What do you look for in a Supported Artist or Company?

Sadly, we don’t have resource to support all the artists and companies that we want to, and often have to make tricky decisions around who and what we are able to support. To help you identify if Ferment might be the right place for you, here is a list of some of the things we are looking for in our Supported Artists & Companies.

  • We support artists and companies based in, or from, the South West.
  • Ferment supports artists and companies creating new and original work; we are unlikely to engage with revived work that already exists, or re-interpretations of classics.
  • We look for artists and companies who put collaboration at the heart of their work and are keen to make new connections; innovative ideas that encourage new ways of working and reach out across disciplines.
  • We like to build and develop projects from the ground up. We’re interested in hearing about ideas at the earliest possible stage; we’re unlikely to support projects that are already finished and are looking to be programmed.
  • We look for artists and companies to work with based on whether we are excited about what they might do next; that means that what we are looking for is artists taking bold risks with big ideas – it may not always work, but you should invite us anyway.
  • We’re an artist development programme based within a theatre, and are most likely to engage with artists and companies who have an interest in creating work rooted somehow within theatre spaces or theatrical practice.

Before getting in touch, please think carefully about whether you and your work fit into the above.

We understand that some of the above is subjective, but we want to be clear with artists about what we look to identify in artists and companies at a Supported level. We would still encourage all artists and companies, especially those whose work may exist outside the above guiding principles, to join The Forum.

How can I become a Supported Artist or Company?

Unlike the free to join Forum, Supported Artists are selected by the Ferment team through 2 routes:

  1. We respond to an invitation to meet you or come and watch some of your work. See below for how to invite us to your work. OR
  2. Open calls, which will happen a few times a year.

You can invite us to your work by emailing us. Please be aware that we are unlikely to respond to invitations that don’t fit what we look for in Supported Artists and that we require as much notice as possible to make it along, 4 to 6 weeks if at all possible.

Unfortunately as a small team (one full-time and one part-time member of staff) we can’t get around to see everything, but catch as much as we can.

Open calls will be publicised widely, posted on our Twitter (@bristolferment), on our website and through the monthly Forum newsletter, so keep an eye on all these channels.

How do you commission?

We commission at 3 different levels:

  • Ferment Fortnight – If we invite you to take up a slot in our Ferment Fortnight we will offer you a small cash contribution in addition to a box office split. This cash contribution is worked out fairly across all participating artists and companies and allows us to give participants something up front, with a share of the takings from the performance to follow.
  • Supporting Commissions – This level of commissioning exists to support the ongoing development of artists and companies. It may be a seed commission to support the ongoing development of a production, it may be financial support to take up a performance opportunity elsewhere in the South West, or at a festival, or internationally; perhaps it’s just some support to help an artist undertake some training. This level of commissioning exists to give small levels of financial support (between £100 - £2000) to ideas that we would really like to support. This support will be awarded through a mixture of curation (we’ll give a portion of this pot away to artists we’re keen to support) and a once-yearly open call for expressions of interest.
  • Production Commissions – This level of commissioning exists to catalyse work by Supported Artists & Companies directly into the Bristol Old Vic programme; it will likely be a match-funding award of between £5000 and £10,000 (with the artist or company to raise the rest and manage the project, advised and supported by Ferment) and will come attached to a slot in one of our performance spaces. We currently have capacity to give two of these awards a year, and they are likely to be given to work that we have engaged with from very early stages of development. Artists & companies receiving these awards are likely to be aspiring to work at the mid-scale (there is a great guide that explains some of what we mean by this here), making work that engages with current Bristol Old Vic programming priorities, and will probably already have some experience of making ambitious work at small-scale.

How much resource do you have?

Bristol Old Vic aims to raise £150,000 to support the work of Ferment every year. While this might sound like a lot, a part of it is taken up by salaries and overheads – making sure that we are around to provide Ferment support. We aim to raise £50,000 for commissions, allowing us to commission around 20 – 30 artists and companies each year to perform in our Ferment Fortnights & 10 – 25 artists and companies to receive supporting commissions and 2 – 3 artists or companies to receive production commissions. The remainder is allocated towards specific opportunities & residencies, as well as supporting the Forum.

What can I do if the Ferment team doesn’t like my work?

Making decisions isn’t an exact science – we can get it right, but we can get it wrong too (and we often do). There are hundreds of excellent artists making work here in the South West, and often when we decide if we can support an artist or company, we’re making a subjective judgement about whether we feel we would make a good team. Since these artists will be working so closely with us, we try and make decisions that have everyone’s best interests at heart, and will result in the best possible collaboration between artists, companies and Ferment. We want to be accountable to the artists in the region, so we have made a couple of tweaks to our structure to try and address that better:

  1. We will hold open submissions for opportunities a few times every year, these will be decided by a diverse panel of peers alongside the Ferment Producer and will have a minimum number of Supported Artists who are brand new to Bristol Ferment.
  2. We will have a panel of Artist Advisors sitting above the Ferment structure to advise but also to hold us accountable and impart views from our artistic community.

There are artists whose work we may never support. If this happens it’s likely that we don’t think we are the right fit for each other, and we’ll always do our best to be honest about that – it happens sometimes and Ferment is just one route of many. We’d encourage any artist or company that feels this way to explore some of the other Artist Development offers in Bristol; you can find details of those here.

Contact Us

You can invite us to your work by emailing us. We generally need as much notice as possible to make it along (4 to 6 weeks ideally). Unfortunately as a small team, we can’t get around to see everything, but we catch as much as we can. Our open calls will go out on Twitter (@BristolFerment), on our website and through the monthly Forum newsletter, so keep an eye on all our channels.

To join the Ferment Forum and mailing list, click here. To find out all about becoming a Supported Artist, click here.