It’s going to be a FIERCE year. As the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games draws nearer, today a huge cultural programme is launched including major events produced by Fierce.
Partnering with Birmingham 2022 Festival, two large-scale public realm projects are amongst many featured highlights in the 6-month cultural programme: Key to the City and The Healing Gardens of Bab.
In October, Fierce Festival will be the biggest yet - celebrating a quarter of a century of performance, parties, politics and pop in venues across Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton.
Aaron Wright, Artistic Director of Fierce said: “We are ecstatic to celebrate our 25th anniversary in true Fierce style with our biggest year of projects and events to date. The investment from Birmingham 2022 Festival is a major stamp of approval in the radical, risk-taking work that sits at the heart of everything Fierce does. We will continue to bring challenge and hold space for complex conversations about commonwealth, colonisation and Birmingham's role within this.
“With our truly international perspective we are looking forward to welcoming artists from all six habited continents to the West Midlands for projects spanning Birmingham, Solihull, Coventry and Wolverhampton. Whilst we wouldn't want everybody to like everything we do, we're confident there'll be something you have never seen before. Brace yourselves for a Fierce 2022!”
Chief Creative Officer, Birmingham 2022, Martin Green CBE, said: “On behalf of the Birmingham 2022 Festival team I'd like to say how excited we are about our collaboration with Fierce. The Key to the City and The Hanging Gardens of Bab encapsulate all the values we uphold.
“They will bring people together, championing youth and diversity; and they will instil pride in, and bring much happiness to, this region, connecting communities on a global stage. This is Birmingham's year to shine and we're finally on our marks, getting set, and ready to go.”
Birmingham 2022 Festival presents
Key to the City / by Paul Ramírez Jonas / 28 May - 7 August / Locations across Birmingham and Solihull
What if everyone, not just the chosen few, could be recognized with the Key to the City of Birmingham? What if anyone could decide who is deserving of the Freedom of the City? What if this Key could open dozens of previously unexplored spaces around the city? And what if all those spaces together created a portrait of Birmingham?
Key to the City is a project that turns all these “what ifs” into reality. During the summer of 2022 anyone will be able to award the Key to the City to whomever they want, for whatever reason they want. No background checks necessary, all previous sins will be overlooked, and all doors will be unlocked. For a limited time, a minimum of 12,000 key holders will be able to explore private, hidden, secret and intriguing places and spaces that are usually inaccessible to the public and that will bring a new perspective to the city.
Paul Ramirez’s Key to The City in New York (2010) was a citywide intervention in which twenty-five thousand keys to private or normally inaccessible spaces throughout New York City were bestowed on certain individuals in a special ceremony, revealing that culture can still be a freely shared experience, while also highlighting the increasing privatisation of urban space.
Fierce transforms a number of locations in Birmingham city centre with unique installations, art and events for everybody. Following a consultation with queer creatives in the city, Fierce put out a call to assemble an arty, enthusiastic, politically engaged and intersectional steering group of future LGBTQIA+ arts leaders based in the West Midlands. Fierce will devolve power to Hassan Hussain, Simone Mendez, Eric Scutaro, Beth Steventon-Crinks and Patrick Vernon to lead this exciting project, as they collaborate with artists from Canada to New Zealand.
Babylon’s hanging gardens were built as a luscious sanctuary for Queen Amytis in an unfamiliar city because she missed the mountains and greenery of her homeland. One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, they are the only wonder whose existence is disputed. Some suggest the gardens are a figment of the ancient imagination.
The Healing Gardens of Bab are a paradise that uplifts alternative expressions of gender, sexuality and family. The gardens are a space to reflect on the violent erasure enforced by the British Empire, and a space to celebrate the many sexual identities that are not translatable into English. Together we will create our own future folklore.
Artists include the Toronto based Jess Dobkin who will collaborate with the steering group to consider queerness in relation to performance, archives and histories of activism. More details of the full-to-bursting programme will be released in spring 2022. There will be numerous opportunities to get involved from costume workshops, performance opportunities, talks and discussions, crafting and more.
First highlights of The Healing Gardens of Bab: In Muva We Trust / by Club Até / presented by Insite Arts International
Chamberlain Square, Birmingham
Chamberlain Square is transformed by a colossal projected artwork inspired by Filipino folklore narratives. Audiences are invited to encounter a large-scale installation, immersing themselves in the mythical Skyworld - a place of possibility and potential - experiencing how we can live in harmony with our environment. In Muva We Trust provides an opportunity for hopeful reflection at a moment in time where, collectively, we feel vulnerable and overwhelmed by both our recent compulsory social disconnect and the deepening climate crisis.
