WEYA Ambassador: Michael Pinchbeck

Laura-Mae Browne
Interview by Laura-Mae Browne

What is your name and how would you describe what you do?

My name is Michael Pinchbeck and I am a writer, live artist and performance maker based in Nottingham.


Have you taken part in a festival like the World Event as an artist?

I took part in a biennale in 2008 in Bari, in the Puglia region of Italy which was an amazing experience. I showed a piece of work in a warehouse, which was an enormous space. When I was there it was a performance and when I wasn’t it became an installation. It was an incredible experience to have it shown as part of that celebration of young artists from across Europe. It felt very prestigious and felt like a career changing moment as it made me realise that a) I was a part of a regional scene because it was a group of artists from the East Midlands going there and b) that I was showcasing work on an international stage.

Since then I’ve been to festivals and events in other countries and also to the Edinburgh Festival as part of the British Council showcase, which is again another kind of international networking opportunity. I think I learned from my biennale experience how to engage with those sorts of audiences and those sorts of opportunities.


How did you find your interaction with your international peers and other artists from different countries?

I think because I was actually ‘in’ the work when I was there, it was a different kind of interaction. It was a silent interaction, because I sat on a bench and invited the audience to sit with me and watch a video of my christening from 1976. So without language and without talking we were really just sharing a moment where I might be thinking about my christening and they might be thinking about their own family, their own memory, their own nostalgia. So I communicated through the work in that way.

Outside of that and in a social context there were moments of conversation and interaction with other artists from the UK and other countries. Coming back from there and staying in touch with other artists from the UK was a really great thing. For example Hetain Patel was also there that year, we’ve worked together since. He’s worked with me as an outside eye, and I’ve worked with him as an outside eye so it has become a relationship as a result of that experience.


Did this experience effect your professional practice?

It made me think about my work on a larger scale. When I got there and asked where my piece was, I was told ‘It’s in that enormous box over there’ and I hadn’t considered that my work would be in an enormous box, I thought it would just be up on a wall or in a foyer where it usually is. So I was kind of overwhelmed by the scale of the installation, and the production value seemed very high. 

Coming from a black box tradition where I work in theatres, it’s often a scruffy aesthetic. In the biennale context in this warehouse it felt like I was part of something on a larger scale and a higher status in a way. I’ve always been very careful about how the work looks and probably because of that experience I want to fine tune the experience so the audience gets as much from it as they can. So that level of care and attention to detail probably stems from that experience.


What advice would you give to the participating artists at the World Event?

I think they have to enjoy it and they have to experience it as something that is not ‘once in a lifetime’ but something they’ll remember for a very long time. And the way you get the most out of it is to put the most into it. So you attend events and you are an audience as well as an artist.

Actually I really enjoyed going to other theatre events and seeing what other people were making across Europe. When I used to work in a theatre company and we’d go to festivals, and one of the best things about that was seeing other work and being influenced by it. This is a great opportunity for artists in Nottingham and the East Midlands to be inspired and influenced. To open their eyes to what other people are making.


So what’s next for Michael Pinchbeck?

Well I’m making a trilogy of theatre pieces called The Beginning, The Middle and The End which explore my relationship to theatre and how you might begin and end a relationship. I’m also working on a new project called Bolero which is being supported by Theatre Writing Partnership. As part of that I’ve been to Paris and Sarajevo and I’m writing what will probably become a play about the relationship between Maurice Ravel writing Bolero in 1928 and Torvill and Dean dancing to it in 1984 at the Winter Olympics. I suppose that in 2021 now when we’re thinking about the Olympics and the cultural Olympiad, there’s something quite interesting about that event in 1984 bringing together sport, art and dance and music. I’m enjoying the challenge of writing something that brings together these different threads. I’m also writing plays and working as an outside eye with other artists which is the subject of my PhD at Loughborough University.


Michael Pinchbeck is co-founder of Hatch. Hatch is a theatre without a building, showcasing performance-y work on the Nottingham arts horizon. It is run by Michael Pinchbeck and Nathan Miller and is a peripatetic space for work that is or wants to be performance-y. Hatch is the y. Hatch has been created to be accessible to all forms of performance, all types and levels of performer and as wide an audience as possible.

Hatch will be guest editing NVA7 in July 2021.