Emma Bettridge, Bristol Old Vic Ferment: “I’ve never been bad cop…”
Producer Emma has got her hands full. The reason is that many of the companies she has nurtured and commissioned are about to fly the flag at Edinburgh Festival. Emma Bettridge is the curator and producer of Ferment, the artistic development department of Bristol Old Vic.
As the artist development and work are both completely excellent, and as Ferment has quite a lot going on in it, I thought it’d be good to chat to Emma about it all. So I got her on the phone last week.
She starts by telling me what an average day is like, “Quite varied; day to day, I clear emails on my commute, meet with emerging artists and view new work. This week is particularly busy as it is Ferment Festival – a curated scheme and work in progress. What’s really exciting is that we’re currently undergoing a huge front of house redevelopment so there’s a nice space to meet and talk with audiences after the work has been presented. It’s been really positive utilising original spaces to explore new ideas; there are companies rehearsing somewhere in the city. It’s a nice vibe!”
Brilliant. So, to the casual reader what does Ferment do? “We offer tailored advice, and work closely with artists through the rehearsal process – one of the ways the department are able to advocate the very best of the South West. Bristol Old Vic have a track record of backing exciting things, just look at The Castle Builder which was developed with support from MAYK, Bristol Old Vic Ferment and Tobacco Factory Prototype and Sally Cookson’s thrilling Jayne Eyre.” She’s got a point. Furthermore, glancing at the line-up of Ferment and the dynamic work on show at Edinburgh including, Shaelee Rooke, Rachael Clerke, Propolis Theatre, Kid Carpet and Tim Bell to name a few highlights.
Beyond dealing with the fact that this year Ferment are taking the largest number of productions to Edinburgh in its seven year history, supporting eight shows across the festival, Bettridge is negotiating a path through the relentless demands placed on the modern producer. “When it gets too much or something doesn’t go to plan I always say nobody died and it’s only theatre!” So, what about balancing being the bad cop and being everyone’s friend, well… “It’s a broad title! In a way I have a more back and forth relationship – let’s be clear – there are ways of saying no. Working in artist development requires a free flowing and organic approach. I guess we meet in the middle and forge an ongoing relationship. I’ve never been bad cop…”
We chat about how she entered the industry. She says that, looking back “Ten years on I realise that doing my degree was actually really valuable. One of my first jobs was working at The Pleasance in Edinburgh, I saw a lot of shows and contributed to an organisation that does a lot of backing of and developing artists.”
Many of Bettridge’s mentors during the early stages of her career highlight the importance of sending the elevator back down. I ask her who inspired her. “Definitely Sarah Holmes (New Wolsey), Kate Sparshatt (Gecko) and of course Emma Stenning (Bristol Old Vic). I’ve been very inspired by those women working in this industry.”
At this point, I ask her what makes it all worth while and how she measures success. “One has to trust that we are working hard to refresh the pool in order to achieve maximum excitement.”
For more details on Bristol’s Edinburgh shows click HERE