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.

Emma Bettridge

Emma Bettridge © Jon Craig

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

Ferment flies the flag for the South West with record number of artists at Edinburgh Fringe

This August, Ferment are taking the largest number of productions to Edinburgh in its seven year history, supporting eight shows across the festival. Offering tailored advice, and working closely with artists through the development process, Ferment is able to help showcase work at the Edinburgh Fringe – one of the many ways the department are able to advocate the very best of the South West and continue to develop these vital local voices.

Bristol Old Vic Ferment

The Ferment supported projects at this years’ Edinburgh Fringe Festival are:
The Castle Builder, Vic Llewellyn & Kid Carpet
Dame Nature: The Magnificent Bearded Lady, Tim Bell and Havoc Theatre
The Hours Before We Wake, Tremolo Theatre
Cuncrete, Rachael Clerke & The Great White Males
Shaedates: Or How I Learned To Love Myself, Shaelee Rooke
Spill: A verbatim show about sex, Propolis Theatre
Eurohouse, Nasi Voutsas & Bertrand Lesca, co-produced by FellSwoop Theatre
We are Brontë, Publick Transport

Ferment is the artist development department of Bristol Old Vic. A year round quest to find, support and nurture local talent, Ferment provides South West artists with an opportunity to explore their theatrical ideas in an ongoing dialogue with audiences. Working with exciting devisers, directors, writers, dancers, musicians, poets, puppeteers and live artists, Ferment invites artists whose work spans genre and form to experiment, play and make the theatre of tomorrow.

Artist Tim Bell, who is presenting Dame Nature at the festival, said: “Ferment supports artists in just the right way; the freedom to think, the space to try things out, and the platform from which to talk about your work to a larger audience. The approach to every artist is different. They’ve asked me difficult questions and then given me the support to answer them. I think that my show is braver, bolder and ultimately better because of it.”

Cuncrete creator Rachael Clerke said: “Ferment have supported Cuncrete from its inception; from a vague idea over a coffee, through rehearsals, work in progress showings, and final production. Working alongside a brilliant team within a renowned venue like Bristol Old Vic makes me feel supported as an artist in Bristol, and further afield. I’m not sure this show would have happened without Emma and Helen’s belief in my desire to make this bizarro thing!”

Emma Bettridge, Ferment Producer added: “Ferment is awfully proud of the rich mix of work found across the South West region, and of the individual voices which inspire us. Our aim is to constantly try to assist theatre-makers, to give them the best possible opportunity to take their work to the next level, presenting a show at the Edinburgh Festival is one step in this direction.”

Other events this year

Ferment artists to present work on Bristol Old Vic Theatre stage for the first time this week.
Ferment takes over the Theatre between 26 – 30 July. Presenting work-in-progress from faces both familiar and unknown, the much lauded festival of new projects will provide local artists the opportunity to present this early-stage work on the Theatre stage for the first time. This exciting moment allows both Ferment and the artists involved a chance to explore how to make work for the Theatre stage, and what that could mean for these new show ideas at an early stage of development.

From Made in Bristol graduates (Stephanie Kempson’s Sharp Teeth Theatre) to Bristol favourites (Kid Carpet, Sam Halmarack) to established theatre companies (Theatre Ad Infinitum – co-artistic director George Mann is Bristol Old Vic’s Associate Director*), July Ferment sees artists to open up their creative process and share ideas with an audience.

Other artists sharing work this week include: Jonny Fluffypunk, FellSwoop Theatre, Postcard Productions, Laȉla Diallo and Jules Maxwell.

The full schedule can be found here:

Ferment Elsewhere
This Autumn, the Ferment developed The Terrible Things I’ve Done will play at the Wardrobe Theatre, Bristol. For the past year, Invisible Ink have been collecting the true stories of the terrible things we do in preparation for this public confessional. Revel in the funny, awkward and poignant world of people’s deepest darkest secrets.