Being in the office during festival week is a bizarre mixture of calm and chaos. There are tickets, some cut/some still regimented on sheets of A4, strewn across a table —someone in this building has left half-way through this job to perform another task but they know exactly how far through it they are and what needs to be done. The clock permanently tells us it is 3pm/am which still startles us in the hours leading up to this time but, as everything is running seamlessly, it needn’t.
Compared to other arts festivals I’ve experienced, the calm and considered approach of 24:7 makes a real difference to the atmosphere. The sense of chaos appears to come from the expectation that something could go wrong; the calmness comes from the assurance that everything has been well planned and produced, this trumps the former. From the office we hear the crowds building in the foyer in the half an hour before a performance and then the slow draining of sound into the venues 5 minutes before those three shows start. As each performance and the tech team have been responsible for it’s production, and that they have been expectedly professional about it, there is a degree of comfort from the festival management team during the week. As with any festival there are tasks that arise and solutions to be found, but they are performed and resolved with a minimal fuss.
I’m told that in the years before 24:7 was all in New Century House that it wasn’t like this. That festival workers spent their time running between venues and working on the fly. Part of me feels that this would have been more exciting but the sensible/practical part of me realises that what exists now is far more conducive for a festival that the public and staff can enjoy.
At other festivals I have only been able to see performances that I was introducing or closing with thanks. At 24:7 I was able to see the majority of the shows. This has been an essential part of growing professionally, understanding the expectations of a fringe theatre festival and being able to develop ideas of my own. This was all possible due to the planning and the calm. Whilst the office may seem disordered to those popping their head through the door, for one week we have our own brand of order, and it works.