2020-2021 festival announcement and updates

15 October 2020

October 2020

In June 2020 it was with a heavy heart that we announced the cancellation of our TaPS events for 2020.

Since August when schools began again (albeit virtually in many cases), we have been monitoring the situation closely. Many of you have already cancelled from festivals and we now have additional data from a survey sent to members a few weeks ago. It has become very clear to us that the situation with our member schools is still extremely challenging. As such, we have made an organisation wide decision to cancel all festivals, as they are currently programmed, through to May 2021.

Even for those few schools who are able to travel, it is unrealistic to expect that schools will be in a position to host large scale events and we believe that regardless of ‘no travel’ policies in many schools, parents, understandably, will be reluctant to sign up.

So, again, this announcement is made with a heavy heart and yet I believe it will not be a surprise to anyone. It is not prudent for us to continue on an ad hoc festival by festival basis and much wiser for us to make a decision so that we are clear, realistic and can begin reimagining festivals.

Since Covid-19 started impacting us all back in February 2020 we began to innovate and adapt, and have been so grateful for the support given to us by our community in joining us on this new journey. The new virtual, live, interactive and collaborative events have meant we can continue offering our unique experiences to young people and teachers alike, while remaining true to our mission and values. The striking success of our PD workshops and Studios, as well as TaPS online events, have demonstrated our ability to adapt and the vital need we all continue to have for the ISTA experience as a regular and integral feature of our lives and education.

The cancellation of festivals gives us an incredible opportunity to innovate. We have been busy over the summer months developing ideas for festivals online. Information from our survey indicated that ‘one shoe will not fit all’ and so we will be providing member schools with a menu of festival options. Below is an overview only and we will be back in touch in mid-November with final details and a ‘booking now open’ sign on our webpage.

As one door closes so another opens and we are very keen to work with you all on an individual basis to answer questions and craft an ISTA experience that is minimal fuss for you as the teacher and as rewarding as any festival experience for the young people involved.

We are mindful that in this challenging time we need to remain true to our mission and values. The key ingredients of an ISTA festival are its immersive nature and the opportunity to create bonds with young people from other schools. A number of our festival options offer exactly that. However, we also have a responsibility to remain flexible and try to work with schools given the often varying contexts you all face.

With the above in mind, if you have an idea about bringing ISTA into your school, let’s have a conversation about that. We have a very ‘can do’ frame of mind e.g. recently a teacher contacted us to ask about making 3 pre-recorded films of ISTA artists in action, presenting:

      1. Classroom openers and warm up activities – for teachers to then use in the classroom.
      2. Introductory activities for units of work on a) devising and b) Verbatim.

    My response was: ‘Let’s do it!’ and I have a Skype with the said teacher this week to discuss the details.

The festival menu – that will be elaborated on by mid-November – includes:

    1. A 2-day festival with a partner school.
    2. A 1-day festival with a partner school.
    3. A creative learning experience with a partner school. (This enables students to have the festival experience but over a longer period of time, if schools are restricted to class time and the occasional after school session.)
    4. A 2-day festival in house.
    5. A 1-day festival in house.
    6. A creative learning experience in house.

Please note:
• While the in house experiences will not afford young people the opportunity to work with peers from other schools, this may well be the most practical and possible option for you. What it does provide is the opportunity for the festival experience and the development of closer and richer bonds (nourishing relationships, fostering deeper understanding of the other and stimulating empathy) amongst students from the same school. An opportunity not often afforded through class time alone.
• All the 6 options above can be delivered with:

▪️ Students working online from home.
▪️ Students working in a shared space in school.
▪️ Hybrid models.
▪️ With artists delivering online or face to face, if this is possible.

• And we are very much open to exceptions! If you are in a city with other ISTA member schools and are able to meet, albeit in a socially distanced fashion, we’re happy to craft an experience around that scenario. And any others…

Since meeting at events is currently not possible for us, conversations have become a regular feature of our working day so we can continue to develop the connections with you all. Please do get in touch, let’s brainstorm ideas and let’s strive to give as many young people as we can the ISTA experience this year – whatever format that takes.

Sally Robertson
ISTA Executive Director