Call for Artists: Artists Behind Bars

A Black woman wearing a pink vest top sits behind a table holding a paper fan in her right hand. On the table in front of her are pre-mixed drinks, bottles of spirits, cut fruit and paper menus. Behind her are several plants.
Mojere Ajay’s ‘Have you tried?’ bar at Artists Behind Bars 2021. Photo by Emma Jones.

An event by Kitty Finer, Presented by Fierce and Eastside Projects

IT’S BACK – By popular demand! (Tickets on sale in January!)  

On Friday 1st March 2024, we are bringing Birmingham favourite Artists Behind Bars event as part of Digbeth First Friday with partners Eastside Projects. We are now looking for local artists to run bars. 

Artists Behind Bars is an event concocted by Kitty Finer that brings together artists to build, install, host, and run their own bars. For one night shift only, the bar is the work of art, the artist is the bartender, and the spectator is the punter. 

Artists Behind Bars 2021

The Brief:  

With the way pop ups were popping up all over the shop, Kitty’s many and various makeshift shops, bars and galleries appeared under the influence of interim interventions, the often illicit social spaces of raves, fiestas, carnivals, and beach bars. 

Artists are invited to make a bar which can be as simple or extravagant as they wish as long as all artists take into account that this is not a money-making event. It is not guaranteed that the bars will make a profit (although many have over our previous editions), Fierce offers seed money (£200) to buy stock and cover basic costs, but bars should be built with a resourceful and (financially) inventive approach (cutting cloth according to your means) using whatever you have to hand.  

A person with short curly brown hair and tattoos, wearing a vest top, sits on a chair smiling and looking up at a person with their back to camera. The  standing person wears a white lab coat and haas long dark hair. In the background three people sit on chairs facing away from camera, they are looking up at a person in a white lab coat, who is gesturing animatedly with their hands. There are several plants in the foreground and background of the image.
Quick Duck Theatre’s ‘SubLime’ bar at Artists Behind Bars 2021. Photo by Emma Jones.

The project is conceived so that participating artists only need to prepare on the day of the event, gathering items to build their bar from what is available to them, taking a sustainable approach that doesn’t see them buying lots of materials. The event is an exhibition of sorts, with the bars a sort of group show of sculptures. 

Fierce will provide each artist with £200 to negate the risk on any bar stock purchased in advance. Participation should also cover a small day’s wage too as you keep all bar takings! Last time all the bars sold out of drinks and the most efficient bars were able to make over £750 profit! Bars should reflect the DIY nature of the event and the small honorarium offered. 

This event curates itself whilst it goes along, like pitching up tents in a camp site – we will all pitch up and if certain bars don’t work alongside each other then we can work together to shuffle around – All designated bar areas will have a power supply so each bar can light itself up as all main lights in the space will be turned off so that the bars provide the illuminations. We also advise that being a bartender can be a lonely business so do think about getting someone to run your bar with you. 

Artists can choose whatever drink they wish to serve, but we ask to limit number of drinks – pick one or two and do them well. All bars and drinks will vary, but all bars should offer a non alcoholic option – and can choose not to serve alcohol at all if they wish.

A man wearing a leopard print cap and a dark long sleeved t shirt stands behind a table. He holds a microphone and a phone in his left hand, and presses buttons on an audio mixer with his right hand. Also on the table are festoon lights, a macbook and an electric extension cable. There is an abstract art painting in the background.
Artists Behind Bars 2021. Photo by Emma Jones.

Furthermore, each bar will have a 30-minute slot to control the jukebox in keeping with the vibe, ethos or theme of their bar (simply provide a playlist, DJ or even perform if you like). 

We will have a morning and afternoon to set up our bars in the space – we will also take down our bars at the end of the night and you can choose when you do this- it is fine to pack up your bar during the event. We will provide a PA system and ice for bars who need it. 

Three people wearing choir robes with yellow scarves stand in a line, each raising a lemon up in the air with their right hand. There are tealight candles on the table in front of them. Behind them is a black wall.
Round Lemon’s ‘The 258th Gathering of The Four Saints Of The Yellow’ bar at Artists Behind Bars 2021. Photo by Emma Jones.

Examples of past bars include Liz Ord’s Winners Only Bar where everyone was an opulent deluxury winner with more trophies, awards, sashes and crowns than you can shake your jewel-adorned sceptre at! Louisa Robbin’s Hard As Nails Bar (nail bar serving watermelon cocktails), Round Lemon invited you to worship the Lemon God with the mission to share the prophecy of the Lemon, with a host of lemon based bevvies, Turner Prize winning Tai Shani served shots of sambuca, sans toga from a Greek column and Marcia Farquhar hosted a champagne speakeasy where punters could sit and hear a story or two. 

Fierce is looking for artists who are interested in the spontaneous structures of hospitality and the (part-time) role of bartending. We are particularly interested in hearing from artists who have a performance element to their practice, whether this be from a live art, theatre, dance, visual art, or other background.  

Two people wearing aprons and head covers lean forward over a food service area. The person nearest camera is assembling food in a foil wrap.
Albert Smith’s ‘A Taste of South Africa’ bar at Artists Behind Bars 2021. Photo by Emma Jones.

We do not offer travel or accommodation costs as this opportunity is designed for artists based in the region.  

We encourage you to think about access in relation to your bar, and we have a small additional budget available for artists to make their bar more accessible if needed.  

How to Apply 

Please fill in this form by 9.30am on Monday 29th January 2024. 

This is an opportunity for artists in the West Midlands. Artists must be 18 years or over. Artists must be available for the event on Friday 1st March with a get-in during the day, set up ready to open at 8pm. The event will take place at Eastside Projects, 86 Heath Mill Lane, Birmingham, B9 4AR 

Proposals should include 150 words, or a 3-minute video or voice note (which can be uploaded to the form) on your initial ideas for the bar, as well as a link to your artist website or a CV or some examples of your work. These don’t need to be totally fixed and are welcome to change (last minute bars are often the best bars) but we need to check that we won’t have six sports themed bars all serving warm lager and crisps.  

We have tried to make this a very simple application process – please don’t spend ages on it.

Fee: £200 to cover all materials and taxes, artists keep all the money they make on their bars. This £200 is inclusive of any travel or accommodation as this is an opportunity for artists in the West Midlands.  

Deadline: Monday 29th January 2024, 9.30am (we won’t penalise applications a few minutes late but please respect your peers by not sending applications hours or days late).