Cath Mattos, Producer of Wandsworth Fringe: ‘I’m a big fan of Fringe festivals so I would never call one rubbishy.’

Wandsworth Arts Fringe 2017

Wandsworth Arts Fringe 2017

Each year, there are approximately 11,000 fringe events being seen by more than four million people in more than 2,000 fringe venues, housing more than 40,000 performers. There are now more than 60 festivals across the country.

Anyway, Wandsworth is currently buzzing with artistry, imagination, and ingenuity.  From theatre to dance, comedy to music, visual art to literary events, outdoor extravaganzas, dance circus and free shows, there is something for everyone every day and long into the spring evenings throughout the two week period.

I had a chat with the brilliant producer of Wandsworth Fringe: Cath Mattos.
Here is what we talked about.

Mischief Makers

Mischief Makers

Hi Cath! You’ve been doing this for nearly four years, what are the hardest lessons you’ve learned about running a Fringe Festival?
The hardest lesson is to ensure the growth of the festival runs in sync with the growth of the audience. Also, practicalities like ensuring you have the correct box office system to suit the needs of the festival and that the venues and artists are talking to each other and the arrangements are in place for the shows to happen as presented in the programme.

So, the Wandsworth Fringe programme is good – which is a relief, because fringe festivals can sometimes be a bit rubbish can’t they.
I’m a big fan of Fringe festivals so I would never call one rubbishy. There will always be some spectacular shows in a Fringe festival and the there will always be one or two that are not to your taste but the challenge for the artist is to present the show as well and as accurately as possible to get the right audience to their show and the festival should help that navigation too. You need a Fringe audience to be willing and eager to take a risk and find those gems of a show and not be put off entirely if they see one that doesn’t suit them. Audience development takes some time and careful messaging to help the audiences find their way around a festival and a programme is essential.

What is the cultural ecology of Wandsworth like?
There is so much developing talent in Wandsworth, and clever strategic investment in the companies and organisations that support this ecology from the ground up. There is always more work to be done to support culture but I am impressed with the response in Wandsworth Borough to support and feed culture at all levels. We have some brilliant theatres such as Battersea Arts Centre, Theatre 503, Theatre N16, Tara Arts Theatre, Putney Arts Theatre and we are very proud of them and WAF is growing from strength to strength to bring the reputation of Fringe Arts to this level too.

Hoops and Loops

Hoops and Loops

You are four days in to the festival – have there been any unexpected delights or fiascos?
Hoops and Loops was a real delight and circus sensation, it was great fun and the highest calibre of circus companies and performers at Tooting Tram and Social. The shows at Fragility Takeover venues never fail to delight and surprise me. They have some avant-garde, delightful and downright incredible shows to suit all tastes. No major fiascos so far (touch wood) just a little fine tuning and extra marketing here and there to boost some show sales and then minor programme adjustments when things arise out of the artists or venues control.

Inclusivity and identity play a large part in the line-up, as do environmental concerns. What are the best examples of that in the programme?
We have a vibrant outdoor show called Metamorphosis this Saturday 13 May at Roehampton Library Green which is a colourful outdoor dance performance featuring stunning larger than life puppets, celebrating the natural environment, pollination and our ability to change. A giant caterpillar is on a search for food, his purpose is to eat and grow.Follow the caterpillar to a magical garden of plants, fruits and vegetables on Roehampton Library Green, tended to by a swarm of worker bees. Dominoes is written and performed by Phoebe McIntosh, this bold solo show presents the mixed-race experience from a new perspective and asks if the difficulties of the past will always pose a threat to the future and if discovering your identity means picking a side. Dominoes tells the story of Layla, a mixed-race history teacher preparing to marry Andy, when she discovers that they have a shared history; one she finds unsettling and a threat to her friendships, her sense of identity and the wedding itself. As Layla pieces together her
family tree, reminisces about the past and worries about the future, she tries to hold onto her friendship and her relationship, find out who she is and where she fits in.

Hercules Fisherman - Sumi Live Paintings and Workshops

Hercules Fisherman – Sumi Live Paintings and Workshops

How is Wandsworth Fringe different to many other Fringe Festivals?
We are open access but we also do a fair amount of work to make the festival as
accessible as possible to artists by keeping registration fees low, having a WAF specific grants fund that artists can apply for with a registration deadline of December and also doing some outreach work to bring in a diverse selection of artists. We also encourage artists to do work in hard to reach areas and encourage pre engagement workshops and we make sure we have plenty of free events as well as paid shows so everyone has a chance to be involved in some way.

Do you feel the impulse to warn young artists about how crap the industry is?
I think the industry has some real merits especially Fringe festivals who are giving more and more artistic support and thinking of some really interesting initiatives for artistic development. There are some great times to be had so I would always encourage artists to keep going but I do get frustrated when people think artists shouldn’t be getting paid a decent rate for their work. I would also like to see more programmers from curated festivals looking to Fringe festivals to pick up talent so artists can really see the potential and opportunities to keep practising.

Here’s the next question on the list: ‘What has May done to the country?’
I’m not even going there!

Do you find that a lot of the work coming through on the Fringe is to do with the personal and the autobiographical?
Yes, I do, it is definitely a starting point for inspiration but I do like to see artists stepping out of themselves and looking at the world around them and at history to bring an added dimension to their work.

With 140 shows in 65 venues across the borough – how long ago did you even start programming that?
Our WAF artist and venue networking events and the main artist call out starts in September then registration opens in December. We officially start planning the next festival in our evaluation in June though and we have already started talking ideas as they arise in response to WAF 2017.

What other theatre festivals do you like?
I love Brighton Fringe and Brighton Festival which are still running after WAF finishes on 21 May so I go to see shows then, and I always go to EdFringe and Amsterdam Fringe Festival too. I think Vault Festival has a brilliant programme as does Mimetic Festival too.

Is there anything you would like to add?
Come and see some shows, there are so many great ones still to come on until 21 May at wandsworthfringe.com