Every September, the streets and spaces of Bankside become home to a host of incredible free installations, performances and interactive events. MERGE Bankside, sponsored by Delancey, will soon kick off once again, bringing with it another exciting and intriguing line-up for audiences to enjoy. We grilled Flo Levy from Better Bankside to get the inside info ahead of this year’s festival.
First off, can you tell us a bit about MERGE?
MERGE Bankside is an annual, month–long arts festival. It brings together the best of interactive art installations, live music, and immersive theatre. It’s curated by Illuminate Productions and supported by TATE Modern and Better Bankside, taking place in and around Bankside.
How long has MERGE been running for, and how has it changed over the years?
MERGE is now in its fifth year. Over the years, MERGE has evolved and grown tremendously. This year’s programme is bigger than ever with Bankside bars, pubs, theatres and venues getting involved for the first time.
Can you tell us more about the spaces in which the events and installations will take place?
MERGE transforms unused buildings and outdoor spaces in Bankside. Many of the pieces are site specific, playing on the history and heritage of the area. This year’s installations and performers can be found all over Bankside. The Caravan Theatre will be positioned on the walkway outside Tate Modern along with the Riverside Stage. ‘Time to be Late’ sees street theatre performed on Blackfriars Road while Southwark Street welcomes ‘Colourful Crossings’ to its pavements to become an outside gallery.
The ‘The Chamber of Wishes’ by Bompas and Parr will be located at 88 Borough High Street, formerly a disused building and Marcus Lyall’s creation titled ‘On Your Wavelength’ can be found on America Street in an empty railway arch.
Why do you think festivals such as MERGE are so important to the arts community?
MERGE is about making art accessible to all in an exciting and unique way. It is a real forum for creativity and thanks to the interactive nature and accessibility of its installations and performances, it allows artists to reach out to the public and offer an escape from reality. MERGE was conceived five years ago as a project to connect the local community; residents, businesses and visitors.
Which event are you most looking forward to at this year’s festival?
‘On Your Wavelength’ is very intriguing, both for the person wearing the headset and as a spectator watching the show. Bompas & Parr always create something fantastical. Also on my must-see list are the midnight performances at the Rose Playhouse, the interactive comedy show at Heeltap and music and wine pairing in Laithwaite’s arch – it’s impossible to single out one event!
Last year’s programme involved installations such as a melting house – what’s the most obscure thing visitors can expect to see at this year’s festival?
MERGE is all about extra-ordinary experiences. Where else can you make a wish in a bioluminescent chamber of wishes, control a laser show with your mind and watch a 15-minute play inside a gold 1970s caravan?
What’s your favourite thing about working for MERGE?
Being involved in such a cool emerging London arts festival and working with such amazing talent from the curator to the artists.
Where are your other favourite spots around Bankside?
Borough Market for treats and the buzz, Tate Modern for the vast Turbine Hall, Crossbones Garden for its fascinating history, The Boot & Flogger for a glass of wine, the Market Porter for a pint of cider, Brindisa for tapas, Neal’s Yard Dairy for cheese, riverside walks for the incredible views – just to name a few.
And finally, where and when can we find MERGE?
MERGE Bankside will be taking place from the 18th September – 18th October at various locations in and around Bankside. This includes Blackfriars Road, Southwark Street, America Street and Borough High Street. For full details visit the website: http://mergefestival.co.uk/
Are you heading to MERGE Bankside this year? We’d love to hear about your visit in the comments below!