The weird and wonderful world of Stoff, The Stockholm Fringe Festival, returns in September to overload our senses over a six-day period. In case you don’t know, the multidisciplinary arts festival embraces artistic freedom and creative work that might not be easy to label and therefore not suitable for mainstream spaces. We had a quick chat with Co-Founder and Co-director Adam Potrykus about how far The Stockholm Fringe has come and what we can expect from this year’s festivities.
You have now been going on for eight years. How would you say that the festival has evolved and is the reception, turnout and feedback you’re getting changing along the way?
The last eight years have been a voyage beyond the ordinary. What started off as a pet project has morphed into a full-scale international festival. We have been lucky with some amazing people coming on-board during the expansion of our team. But the road between 2010 and 2017 has been anything but straight. There are no cookbooks that reveal the secret recipe for the ultimate fringe festival. It’s a trial-and-error team sport.
Some years the festival has resembled a tasty lasagna with too much garnish. Too many layers of everything. Even the biggest art festival nerds struggled to take in the rather vast programme offering. Two years ago we cut the festival in half and started to source more ‘local produce’. Local artists started to embrace the festival, which augmented the already strong contingent of international talent. We adopted a satellite festival model with multiple stages across town, instead of the ‘one large festival site’ format. All this combined contributed to a 24-percent audience increase. In our world that’s amazing.
How do you want people to perceive Stockholm Fringe Festival? What do you think should be on the mind of culturally-inclined Stockholmers when they hear the name?
Ideally? Storytelling. A sense of discovery. Undiluted fun. A fat dose of unapologetic escapism. We encourage artistic bravery and ask artists to bring interesting narratives to the table. Our audiences hopefully tap into that ‘anything can happen’ vibe.
The Fringe is an opportunity to preview tomorrow’s stars. One of last year’s Stoff Fringe Award winners, 8Rojo (from Canada) have this summer been invited to headline a festival in Paris. The French audience is treated to work that originally premiered in Stockholm. But, the beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Hopefully people think all sorts of different things when they see Stoff written on a festival poster.
Let us know all that we need to know about this year’s instalment. Do you have any overriding themes or specific news?
2017 is a huge year for us. Nordic Fringe Network, a Stoff initiative, is taking off this month. We are carving out a touring pathway through the Nordics for local and global artists – The Nordic fringe month starts in Gothenburg then travels via Stockholm to Bergen.
A staggering 2,200 artists involved in 721 projects, created in 82 countries, answered our artist call back in March. How do you choose fairly between them and pick a good programme?
Unfortunately, we only have access to ten stages, not 100, so not everyone can fit in. It’s possibly the hardest programming year we’ve had to date. Stoff 2017 incorporates 43 Swedish premieres, including one by Institutet in collaboration with Siriusteatern, and Teaterhögskolan in Helsingfors with their take on Houellebecq [Michel Houellebecq, French author, filmmaker and poet]. We got loads of work in progress and new performing units forming at the festival like Running Man – jointly curated and produced by Josette Bushell-Mingo and Vic Bassey, this two-day workshop will feature personal accounts from a diverse group of black men and will be a non-linear narrative using sport as a metaphor to delve into what it means to be a black man in Sweden today. It promises to be healing, joyous and dangerous. A show presentation will conclude the workshop.
We are introducing a bunch of new Fringe stages such as Kummelholmen, Kamraternas (formerly known as Dramalabbet) and Zita Folkets Bio where we introduce our Cinewest (Australia) and Screendance-curated concept #fringebio. At Bonden Bar we will host our biggest ever collection of female and queer comedy talent. Pernilla Hammargren (Stand Up Yours) is curator for the comedy programme. Rättbuss is aboard as well plus loads of returning venues such as Teater Tre, Tribunalen and Stockholm University of the arts and Konstfack!
How important is a festival like the Fringe for Stockholm’s cultural calendar and for creative performance arts as a whole?
Any self respecting culture capital hosts a fringe festival. The Fringe nourishes the emerging arts. Stockholm has become the centre for the fringe movement across Scandinavia. By 2019 there will be seven fringe festivals in in Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. ‘Nordic Seasons’ with the best of Nordic Fringe Network are planned in collaboration with our large sister festivals out on the continent as well as in Australia, Canada, Cyprus, UK.
I think the sheer volume of applicants from Stockholm and Sweden proves that we are a much-needed platform. The avalanche of artists from other regions of Sweden and the rest of the globe just cements the fact that the fringe movement is a vital part of the cultural landscape in this city.
And in a perfect world, where will the festival go in the future? Or is the current size, in terms of venues, acts and days, just about ideal?
In a perfect world the majority of the established theatre stages and performance spaces in Stockholm would allocate a month a year to fringe artists. The goal for The Fringe is to become an umbrella for a series of smaller events that take place in a four-week period across the city, the region and the Nordics. But unlike smaller cities like Gothenburg and Bergen, in Stockholm there is less dialogue and co-operation between existing theatres and producers. I would love The Fringe to be a place that connects the different layers of culture. We are working on that one.
1. Spanish duo Patrícia Pardo Circus and Theatre gives us our opening show: Ass Combat. Where circus and drama talk about the control exercised over our body and our identity, especially, under the category of ‘woman’.
@ Teater Tre
2. PotatoPotato Performing Arts with Sincerely Solo explore singlehood in the world’s most independent country. A DJ performance about single living in sync and offbeat.
@ Teater Tribunalen
3. Can you mix opera and stand up? At The Fringe you can! Comedy geniuses Oslipat interpret one of Sweden’s national treasures, Rickard Söderberg! The guest of honour and some of our finest comedians will grace our stage in Oslipat Tolkar Rickard Söderberg. This will be a one of a kind-evening followed by our wrap party and awards night put on by legendary gay club Polari with a stellar line up of DJs & performers.
4. Award winning The Awake Projects, with the very glittery show I’m Purple Bitch, ask if we put different expectations on women and men? Does it affect us? Based on research on mental health and gender roles of the young.
5. Brazilian/USA performers Shamel Pitts and Mirelle Martins in Black Velvet – Architectures And Archetypes shed light on ideals, structures and archetypes in a dance performance about black identity, female power and body.
@ Stockholm Dramatiska Högskola
Words: Peter Steen-Christensten