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Speaker spotlight - Daniel Pitt

Cambridge Junction Arts Producer, Daniel Pitt, discusses his role and the Cambridge Science Festival associated performance events being held at the Cambridge Junction during the next two weeks, including:

FameLab returns to Cambridge tomorrow evening (8 March). Join our finalists as they talk about their research in just three minutes, with no presentations and limited props. Expect short snippets of fascinating science with perhaps a few puns thrown in.

Cambridge Junction presents: A PIECE OF TIME - moving pendulums & synchronizing metronomes. With 32 metronomes and a pendulum set within a steel pyramid based upon Giza's giant pyramid, Nick Steur and his audience take a journey together into a poetic, visual and mystical world dictated by the laws of psychics that recaptures a reality which today in our complex high-tech existence we have nearly all but forgotten.

Cambridge Junction presents: The element in the room: a radioactive musical comedy about the death and life of Marie Curie by Tangram Theatre Company. Marie Curie lived an extraordinary life, and made incredible scientific discoveries in the face of unbelievable odds. This is her story, replete with breath-taking breakthroughs and seriously silly songs.

Cambridge Junction presents: Shh...BANG! by Peut-Etre Theatre. A delicate dance-theatre performance for children and their adults, playfully exploring sound and silence. Two characters set out on a journey through a world filled with Boings, Whooshes, Tick-Tocks and Cacophony. This show was developed in collaboration with Great Ormond Street Hospital and the Institute of Acoustics and Vibrations at Southampton University.

Cambridge Junction presents: Amazing sounds and unexpected music: the science behind Shh…BANG! Join us for an interactive workshop with scientists from the University of Southampton where children can investigate the science of sound and vibration with acoustic toys and unusual musical instruments.

CSF: What does your role entail as the Cambridge Junction’s arts producer?

DP: I’m responsible for the curation and programme management of the Theatre & Dance and Family programmes here, as well as managing our Artist Development activities and residency programme for shows that we support from local, regional, national and international artists. Together with my colleague Rob Tinkler, Popular Culture Manager, and Lisa Byrne, Creative Learning Manager, we put together the year-round programme overseen by Director Daniel Brine.

One day, I might be chatting through new ideas with a local company and thinking about how to make it happen, watching a work in progress performance in J3 or anywhere round the country, contracting shows for the future season, organising one arriving soon, thinking about audiences that we should reach out to about a certain show, or all kinds of things that crop up with working at a venue.

CSF: It’s quite a varied role then. Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?

DP: I enjoy watching an audience reacting and thinking about something they might not have experienced before, something that I’ve seen elsewhere, loved and brought to Cambridge.

CSF: Does the Cambridge Junction have a mission / vision when programming its shows?

DP: Cambridge Junction is a creative hub for people and ideas where audiences and artists explore, experience and are inspired by art, entertainment and learning. We champion the up-and-coming, both youthful and leading-edge and seek to be meaningful to the lives of our audiences. I’m interested in theatre and performance that has something to say about the world around us in a novel way.

CSF: What do you think the Cambridge Junction does best?

DP: I think our strength is in doing a bit of everything – as many art forms and styles of live performance as possible, but keeping a rigorously and excitingly contemporary focus across all that we do. Not everything will be for everyone, but hopefully there is something for everyone… and slowly they might try something else that we do. And it’s all pretty cheap!

CSF: With such a young and transient population in Cambridge, how do you go about attracting new audiences? And how do you stay innovative and fresh?

DP: I think the transience of Cambridge’s population is one of its problems – there aren’t enough people who are fully committing to creating a cultural (in its broadest sense) life in the city because they know they’ll be gone soon.

In a similar way, as a venue, we are presenting 350+ events a year, which are all on for just one or two nights, and are equally gone soon. So, we work to build and maintain the reputation and trust in the programme as a whole. Hopefully, people know that what they see here will be good, even if they may not like everything. We’re constantly keeping abreast of new artists and old hits, acts and projects and I travel a lot to see new shows so that we can bring the best and most unusual to Cambridge.

CSF: Every year, you put on shows as part of the Science Festival. Why do get involved and how does it differ from your usual fare?

DP: Cambridge is full of festivals, each with their own themes and audiences. Programming into the Science Festival allows me to curate thematically for part of the season, and to benefit from the marketing and publicity that the Festival attracts in order to attract new audiences to performance they might not otherwise hear about. Cambridge Junction aims to be rooted in and responsive to the city of Cambridge, and so we want to be part of the Festivals (and we enjoy working with the team!). This year, I’ve included some popular comedy theatre, children’s dance with an added hands-on workshop, and some more unusual international live art, all exploring science.

There are lots of shows about the stories and characters of scientific discovery, and Tangram Theatre’s shows are great entertaining examples of these (we’ve presented their Darwin and Einstein shows in the past two years, and this March we have their Marie Curie show). As well as these ‘crowd pleasers’, I’m also interested in finding, developing and presenting art that is made through experimentation with science, bringing the boundaries closer together to inspire audiences in different ways. I want examples in action, rather than explanations, as I don’t think being told facts is the way to really understand something (and in general, I just like new ideas).

CSF: Which show are you personally looking forward to the most and why?

DP: Nick Steur’s A Piece of Time: Moving Pendulums and Synchronising Metronomes is my top tip. He’s coming over to the UK from the Netherlands just for these three performances in Cambridge, after I saw the show in Belgium – a huge pendulum, hung at the centre of a pyramid, with 32 metronomes suspended along all four sides of the audience. With extreme focus and a deep understanding of the behaviour of the equipment, Nick conducts the audience in a unique work of synchronicity – not just of apparatus, but of community. At no point will any science be mentioned in the show, but the entire performance is physics in action and has been developed through a long period of careful artistic experimentation with the equipment. It’s beautiful! Just see it for that alone.