Now in its second year, the Refract:18 festival kicks off this week with ten days of experiential performance, music and events, all aiming to challenge visitors to see things differently. Caught In The Act managed to wrangle an interview with Darren Adams, one of the men behind Refract, and we talked about pushing the boundaries, attracting new audiences and newts taking over the human race!
Let’s start with a couple of cliche question, who are you and what do you do?
I’m Darren Adams and I’m the manager of Waterside in Sale and producer of the Refract:18 festival.
What’s Refract:18 all about and what can people expect?
Refract is our annual festival of performance, music and events, the aim of which is to challenge everyone to see things a little differently. It’s maybe work that people haven’t seen at Waterside before or staged in unconventional ways.
This is the second year that Waterside Arts and Creative Industries Trafford have put on the Refract festival, what are the goals behind the festival?
It’s around showing our audience that we have a different programme of work, it was quite responsive to the fact that theatres are quite quiet during the summer months. We really wanted to challenge the audience, to try out new works, to develop the audiences we have at Waterside and have a real festival feel to the programme of work we present.
How important is attracting a new audience to Waterside?
We want to bring in people who haven’t used the venue before, show them the scale of work that they can see here at Waterside. There’s an opportunity to try things that are fun as well, there’s a lot of music at the festival, and that definitely shows the venue as a different space. We also animate lots of areas that are not just the main art spaces, using the outdoor plaza for some events and we have events happening in Sale town centre, so it really animates the whole of Sale over the ten days.
The art scene seems to be dominated by a host of festivals, how challenging has it been to make Refract stand out from this crowd?
It’s the unconventional nature of what we do. It’s not just standard performances, we are creating experiential opportunities for people: for example we have a local musician, Minute Taker, performing, but his staging is immersive and is a different environment to see music that people traditionally wouldn’t see. It’s stand out pieces like that, it’s a great programme of work, but it’s the experience that people will have, when people see that and think it is really special. There was a great response after Refract:17 of all of the work we presented and there was a real excitement about it, it was bold and innovative and people really responded to that.
What will YOU be watching at Refract:18, what are your highlights from this year’s festival going to be?
I’ll be watching them all obviously. No seriously, thinking about the stand out pieces, we got a fantastic piece by Knaïve Theatre called War With the Newts, which we’ve produced in association with The Royal Exchange, Square Chapel Arts Centre & Waterside, and that is showing prior to its residency at the Edinburgh Fringe. It’s an immersive theatre piece taking place on the hull of a ship where newts have become a substitute for human labour. There’s a fantastic soundscape that happens around the space. It’s a real intimate performance. Its unconventional theatre and its everything we want for Refract:18.
We started with a cliche question and guess what, we will end with a cliche question, what’s the future for Refract?
We are really ambitious. We have a great model, it gives us a focus in the summer for how we programme our work and what type of work we show. This year we have co-commissioned a number of pieces and worked with partners such as Dance Manchester and so we will continue to do that and create work specifically for the festival itself. I’m ambitious for the festival to be a key part of Sale and bringing people into the area to really experience the festival feel.
Refract:18 runs from Thursday 19 to Saturday 28 July 2018. Tickets are on sale now.