About Time You Met: Megan Kieran, Founder of We Are Now FestivalBy Angelica Malin
We like nothing more than filling our diary with cool events taking place in our fair city. And We Are Now Festival ticks all the boxes. We Are Now Festival is a two day theatrical and technological extravaganza (1st-2nd September) taking place at Rich Mix Shoreditch. We sat down with founder, Megan Kieran who gave us the full run-down.
For anyone who’s not familiar with We Are Now festival – can you give us a little lowdown?
We Are Now is a festival that explores the creative use of technology in performance to create sensory experiences. The programme presents live performances using virtual reality, binaural sound, live metadata, gameshow voting, a hacked drum kit and a sonic tesla coil all used in new and unusual ways to tell stories, engage audiences and offer new immersive experiences.
What inspired you to create such an event focusing on technology, sensory experiences and performing arts?
Technology is progressing at a rate of knots and we have more possibilities at our fingertips to discover new ways of creating art. We wanted to engage in that; to open a conversation on how we use our technologies and how we can adapt and integrate them for creative means, to find new ways of telling narratives.
What’s the story behind We Are Now Festival?
In 2014, Benedict Cumberbatch was reported pleading with fans in the Barbican after being thrown off his performance of Hamlet by an audience member using a mobile phone. This story made us consider spaces that performance could embrace using mobile phones, and then technology in general, in creative ways. It was a playful move of drawing more traditional theatre conventions to meet with the future of technology and opening conversations on how we can, as artists, reclaim our technologies in interesting ways.
The project was developed with The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama last year and our first edition took place in the Roundhouse. We had no idea how this concept would be received by audiences – luckily, the response was hugely positive!
What can people expect over the course of the two day festival?
The programme this year is thematically very varied. They all consider human connection, developing immersive experiences and new ways of engaging theatre audiences. Some of the programme is playful and involves audience participation, some encourage exploration, and others performances are mindful and insightful and offer audiences space to reflect.
Ultimately, audiences can expect to explore, to discover new theatre, to have sensational immersive experiences and to have their breath taken away with a live music show using a tesla coil!
Who are you most looking forward to seeing perform?
That’s a difficult one as I’m so enthused by the whole programme. It has to be XFRMR by Robbie Thomson. It’s our only music show and it’s spectacular. Robbie uses a large tesla coil as a musical instrument, harnessing the sonic capabilities of the high frequency pitch while mixing a full live music and AV show on stage at the same time. He’s joined by Chiminyo, a musician who has hacked his drum kit using Ableton live and performs a dynamic electronic music show using just his drums and with tastes of jazz, afro fusion and electronica.
On the theatre programme, He Had Hairy Hands by award winning company Kill the Beast is also a must see – it’s a hilarious hammer horror cinematic adventure!
Circa69 will be premiering their groundbreaking VR theatre experiences at We Are Now – without giving too much away – what’s in store for attendees?
I am so excited about this show! We’ve worked with CiRCA69 to create a theatrical experience using Virtual Reality. It’s an intimate 1-1 performance, using transmedia storytelling with multiple layers for audiences to discover long after their time in The Cube has ended. Keep alert and the story will continue to unfold!
What do you think of the performing arts/theatre scene in London?
London is one of the most dynamic, inspiring places for theatre – it’s relentless and there is so much on offer for all tastes. I never cease to be inspired or at a loss to discover new work and creative talent here.
Where do you like to visit in London to switch off?
I live on a canal boat and to live so close to the center of the city and be able to step away from traffic and noise and wake up to the calls of the coots and moor hens has never stopped being special.
Favourite place to grab a coffee?
My studio is in Hackney Wick and The Roasting Shed coffee roasters, run a small coffee shop during the week there. They are so precise about how they make their coffee, it’s fantastically delicious has become an integral part of fuelling this year’s festival team.
Photo Credit: Gemma Bell
For more information and to book tickets for We Are Now Festival, visit the website here.