If you were to give a group of young people the creative freedom to produce a festival in a rather spectacular underground venue, along with a substantial amount of money, whilst being nearly completely unsupervised, wouldn’t a part of you be thinking “are the funders mad?” IdeasTap, the creative network for young people looking for funding, networking and a place for ideas to be reality, has given six young people the chance to curate a late night festival in the Old Vic Tunnels, and by doing so, a whole load of trust. Welcome to Coming Up LATER, a raunchy three nights of fun and pleasure for those of us still young at heart (but strictly 18-years-old and over).
Peter De Haan, whose family founded the travel and insurance provider Saga and who, in 2005, was estimated to be worth in excess of £1bn, has since gone on to establish the Peter De Haan Charitable Trust, spawning IdeasTap. Since the establishment of the trust De Haan has given nearly £4m to the arts, a staggering figure, and one that has seen IdeasTap grow to a membership of 41,000. Each month the IdeasTap team launch creative briefs that young people can submit their ideas or work to. The applications are sifted through and the best ones are brought to the IdeasTap panel, a combination of industry professionals, IdeasTap members and some of the core team to find the best and most forward-thinking proposals. As Joe Duggan of IdeasTap told me, it’s not just imaginative ideas they’re looking for: “You can have a brilliant idea, but it may not work in its setup. We’re looking for ideas that have a future.”
In February, IdeasTap hosted the first Coming Up Festival, featuring six young creatives who used the opportunity to bring audiences an eclectic mix of wrestling, pop-up cinema and a restaurant of theatre, to name but a few. Coming Up LATER however has a distinct feel about it: it’s sexier, darker and a bit more cheeky, hence the later playing time of 9pm onwards, and the strict age policy.
Those lucky enough to get their hands on the free tickets to Coming Up LATER will be entertained by screenings of vintage porn and cabaret hosted as Artwank by Ophelia Bitz, a rare opportunity to see the German playwright Heiner Muller’s Quartet performed by Custom/Practice which is full of sexual allusions. Other offerings come with ‘Ave It presented by Natalie Ibu, and We Were Here a portrait of a South London nightclub (think seedy, and drug-fueled), and many a party event with hula hoops, alcohol and a chance to live a little.
Coming Up LATER is a maturer, richer and down right smuttier version of its parent festival, but things behind the scenes are still very much the same. The six creatives have been given creative control over their work, and as Duggan suggests it’s very “hands off for IdeasTap. We’re letting them get on with it.” It’s scary, but thankfully this year, IdeasTap has employed a project manager to oversee the work and ensure that what goes into the Old Vic Tunnels will best be able to flourish. Practicalities have to be thought about, and of course last year’s festival very nearly didn’t happen due to last minute problems with the Old Vic Tunnels meaning a quick transfer was needed to some nearby tunnels. This year is a lot smoother, “so far, so good” I’m told, although the prospect that the festival is happening this coming weekend sees a flicker of fright on Duggan’s face.
There is a certain element of risk involved, but as Amanda White, director of Strategic Partnerships at IdeasTap, tells me it’s this sense of risk that Peter De Haan thrives on: “[Peter] loves this idea that he can give a group of young people some money and watch them get creative”. It’s this sense of creativity, the real unknown that lies with the risk. As a business model, the arts doesn’t always add up, especially with young talent. “[Peter] isn’t doing this for the money, he doesn’t make anything from IdeasTap, although he would like to see it sustainable.” This sustainability comes from the various partnerships that White develops in her role, allowing large ideas to be born which can deliver large opportunities, such as the new Sky Arts Ignition Fund, giving several lucky young people £30k for their creative project. For IdeasTap it also allows for them to “build in a small fee for ourselves” White tells me, bringing back the idea of sustainability, something that IdeasTap is an interesting model to look at, especially as its sole funder is De Haan, compared to most of the large organisations relying upon the publicly funded Arts Council England.
For the six creative young people, the opportunity to work with IdeasTap and its partner organisations, Old Vic New Voices and the Old Vic Tunnels, is a valuable launchpad for their work. Past participants have gone on to secure better jobs in their specialty, and nearly all of them have continued the collaborations they found within the festival. Both Duggan and White know the importance of the Coming Up festivals, “Ideally we want this to showcase their work, and who knows who will be there in the audience. We hope that the right industry people will be there, and they will like the work and approach the curators.” Later White tells me about some of IdeasTap’s future plans and De Haan’s vision for the networking site. I won’t let the cat out of the bag but one thing is clear, White and her team know the potential they have in creating a networking of young creatives: “We have the talent, we just need the right people to find them now”.
The momentum of IdeasTap has asserted itself within all young creatives, and not just young theatre makers. Growing areas they are keen to explore include photography and dance, two underrepresented artforms. With this momentum comes a certain energy and excitement. I left IdeasTap feeling as if I’d be given the tools to think big, imagine the impossible, and then cheekily been told that actually it is possible – just with the right brief. The Coming Up LATER festival is proof of this.
Coming Up LATER is on at the Old Vic Tunnels from 7-9th July starting at 9pm. Tickets are free, and can be found online here.