In Muva We Trust is by Club Até, an art collective based on the unceded lands of Gadigal, Sydney, Australia, led by performance artists Justin Shoulder and Bhenji Ra and produced by Insite Arts.
Accompanying the projected artwork will be Club Muva, a community-led, inclusive and intergenerational extravaganza of vibrant pageantry. Drawing on the heritage of Birmingham's wide LGBTQIA+ communities, imagine an unexpected mix of local and international acts, dancers, DJs, MCs and more creating a truly global runway where everyone is welcome to participate. Club Muva reminds us that as we move, journey and arrive in this world, we remain connected simultaneously to our origin and our new community, with both experiences forging an integral part of our ever-evolving identity.
New Zealand/Aotearoa artists Rosanna Raymond and Jaimie Waititi present a SaVAge K'Lubroom in a secretive corner of Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. The installation reclaims the gentlemen’s clubs of the same name first established in London in the 19th century. SaVAge K'Lub poses the question: ‘what might it mean to be a savage today?’
Va Tamatea is the calm surface above the churning currents that unearth tāonga (treasured possessions) from Birmingham’s collection. SaVAge K'lub is interested in the rupture of the Vā (a Samoan term for 'space') that was brought about by the exchange of tāonga during 'first contact' between European explorers and Polynesian peoples.
Celebrating its 25th anniversary Fierce is excited to release details of the very first events confirmed as part of this year's festival programme, ahead of the full programme announcement in June.
The Making of Pinocchio / Cade & MacAskill / Co-Commissioned by Fierce, Kampnagel, Tramway, Vooruit, supported by Attenborough Centre for the Arts, BAC and LIFT. Produced by Artsadmin. Following previous appearances at Fierce including as Double Pussy Clit F*ck in 2017 and with hit show Moot Moot in 2020, Cade & MacAskill return to Birmingham with their new Fierce commissioned show The Making of Pinocchio, a new trans version of the famous tale.
Set in a film studio crafted from real wood, and fake wood, and real fake wood, you are invited to go behind the scenes of Cade & MacAskill’s creative process, and their relationship, and question what it takes to tell your truth. Artists and lovers Rosana Cade and Ivor MacAskill have been creating The Making of Pinocchio since 2018, alongside and in response to Ivor’s gender transition. In this theatrical, and cinematic spectacular, their tender and complex autobiographical experience meets the magical story of the little lying puppet who wants to be a ‘real boy’.
With a rich scenography designed by Tim Spooner, layered with sound by Yas Clarke, lights by Jo Palmer and cinematography from Kirstin McMahon, the show constantly shifts between fantasy and authenticity, the playful and the political, humour and intimacy, on stage and on screen. The Making of Pinocchio joyfully embraces the importance of imagination in queer worldmaking and the idea of transness as a state of possibility that can trouble fixed perspectives and inspire change.
Acting on the results of our recent audience survey, which asked audiences what they’d like to see at future editions of Fierce Festival, we’re thrilled to invite iconic Japanese artist Saeborg! Saeborg made a name for herself on the underground Tokyo club scene, at famed fetish nights such as Department H, with her unique inflatable latex rubber suits and sculptures. With support from the Daiwa Foundation and The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation and working in collaboration with Submerge Festival and the University of Sheffield we’re thrilled to present her performance piece Pig Pen.
Saeborg, the imperfect cyborg, is half human, half toy. Saeborg’s performances resemble nightmarish configurations of gigantic playmobils in bizarre fairytale settings. Inflatable latex is used to shape the huge figures of a truck-sized pig and its humanoid piglets. No matter how cartoonish and friendly they seem, the birth of the inflatable piglets is playfully twisted. Sleazy, shiny, squeaking, anthropomorphic, these pigs are crossbreeds between BDSM and animal-costumed PETA protesters. Is it a queer performance of operatic proportions or an allegory created to initiate kids into veganism? Are those cute piglets to be hugged and petted or are they bloated sexual fantasies? In Saeborg’s Pig Pen, the humans step aside while the pork-chops trot in the spotlight.
We will also present the first two of our Fierce Further commissions, funded by Jerwood Arts. Oozing Gloop presents ‘Tentacular Spectacular’ and Freddie Wulf presents ‘We Are All Made of Stars’. Further details will be announced when the full programme launches on June 30th and a third commission by Nima Séne will be developed in 2023/24.
Finally we’re delighted to announce a Flanders Focus of work made in the Flanders region of Belgium, generously supported by Flanders House, London.
Venue partners include Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Midlands Arts Centre, The Patrick Studio Birmingham Hippodrome, B:Music Symphony Hall, The Crescent Theatre, Warwick Arts Centre, Arena Theatre and many more.