I spent some time scrolling through the Fringe of Colour website and was immediately hooked. Seeing that their team aligned with their message, which aligned with the work they share was magical. Here is a platform created by people of colour, hiring people of colour, sharing art by people of colour from Scotland and beyond. It was like finding a rare Pokémon card as a kid. I expected the same old but instead found something glittery and new.
This first impression is why I was not in the least surprised when festival founder, Jessica Brough, asked to be interviewed by a person of colour if possible. This is the consistent message throughout everything they do. Creating opportunities and showcasing talent whenever they can.
As a British-Asian artist, talking to Jess about Fringe of Colour was very exciting. My brain was spinning with questions about them, the team and the festival. To respect their time and energy I limited myself to five questions.
Throughout our conversation they were clearly passionate about Fringe of Colour Films and its message. The drive to celebrate artists in a space that provides community and understanding is powerful. Their position of supporting their community reminded me of Aisha Dee’s character Kat Edison in The Bold Type. Their voice strong, unwavering, and honest.
Like many exciting and fulfilling things, Fringe of Colour Films was born out of need. For artists of colour, the famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival and other platforms were not achieving the space, environment and understanding that they were seeking. Enter Fringe of Colour Films. A festival aimed at creating a safe space for work created by those who don’t fall into the more supported categories of: white, straight, cis, able-bodied, neurotypical, wealthy or middle class.
Fringe of Colour Films has benefitted from the pandemic in the way of accessibility. Due to Festivals being cancelled altogether or moving online this created a space for Fringe of Colour Films to really shine. Last year people around the world were able to be a part of this thriving environment from the comfort of their homes which increased the artists visibility, the reach of the festivals message and gave viewers the ability to be exposed to art outside of their immediate environments.
TF: How did you choose the themes of Protest, Flight, Rituals and Self?
Last year the priority was showing films. We were open to submissions. We just wanted to get their work shown, seen and experienced. Creating the space was our biggest focus. Through submissions we did see common themes like motherhood, birth and rebirth. This year, with the ability to focus more on curating, we chose these themes knowing that they can be expressed through many perspectives.
Flight for example can encompass everything, not just forced migration or going on a holiday. Movement is variable and we wanted to show how flight can be expressed. Protest was a strong theme as we have been experiencing the BLM movement and protests around the world. We wanted to link in with this growing awareness and voice with an acknowledgement that protest can be even more that marching. We can protest daily in the smallest ways. It can be the refusal to leave your home when you are being pushed out. It can be the person in a meeting using their voice. Protest is a theme that can bring up strong emotions through all kinds of avenues.
TF: You commissioned 3 black queer artists for the festival; Mae Diansangu, Thulani Rachia, Gillian Katungi. Why these specific artists?
We received some unprompted donations during this year from those wanting to specifically help black artists. We found it very important to use those funds to support black artists in Scotland. Many black artists and queer artists face the same questions. They wonder if they and their art will be understood, respected and appreciated. As a black queer person it’s important for me to support my community. We know these three wonderful artists. Gillian (who also goes by Paix), Mae and Thulani who all express their gifts exquisitely. Pax is a musician, Mae is a poet and spoken word performer, Thulani creates moving images using things like architecture. All uniquely brilliant.
TF: Last year was the first for Fringe of Colour Films. What was the feedback like?
There was a lot of feedback from performers who submitted this year saying they had been to the festival last year and wanted to be a part of it. They were so excited for a space where they could show their art and feel seen by a community that could also relate.
Twitter was a fun way to receive feedback. We had a lot of immediate reactions towards the films shown which was great to see. I was reading how these films and moving images evoked so many different emotions.
I really enjoyed the feedback from the writer’s platform where they respond to the films in a way that mixes review with personal essay. We were able to see how the art shown could stir up so much that the writers then created these poignant pieces to read.
TF: Oh, I missed this. Are they still available to read?
Yes, you can find them under the responses tab on the website.
TF: Congratulations on the Podcast! Getting insight into an artists process is so cool. How did the idea come about?
Thank You! Briana, our creative director conducted these interviews with the artists on why they made it? How it felt? She worked with a wonderful podcast producer Halina, and created this lovely experience which when paired with the screenings gives a deeper sense of the artist.
TF: I think a prominent problem facing many artists of colour is the lack of a “formal” education or lack of a sense of “professionalism”. Do you have any advice for artists who want to submit but may be questioning it?
Firstly, I have an issue with the word professionalism. I struggle with the definition. I didn’t study in any field of art. I’m a writer and I went to free workshops in Edinburgh, learned from writer friends and practiced. I feel like this sense of professionalism is a form of gatekeeping. It is saying that your work is only valid if you have studied it.
Art is within everybody. Of course, you can learn the skills that make it easier. You can also learn from doing it. Don’t be held up by old work. It doesn’t define what you should create now.
I think the word I’m looking for is expertise. The defining walls of this word don’t allow for real creative freedom.
We’re doing a Saturday school just now with our writers and filmmakers. It’s a workshop where we discuss “how to pitch magazines” or “how to turn theatre into film”. This allows for people to ask questions and grow in their field. Learning from one another is just as important.
When it comes to advice I would say “Look for platforms that will appreciate where you’re at. If you’re a new artist, meaning unestablished not young, then find the platform looking for you. They’re out there and they need you!”
Fringe of Colour films runs this year from today until August 14th. You can find the program on their website as well as information on how to join the event. Access to Fringe of Colour Films is by donation, either with a £10 Standard Pass, a £5 Concessions Pass, a £50 Organisation Pass or a £150 Big Org Pass. Head to their website www.fringeofcolour.co.uk for more information and follow them on Instagram @fringeofcolour.
Photo of Jess Brough courtesy of Eiteen