Making Intimate Performance

Image: Rosie Healy

Three opportunities for artists to develop a new intimate performance

Submerge are looking for three North-West based artists working in drag, club performance and cabaret to experiment with the creation of new covid-safe live encounters. The project is aimed at artists who may not have much experience of working in contemporary art and performance contexts, and artists will receive coaching from Submerge and mentoring from artist Jo Bannon.

Artist Open Call 
At a time when many of us are feeling loss and disconnection, we’re looking for artists who want to connect deeply with audiences through performance. We’d like to hear from artists with imaginative ideas for an intimate performance that can be performed live and in person, within government guidelines on Covid-19 safety.

Whilst public performances are not possible at this time, we’d like to support artists to develop a covid-secure live performance idea, and test it in rehearsal with producers from Submerge and our project partners at Islington Mill and Contact.

We imagine these trial performances will take place at a location within Manchester, in negotiation with our partners. The work can be imagined for traditional theatre/studio spaces or non-traditional spaces outside of institutional contexts (eg. empty nightclub, car park, telephone box, football field, beauty salon) but must adhere to evolving government regulations regarding the presentation of live performance. We will not be able to allow proposals that compromise the safety of the artists, crew or general public and we will work closely with you to ensure your encounter and rehearsal process are risk assessed and safe.

What Is Intimate Performance?
The Live Art Development Agency defines intimate performance practice as that which “aims to connect at a direct and immediate level with a small audience including the form of one to one – the act of staging an event for one audience-participant at a time.”

“…the foundation of any one-to-one performance is the encounter. It is a meeting between one audience member and one performer, and that meeting is the material of the performance in the same way that canvas and paint are the material of a painting.” (Andy Field)

Artist Talk
As we are aware that artists may be new to working in this form, we presented a talk from three artists whose intimate performance work inspires us; Jo Bannon, Tania El Khoury and Rosana Cade. We advise those who wish to apply for this opportunity to watch it the following video before making your application.


Project Outline
The three selected artists will each receive

– £750 fee to experiment with making a new covid-secure intimate performance.
– 3 x fortnightly coaching sessions with Mike Pony (Submerge).
– 3 x fortnightly mentoring sessions with artist Jo Bannon.
– Post-sharing feedback from Submerge and project partners.

The commission is open to any proposal that seeks to explore the form of intimate performance. Some areas that you may wish to consider (taken from the Adrian Howells Award Criteria):

– The impact of the size and proximity of the audience.
– The audience as active in the performance.
– The use of autobiography.
– The creation of immersive environments.
– The personal as political.
– The ethics and duty of care around the relationship to the audience.

We’re interested in performance that goes beyond the standard performer/audience relationship and which asks something more than voyeurism on behalf of the audience. We’re looking for artists with a story to tell and would encourage artists to find imaginative ways to directly interact with their audience, laying bare the difficulties of shared encounters during the Covid-19 pandemic.

We will work with the awardee to determine the most appropriate location for the sharing; you may wish to consider working in a theatre/studio, a specific kind of location or a community setting. As part of the project, our partners at Islington Mill and Contact Theatre may be able to offer you rehearsal or creation space as part of the process.

We will support the commissioned artists with risk assessing their final sharing of the project, with Submerge and partner staff available to experience your rehearsals of the encounters in the second half of March 2021. There will be no public performance outcome. As we may wish to work with you to present or further develop your idea beyond the close of the project; we ask that artists give Submerge first refusal for the debut public performance of your work as part of an upcoming Submerge season.

Deadline for Submissions: 5pm Friday 29th January 2021
Applicants Informed of Outcome: Tuesday 2nd February 2021
Coaching/Mentoring: Thursdays Weekly 4th February 2021 – 11th March 2021

Presentation date
18th – 21st March 2021 (project and desired location dependent)

The project is specifically for drag, club and cabaret artists from the North West (Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside) who may not have much experience of working in contemporary art and performance contexts. We are open to all artists who consider their work to be drag, club or cabaret.

We are open to applications from a wide range of artists, but artists should be a ‘good fit’ for the values of Submerge (please see our website to get a sense of the work we programme). We especially seek to support queer, trans* and disabled artists and artists who experience racism in our society. We particularly want to hear from artists who feel their work is marginalised within the contemporary drag scene.

The main purpose of the commission is to test the possibilities of covid-safe performances that can offer audiences a safe, live and in-person experience during the pandemic, and we will prioritise work which finds innovative ways to interact. We are sensitive to meeting the needs of artists for whom an in-person encounter is not possible, and for this reason, we are open to hearing from artists with compelling ideas for online or technology-based performances.

You do not need a track record in intimate or one to one performance to apply, but you will need to demonstrate a commitment to exploring this field in your application.

Please send proposals to [email protected] with the subject line “Making Intimate Performance” and provide up to two pages that include:

– An introduction to who you are, your artistic practice and your performance history (400 Words Max)
– Why you are interested in working with Submerge to explore making a new covid-safe intimate performance (200 Words Max)
– A description of your intimate performance concept; what will happen, where will it happen, what it will be about and what you hope audiences will feel. We will assess the proposals on the quality of the ideas and would like you to be realistic about what can be achieved within the given artist fee (400 Words Max)
– How you imagine your intimate performance can be made covid-secure (100 Words Max)
– Relevant links to your website and artist social media (eg artist Instagram, SoundCloud, Bandcamp, Twitter).
– No more than 3 links (project website/video etc) to your previous work.
– A completed equal opportunities monitoring form, downloadable here (these are anonymous and will not be viewed alongside the application, and will not inform our decision making).

You may apply via a video message, ensuring it contains the same information as requested above, within a 8-minute maximum duration.

Decisions will be made based on application, without the requirement for interviews. Projects will be shortlisted by Submerge, with final commissions decided by Submerge in partnership with Jo Bannon, Islington Mill and Contact Theatre. We understand the importance of feedback and will endeavour to offer brief feedback on unsuccessful proposals for those who request it.

Accessibility and inclusivity are important to Submerge and we are committed to making application and participation processes as accessible as possible. If we can provide this information in a different format or you have any questions regarding this project please contact Submerge by email on [email protected]

Submerge is committed to providing equal opportunities and accessibility. We are firmly committed to working inclusively, and work continuously to ensure Submerge is an anti-racist environment.

The mentoring and coaching for this project will be undertaken via zoom. Where an artist wishes to test out their ideas on another person during the making process, we encourage you to do so whilst following government guidelines on Covid-19 safety. Please work within your household bubbles, over zoom or outdoors and socially distanced within guidelines. Submerge are able to help you risk assess your ideas.

The project will culminate in a live, covid-safe rehearsal demo to Submerge and partner producing staff. Consideration of how to create intimate encounters safely within Covid-19 conditions will form part of the coaching and mentoring of the project. Where an artist may require a rehearsal or creation space, we will negotiate with project partners to consider how we may offer this safely.

Submerge is kindly supported by Arts Council England with National Lottery Project Grants funding.

Main Image: Walking:Holding – Rosana Cade by Rosie Healy
Second Image: Exposure – Jo Bannon by Manuel Vason