[Festivals Stories] Istanbul Fringe Festival

24 Dec 2021

Istanbul Fringe Festival
18 > 26 September 2021
Istanbul, Turkey

Theatre, dance, performance

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Istanbul Fringe Festival was organising its second edition for September 2020 after a very successful first edition when the pandemic hit. After following global debates about the performing arts and digital space, and engaging in collective discussions with festivals from the local and global scene, the festival team had to decide how would they like to answer the question "What did Istanbul Fringe do during the pandemic?" Postponing the festival to the next year would mean "Nothing!"

Instead, they decided that they would accept the challenge and try to find new ways of being together in a creative way that would reverse the limiting effect of COVID-19. They consulted the artist community who showed great interest and expressed their need to showcase their work as a resistance against isolation and precariousness. They moved the festival to online platforms. 15 shows were streamed with open access on the festival's YouTube channel. As an attempt to create more interaction, the festival had an intense programme of side events. Workshops, online panels and artists speed dated to bring together international participants. In 'live brochure' on Instagram live, artists presented their works and shared feelings. They also organised artist talks animated by performing artists and academics from Turkey. It also served as a method of intercultural mediation for audiences.

The biggest achievements of 2020 edition were the following. First, high viewing rates showed that the festival manages to access audiences from many different cities in Turkey and around the world, which transforms the disadvantage of pandemic to an advantage. Secondly, despite the uncertain conditions in Turkey's arts and culture field, the festival managed to obtain paid sponsorships and thus was able to pay artist fees. Thirdly, the festival managed to deepen its relations with its artist community.

The artistic directors worked closely with Nadir Sönmez in the readaptation of his autobiographic and distinctive work to Whatsapp as a new medium, which received very positive feedbacks and became an ongoing performance. Lastly, they created Fringe Support Tickets as a support for artists and an act of engagement for audiences.

In the light of this experience, they designed 2021 edition as hybrid, showcasing physical works, online works created for the digital medium and video streamings. As they have many shows that they want to bring to Istanbul and the Covid situation is still uncertain here, they came up with the idea of Istanbul Fringe Festival - Extended, where they will host international works from October to May 2022 once a month. They leave this period empowered. This year's festival received Ministry of Tourism and Culture funding and the support of Istanbul Municipality as city sponsor. They also created a pop-up project with a Dutch company, funded by Dutch Consulate General, in unexpected places of Istanbul to include all audiences.

More information: https://www.fringeistanbul.com

(General Editor: Simon Mundy)