Nick Coquet: The Festival and Fringe used to be combined but now run separately.
Tanya: We continue to financially and morally support The Fringe, but it just got so big that it would be better for them to have their own stand-alone identity and profile.
Jess: And we share office space, so there are still very strong links between the two events.
Tanya: We now have a guest artistic director, Anish Kapoor this year, and we take our lead from them together with our team of programmers to hand-pick our programme.
Jess: People can still approach you though, to submit an idea?
Tanya: It would depend on what they wanted from it – if they were an established company trying to sell their work they’d be more likely to come to us – we get sent things on a daily basis. But if they’re new they’re more likely to come to The Fringe to get the exposure.
Jess: We facilitate. We’ve got a director of venues, if someone comes to us with an idea we can recommend where they should go. Our event is made up like that – people organise the events and register the details with us. And there have been a lot of performers who’ve started off at The Fringe, brought in a crowd and then the Festival have come in and said, let’s get you on board.
Tanya: We’re both really keen on encouraging local talent, we’re starting a new idea where we’re actively encouraging and developing artists from the region.
Jess: The Fringe is still very local-based, something like 80% of the line-up last year, but it is changing. People are coming in from other festivals, Edinburgh in particular, and as we build links with other festivals we’re getting more outside and international artists.
Tanya: We already have more of an international line-up but of course we have the budget to be able to bring them in.
Jess: That’s the other difference, because you pay the artists there’s a revenue there from ticket sales, whereas with the Fringe people pay to register. We help them promote, we have a box office and take a small percentage of the sales, but it just covers the costs. But our objectives are very similar – we want to create a Brighton that’s full of accessible cultural events, with music, dance and theatre that we hope will reach every taste. Essentially it’s about bringing people in to see things they might not ordinarily see, to take a risk for four or five pounds.
Tanya: I think that’s the exciting thing about festivals as a whole, once you’ve built a reputation the audience learns to trust that what you’re bringing in might look totally bizarre, but they’ll have been to something great the year before and they know to take the risk and go along for the ride.
Jess: Especially with the Fringe, we have absolutely no control over what comes in and a lot of it is very weird and wonderful.
Tanya: There has to be artistic integrity throughout our programme, as we’re answerable to sponsors and to public finding. We have to be balanced and artistically approved by our chief exec, the programmers and the rest of the artistic directors, so the process is really in-depth. There has to be a mix of the risk-taking and the more safe, but equally it needs to be unique to Brighton. We spend huge amounts of time getting that mix right. We also have to encourage the sponsors to jump on board, it’s very difficult to sell it to them when we’re commissioning new work that’s never been done before.
Jess: Whereas we’re completely open access, we welcome everybody doing something artistic during the month of May. We’re getting a lot bigger now, we’re the biggest open access festival in England, pushing out our influence beyond Brighton.
Tanya: And this is there the two festivals can link back together again – our guest artistic directors are coming in to project us to the whole world, and that’s where the Fringe is going to benefit and come with us on that journey.