New online arts festival, DISRUPT, launches 8-9 July 2021

Born out of the COVID-19 pandemic, DISRUPT will reimagine the role of the arts in our society.

DISRUPT is a new digital arts festival, taking place virtually on 8-9 July 2021, co-ordinated by Guildhall School of Music & Drama and Barbican in partnership with, Culture, Health & Wellbeing Alliance, Culture Mile, Lived Experience Network, Maya Productions, and Slung Low. The festival has been created in response to the global pandemic, and aims to explore the ways in which COVID-19 has intensified socio-economic inequalities, deprivation, and isolation. With a programme of discussions, panels and workshops across two days, DISRUPT will lift the lid on the ways the performing arts can support communities during this time and how a year of uncertainty and change has encouraged new and radical ways of working.

Tickets are available on a pay-what-you-can basis here.

Sean Gregory, Director of Innovation and Engagement, Barbican & Guildhall School of Music & Drama says:

‘Barbican, Guildhall School and the rest of the partners are really excited to be launching DISRUPT. The arts are better placed than ever to shine a light on the growing inequalities experienced by society, but are the creative and social imperatives of our cultural organisations fit for purpose in meeting these people and community-based needs? With long-standing, established ‘ways of doing things’ increasingly being challenged over the past year, it now feels the right time to convene a festival where we can all ‘listen and learn’ from each other. Above all, we genuinely hope DISRUPT can have a positive impact on the processes and structures through which organisations, artists and communities collaborate, thereby creating a more open, inclusive, and democratic partnership ecology for the future.’

The festival is the host platform that invites us to listen and decide collectively how to respond and change. DISRUPT aims to explore new or different ways of working in the performing arts, including practical steps on how communities, artists and organisations can collaborate more equally, while considering more democratic futures for the performing arts sector.

Over the two days, there will be discussions, performances, panels and workshops exploring themes such as motherhood and parenting during lockdown; the increase in domestic violence; the complexities of communicating with loved ones via Zoom; the impact on mental health; and what people would like to keep from the pandemic as we move into recovery, and much more.

The programme has been created entirely from open submissions and selected by a panel of 14 community members and artists. The festival brings together creatives, artists, communities, cultural and community organisations, researchers, charities, schools, and members of the general public, harnessing collective learnings from a difficult year and to reimagine the role of the arts in our societies. Please be aware that DISRUPT will address distressing themes such as suicide and domestic abuse.

The commissions for DISRUPT that will form the programme of work across the festival include:

  • Rebecca Biscuit x Heather Bandenburg: If the first year of a child’s life is so important, what effect does it have if this happens in a global pandemic? During lockdown, in the UK cases of post-natal depression have almost tripled as new parents found their expectations turned upside down. Mummy Vs is a performance that will examine the effect of COVID-19 on the childcare crisis and the pressures on new parents, bringing the domestic to life in the spectacular nature of a wrestling show.
  • The Margate Bookie x Co-Relate: Development of The Feedback Machine, an innovative online platform which provides feedback and support to writers at all levels during the pandemic. For DISRUPT, the creators for The Feedback Machine will be discussing the project, as well as talking about the complexities of creating digital communities during the pandemic.
  • Peer Productions x the National Association for Children of Alcoholics: 50 Days: Alone Together tells the story of ten teens and their first 50 days in lockdown. The drama has been designed to support young people’s mental health and a range of charity partners (including NACOA) whose work both informed and supported the project.
  • Laura Kenyon x Centre 151: During the pandemic domestic abuse related arrests have risen by 24% and put thousands of women in unsafe living situations in complete isolation. This project will work with women who have experienced domestic abuse to create a ‘handbook’ using movement and improvisations to empower them to tell their story in their own voices.
  • Rhubarb Theatre and Addy Farmer x Lincolnshire County Council and SHINE Network: Lincolnshire has a devastatingly high rate of male suicide, which has worsened during the pandemic. This project aims to bring awareness and open dialogue by working with Shine, a mental health organisation, to create a series of resources for adults, schools, and children to help encourage dialogue about depression and suicidal thoughts. DISRUPT will host an animation for schools created by Rhubarb Theatre, as well a selection of resources.
  • Maya Productions x Darnall Wellbeing x Ignite Imaginations x Roshni Sheffield Inspired by Maya’s new musical, ‘Benny and the Greycats’ which tells the story of an Anglo-Indian family moving from South India to Sheffield, this project will work with an over 50s South Asian and ethnically diverse group in Sheffield. The project will focus on providing participants with new skills and respite from the constraints of COVID-19 through memory sharing, music, art and theatre-making.
  • Breakfast Club x The Magpie Project: The restrictions which are in place because of the pandemic have had a devastating impact on the lives of many, but in particular on the community of mothers which the Magpie Project supports, who are suffering from temporary or insecure housing. Over five weeks, Breakfast Club will work with Magpie mothers to produce a series of sonic postcards in response to material developed by the mothers in workshops, which will include instrumental improvisations, spoken word, field recordings and moments captured during workshop conversations.

Tickets are available on a pay-what-you-can basis and are available to purchase from Full details of the festival line up will be announced in due course.

Guildhall School of Music & Drama is provided by the City of London Corporation.