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Experimental theatre isn’t necessarily for everyone, and it’s unlikely you’ll know for sure until you see it. So it’s quite a leap of faith for an audience member to take.

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At the end of October I was at SPILL Festival of Performance in Ipswich. SPILL has been going since 2007, and is produced by Ipswich-based Pacitti Company. Previous SPILL festivals have seen works at the National Theatre, Southbank Centre, the Barbican, disused police stations, office blocks, and abandoned car parks. This year’s festival was bigger than ever, and saw over 120 events taking place across 22 venues over four and a half days. It’s safe to say, it was a busy one.

This blog post isn’t about the art that I saw (which was all very different and incredible), but instead about the work that the festival team put into making SPILL feel at home in Ipswich this year, and more importantly, making Ipswich feel ready to embrace Ipswich.

The programme was extraordinarily diverse, with different entry-points for the live art uninitiated. There was a participatory performance for children at DanceEast, where a terrifying beast was the centre of a story on the Ipswich Waterfront. There was live music in the newly refurbished Ipswich Arts Centre. There was a multi-cultural, feel-good party amongst the collections of the Ipswich Museum after dark. There was a sound installation in the middle of Christchurch Park using recordings of the dawn chorus in the park every day across a six month period.

Audiences are people, and people are naturally nervous of change. This year’s festival helped those audiences embrace that change. As the Agency for Change, we Springers like that feeling.

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