Fierce Lab is our programme which specifically focuses on access to the festival for artists who identify as being from the African diaspora, South, East, and South East Asian diaspora, Middle East and North African diaspora; artists who are ethnically diverse, and who experience racism.
Our inaugural Fierce Lab took place in 2019, funded by Diverse Actions, enabling us to invite a group of artists to attend the festival as part of the Fierce Lab cohort. Fierce Lab artists receive free tickets to all festival events they wish to attend, free access to workshops, as well as having travel, accommodation and per diems covered.
In consultation with the Diverse Actions team, and in response to many conversations with artists around the labour of application processes and direct competition with peers, we piloted a different approach. We asked eight artists who identify as from the African diaspora, South, East, and South East Asian diaspora, Middle East and North African diaspora; artists who are ethnically diverse, and who experience racism, with whom we have deep working relationships, and who have a strong understanding of Fierce, to personally nominate artists for the Lab programme. We asked them to consider the following things when they decided their nominations:
Artists who have not previously heavily engaged with Fierce (i.e. never been through our commissioning programmes, artist development programmes, or attended more than 3 editions of the festival)
– Artists who are at a stage in their career which means this opportunity has the potential to deeply impact their practice and growth as an artist.
– Working in one of the following art forms; live art, experimental theatre, experimental dance, contemporary performance, performance art, experimental cabaret, art activism, social engaged practice, club performance, performance installation.
– The Lab 2019 cohort was hosted throughout the week by Suriya Aisha. Suriya was part of our artist development programme Fierce FWD in 2017/18 during that edition of the festival, which hosted closed meet-ups for various identifying artists.
Lab artists are not required to deliver any outputs, and are asked to engage with the festival on their own terms, designing their own schedule of activity. Lab artists are not publicly announced, although of course are welcome to share they are part of the cohort publicly if they wish.
We ran the Lab programme again in 2022 with funding from the WA Cadbury Trust and Legacy money from the Healing Gardens of Bab which had been ring-fenced for QTIPOC artists. In 2022 the cohort was hosted by Fierce Assistant Curator MJ Ajayi. Building on feedback from the 2019 edition of the programme we made some adaptations to how it was run and participants were overwhelmingly positive about their experiences.
“I loved the relaxed nature of the invitation and that there was no pressure to attend everything and to jump in and out of the programme as much as I wanted to. I loved being able to do what felt manageable. I ended up going to everything I’d signed up to.” – 2019 Lab Participant
“thank you for the invitation to be part of FIERCE lab it has been such an incredible experience. i have learnt and felt so much. When in doubt as to where to go it has been such a comforting and motivating opportunity to keep going / creating / performing / or supporting performance artists.
i did not know i needed this hand — and it has been so transformative for me….defo one of the best experiences.” – 2022 Lab Participant
We continue to seek appropriate funding to run the programme at future festivals.