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Out There Arts – A History

in News
17 December 2020 at 5:13 pm

Since our rebrand to Out There Arts, we’re feeling a little reflective of the past as we amp up our excitement for the future. Since our beginning, we’ve grown into an important landmark and reflection of the Great Yarmouth community that we serve and that journey has been full of wonder and accomplishment.


In this blog we will be sharing with you some important highlights of our history. For now it will be incomplete, our memory slumbers from time to time but over the coming months we will be tracking down old employees, community members and partners to help detail our history. For now here’s a quick taste of where we started and what we’ve become.

In 1996, SeaChange Arts was established. There are conflicting thoughts and how the organisation came about and we can’t go into much detail right now, but rest assured, the tale is as epic as greek mythology – we promise.


From 1996 to 2007, SeaChange produced, collaborated and initiated a variety of cultural and community events and projects. Notable marks include the Out of the Blue project in 1997; the Ring Cycle Multi Media Spectacular in 1999; and a John Cooper Clarke residency in 2000. An experience that John Cooper Clarke still remembers to this day (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/mar/16/john-cooper-clarke-life-on-a-plate-eating-snacking-interview). 


We then arrive at 2008, the first ever Out There International Festival of Circus and Street Arts. It was met with disastrous weather at the end of October. These poor French guys, Les Alamas Givres, paved the way for so many others and performed outside St Georges Theatre when it was still boarded up, in the snow!  The first big community project creation C-Attack with the Dende Collective also featured, which was a surreal maritime odyssey. We learnt so much from this first one! Stirling work from all the artists with many we still maintain a working relationship to this day.


2009 Out There was the first time to feature in September and in St George’s Park and it worked! Our Director, Joe Mackintosh’s stand out show of that edition was Les 3 Points du Suspension with Journey to the Edge of the End of the World – the BEST street arts show EVER made (he still thinks that). Those who saw that show were very, very lucky. This is what we would then be all about and set ourselves apart from the UK scene. It was also the start of 7 years of the ZEPA partnership with French festivals that helped us build the festival and our unique European approach.


In 2010 we returned with another great edition. The big standouts were Bivouac (Generik Vapeur) as our first really big ‘out of this mind’ show. – this led to our cooperation project  with ZEPA influencing our programme for years to come. Magmanus was another standout with their brilliant hilarious teeterboard striptease show. Insect Circus Museum performed that year also which started a very cherished friendship. After this festival a lot of people started thinking ‘damn these guys in Yarmouth are really serious!’


In 2011, of course another fantastic festival edition, our highlight is No Fit State, Barricade – a ZEPA co commission which miraculously went ahead in a tiny little rain free hole in the cloud! 


2012 – the year we acquired The Drill House which has gone on to develop as a National Centre for Outdoor Arts and Circus. 2012 was also the founding year of our Drillaz Circus School which runs to this day.

Switzerland’s Jessica Arpin at Out There ’17

The festival was a massive 6 day edition of good weather all the way through. Standouts were of course Generik Vapeur’s Waterlitz – huge, wild, almost unfathomably fantastic. Would be good to see the programme. First year we put a show in the Hippodrome Circus – Cie BAM, a quite a surreal show that was a departure for many audiences.


2013, a big Out There Festival edition with a gargantuan number of EU projects and partnerships. A few highlights include 3 Points du Suspension – Looking for paradise Year 1 (a mind-breaking project), and a big international youth circus creation in the Hippodrome; The Big Bang Factory where artists from the Amiens’ world famous Cirque Jules Verne Circus School join some of the UK’s brightest new performers.


In 2015 we hosted two big shows – Cie Transe Express’ Les Tambours de la Muerte illuminated the seafront with fire, capital D Death and drum banging skeletons. Fairy tales and mechanical contraptions also take over the night in C’era Una Volta (Once Upon A Time), from Italian company Ondadurto Teatro.


2016 was the beginnings of the Coasters Touring Network, a three year project that brought world-class circus and street arts work to coastal towns across England. We lead a consortium of 11 organisations with the shared ambition of building relationships with audiences in areas of lower engagement and helping transform perceptions of coastal towns. Imported and developed some fantastic shows, you can read more about the project here: https://www.coastersnetwork.org.uk/


2017 homes a triumph of our artist development programme. In 2017, Matthew Harrison in artistic residency at The Drill House created the Actual Reality Arcade which we co-produced. It has since gone on to tour the world with back to back weekends of bookings from a diverse list of festivals. 


The 2018 Out There Festival was its tenth edition and marked the return of Generik Vapeur’s Bivouac after eight years performing a special edition of the show celebrating 250 years of circus. This contributed to a year long project of ours, 10.150.250 project celebrating 10 years of Out There, 150 years of The Drill House and 250 years of Circus. 2018 was also the premiere of Provisional Figures, a theatre work in collaboration with acclaimed Portuguese director Marco  Martins. We also woke at the crack of dawn to help deliver Danny Boyle’s Pages of the Sea project on Gorleston Beach – marking 100 years since the armistice. 

In 2019  we significantly developed our professional programme with this year’s theme centred on creativity and activism. We were joined by Extinction Rebellion as we revisited the history of outdoor arts and its place within wider cultural democracy.


We also returned with a programme in the marketplace, taking over the square and dubbing it the Liberty Zone; a carefully curated collection of shows exploring threads of democracy, oppression and revolution – a barmy and bold programme, it also stirred quite a bit of controversy.


The biggest highlight of the year has to co-producing the first major large scale outdoor show made by a UK and French company for about 25 years. Gorilla Circus (UK) and Generik Vapeur (France) presenting Thank You for Having Us. An absolute humdinger.


Which brings us to 2020, an unusual year to say the least. Working with the community we made sure that culture and the arts remained an important part of the local communities lives by bringing the show to them in a variety of ways – from craft packs to outdoor performance.


From our momentous history, we are now at a new image, a new brand. One that illustrates the work we have achieved and the standard we strive for. In December 2020, we announced we are now Out There Arts, National Centre for Outdoor Arts and Circus. Dedicated to delivering outstanding opportunities for artists and communities through supporting hosting and delivering circus and street arts projects and events at a regional, national and international level. You can find out more about our rebrand here: https://outtherearts.org.uk/2020/12/we-are-out-there-arts/