholarship, I’d applied for FullRogue to start developing our first show Wild Swimming. With the money, we were able to hire some actors and do our first R&D in Plymouth, and later having that money meant we could apply for Arts Council funding too.
And we got dramaturgical support too from Ben [Atterbury] which was great.
Ferment was basically completely fundamental to the start of my career, because up until that point I'd had a sense at the Bristol Old Vic that if you were an usher or on Box Office, people maybe thought that you weren’t also creative. I was applying for loads of Assistant Director positions [in the building] and not getting them because I didn’t have a Masters in Directing. So, the scholarship was so instrumental in giving me the space to call myself A Director rather than “just an usher”.
What do you think we got from you?
Very little (!). Other members of staff being annoyed that you’d given us space in the building. More shit to handle, really.
How would you describe the process of working with us?
It's great. It's really good because Ferment cares about the art so that can always be the focus – which I like. We did a Ferment Fortnight sharing, and we wanted to test a load of stuff and they let us do that. We were allowed to have two nights rather than one and we were allowed to have two different actors [trying the role of Oscar] rather than one. They let us properly test our ideas out.
And since then they've been completely instrumental – we wouldn’t have been able to go to Edinburgh without them... basically the whole company wouldn’t exist at all. There you go. They're to blame.
What do you think other artists should know about Ferment’s work that might not be obvious?
I think that it’s got way more transparent than when I started working with Ferment. It’s a lot clearer about what it actually offers.
The stuff that they offered us – which I’m assuming they can offer other people – was:
- space: physical space in really good rehearsal rooms
- dramaturgical support from outside eyes
- strategy support in writing/reading Arts Council bids
- networking support – if they knew someone they could link us up with them
- opportunities to try stuff out (that are open to failure rather than needing to be good or successful)
I think that in most other theatres when you R&D something there's a sense it needs to be good or worth it, but Ferment is really good at being totally open to things not working. And that removes the pressure of successful-ness and good-ness, which is useful ‘cos you can’t really make good art under that pressure. I don’t think you can, anyway.