AN INTERVIEW WITH STEVEN ATKINSON: DIRECTOR OF HIGHTIDE FESTIVAL THEATRE
For the last ten years, HighTide Festival Theatre has been making a splash on the UK’s theatre scene. The theatre company’s annual 10-day festival on the Suffolk Coast is composed entirely of new plays, handpicked from hundreds of submissions and produced over the course of a year. HighTide’s approach has brought them international acclaim, both for discovering new playwrights and being at the vanguard of staging theatre productions. And at the helm is Steven Atkinson, HighTide’s co-founder and Artistic Director. Atkinson creates the festival’s programme, working closely with emerging writers and directing HighTide productions throughout the year, and we caught up with him to ask him a few questions in advance of this year's HighTide Festival on the 8–18 September in Aldeburgh:
Steven Atkinson is HighTide Festival's co-founder and Artistic Director
Photo (c) HighTide
Photo (c) HighTide
Hi, Steven! Could you tell us in your own words what HighTide Theatre is all about?
We're an annual festival of world premiere plays, talks with famous actors, writers and directors, comedians, play readings and music that takes place in venues across Aldeburgh. Our base is in the Aldeburgh Cinema, where people can find out information and book tickets.
Why is producing new theatre so important?
There's nothing more exciting in the theatre than encountering new stories and new artists. New theatre is often the place where our best talents in film, TV and commercial theatre cut their teeth, so it's an opportunity for talent spotters to see the next big thing. We've had an extraordinary run of our productions and artists transferring from the Festival to bigger theatres including the National Theatre and the West End, so we're very proud of the quality of theatre that is presented at the Festival.
You first co-founded HighTide as a theatre company in Halesworth in 2007, later moving the festival to Aldeburgh in 2015. Why is Suffolk such fertile ground for creativity, and what does HighTide gain from being based here?
Festivals are a unique environment for artists. They involve leaving home, living amongst other artists and sparking different ideas and partnerships. Suffolk has been such a fantastic and convivial place for our artists to make and premiere their work. First in Halesworth and then in Aldeburgh, we've had such a fantastic welcome and support from local audiences.
What can someone expect to see, hear and feel on a first visit to HighTide Festival?
Aldeburgh becomes very much a festival town. We present events from first thing in the morning to late at night. Audiences can mingle with artists in the East Coast Cafe and have food and drink throughout. We have events taking place in venues across the town, and a play listened to through headphones, so even walking around Aldeburgh becomes an artistic event during the Festival.
What are you most looking forward to about this year’s festival?
Our exclusive interviews. We have the fantastic Denis King, Ronnie Scott's, an interview on the recent BBC War & Peace with its fantastically talented director Tom Harper, and appearances from actors including Downton's Elizabeth McGovern, household favourite Celia Imrie, and the Archers' Eleanor Bron.
To find out more about HighTide Festival or book tickets, visit www.hightide.org.uk.