Interview With: Thomas John Bacon


Written by Don't Panic
05 Wednesday 05th November 2014

Tempting Failure came alive in part through my own interests and research associated with my PhD. However this was but a foundation in wanting to bring a showcase to Bristol that showcased work that others may find difficult to programme and that more often than not would challenge audiences and artists alike.  We programme artists across the career spectrum, supporting them all with a programme of care and equality.  The work at Tempting Failure is vibrant and raw, giving artists from performance and sound art backgrounds a chance to come together, take risks and dare to fail.  Indeed where else can you find a festival that doesn't offer audiences guarantees but rather risks, so that there will be failures and success.  All are valid, and all go towards creating an exciting energy in the air around the work on offer.  

2) Is this your first experience of organising a festival?

No. This is my sixth.  Each has grown from the next and while each goes some way to preparing you, they never get easier only harder because each has grown in size from the last.  This however is all only possible by having a strong production team and the dedicated support of our volunteers.  For which, I am extremely thankful.


3) Organising a festival across multiple venues and spaces is a huge task. Were the spaces supportive about the festivals vision and desire to be free where ever possible?

Yes every venue that has come on board, has done so complicit in support of our vision.  In fact everyone we spoke to in becoming involved has been very supportive whether they did so or not.  But as you have identified one of the key deciding factors in these partnerships has been in our vision of bringing a free programme of events across the city for free.  Where it wasn't possible for some, understandably, to be a part of that, then of course we were unable to work with them this year.  We have only one paid venue, which is associated with the evening events at The Island on the 7th and 8th.  This is our grand finale, where over two nights we step up a gear from our free programme (that is suitable for all) to bring you a rather more visceral over 18 event that is closer to our events from previous years.  Here you will witness some of the more extreme end of performance; funny, sad or horrifying - it will be two nights like no other Bristol has ever seen.   

4) How do you select the performing artists each year? Does it come down to you, or is there a panel involved?

There is panel of peer artists. We each read every application independently of each other and leave comments alongside a traffic light system.  Unanimous decisions are easy while others become part of a wider conversation.  Then we consider if the work matches our ethos and is familiar to the venue or audience.  Finally there are curatorial balance questions, as one has to imagine the narrative of an events' experience and ultimately should there be any unresolved decisions I would have the final say.  We have an application process for all bar the established names who would enter into direct conversation with me.  This year we had 300 applications from over six continents.  We chose 50 artists from 15 countries.  20 of these are premieres and we are thrilled with them all.

5) What has been the biggest obstacle you've encountered with the festival?

Boring logistical concerns. Admin is a huge killer.  It's so time consuming and as an artist it feels like it distances you from the coal face in any satisfying way.  


6) Who are you most looking forward to seeing perform this year? Any tips for our readers?

I would hate to pick favourites. But I am thrilled this year that we are able to bring back performance art legends Hancock and Kelly for the first time in a long time.  We also host the awe inspiring Joke Lanz with a brand new premiered work.  Some breakout artists audiences should view are FK ALEXANDER, Robert Hardaker, Rachel Parry and Kali Rose.  While I will also be performing a work on 8th that will be an extremely challenging experience for the audience.  Finally where else can you as an audience member get a transgressive haircut as part of night out... Only at Tempting Failure courtesy of Barberette.


7) Finally, describe the festival in 5 words?

BLOOD, SWEAT, TEARS: tempting failure!

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