Festival of Imagineers Interview: Claire Maddocks

We cannot wait for the upcoming ‘Festival of Imagineers’ (FOI), brought to you by ‘Imagineer’, a live events production company renowned for the iconic ‘Godiva Awakes’ project as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

The festival promises a week-long burst of creativity and culture exploring art, design and engineering through innovative and eye-opening experiences and performances. To find out more about this injection of imagination and inspiration we chatted with Claire Maddocks, founder of ‘Imagineer’ and producer of FOI. We wanted to know more about them, what to expect from the festival and their views on bringing more creativity to our City of heritage. In fact, there was so much to talk about we are dropping this interview in two parts. Prepare to feel excited and inspired. The festival dates 25-30th September 2017 are well and truly in our diary!

‘Imagineer’ lives and breathes the motto “Imagine. Make. Inspire.” Can you tell us a little bit more about the production company?
We are a small company which produces big and ambitious outdoor/site specific events and performances that combine imagination, creativity, engineering, narrative and spectacle. We work with local, national and international artists as well as engaging schools, young people and local communities through our participatory and education programmes. We aim to engage our audiences as co-creators taking them on a journey from imagineering creative ideas to practical realisation to inspiration.

As Founder of ‘Imagineer Productions’, we’d love to know how it all started?
Imagineer was formed 10 years ago by the team that formerly ran the events programme at the Belgrade Theatre where we gained experience of producing large-scale international outdoor work including the Mysteries (2000, 2003 & 2006) and worked with major international outdoor companies through the Coventry Arts Alive Festival including Theater Titanick, Cie Jo Bithume, Odin Teatret, Teatr Biuro Podrozy and many more. We set the company up with the aim of creating ambitious cultural events for Coventry and the region and supporting new and emerging cultural enterprises and artists.

‘Festival of Imagineers’ (FOI) is now in its 3rd successful year, what inspired you to initially create the festival?
In 2008/9 there was a move to re-brand Coventry as a City of Invention, acknowledging the city’s role as an innovator in education, engineering/manufacturing, culture and architecture. We decided that it would be fun to create a ‘Festival of Invention’ which celebrated Coventry’s inventive past, present and future. We piloted an event in 2008 and 2009 which combined design led performances with exhibitions and talks about inventive industries in Coventry from cycle manufacturers to Serious Games to innovators in health and social housing. These pilot events really captured the public and media’s imagination. Then in autumn 2009 Imagineer won a major Arts Council commission to create its best known project, Godiva Awakes for the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad and the Festival of Invention was shelved. 6 years on having delivered Godiva Awakes and her subsequent Homecoming celebrations in 2013, Imagineer began to refocus and decided to reimagine the Festival of Invention and capitalise on the relationships we had built with 17 engineering companies through realising the Godiva Awakes project and the Festival of Imagineers was born.

This year’s six-day arts extravaganza focuses on ‘Transformations’, exploring our relationships with space, humanity and technology. What kinds of things should we expect to see?
This year’s programme has a great mix of events designed to involve our audience as co-creators engaging with projects at their R&D stage (e.g. Likeable Bikeable City, Bridge, Witness), as makers with hands on making and performance workshops (Cardboardia, Imagineerium workshops, Acrojou performers workshop) and offers a wide range of inspirational and interactive performances from Museum of the Moon by artist Luke Jerram, to Imagineers co-production of the Winter’s Tale with Teatr Biuro Podrozy (who the team produced the legendary Millennium Mysteries with) to a packed finale day of interactive installations (Illumaphonium, VR Playground) and performances (Wet Picnic, Acrojou, Balbir Singh Dance Co)

FOI presents an array of world class artists, exhibitors and collaborators but can you hint to us which exhibitions you are particularly excited to have on the programme this year?
I am really excited to be working again with Teatr Biuro Podrozy on our new production of the Winter’s Tale – over 20 years this fabulous Polish company has produced some of the most powerful and moving narrative street performances that I have seen and it is great to be making a new performance with them again 17 years on from the Millennium Mysteries. I’m also thrilled that we are hosting a talk by founder and director of Artichoke, Helen Marriage who has produced some of the most iconic and memorable outdoor arts events in the last ten years; from the amazing Sultan’s Elephant which brought the city of London to a standstill in May 2006, to the extraordinary Temple project in Derry, to Anthony Gormley’s Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square and Lumiere Durham and London. I have admired Helen’s work for 20 years and think it will be inspirational to hear her philosophy and open up a dialogue about the role of outdoor arts in the city, as Coventry enters the second stage bid phase for City of Culture. Then of course I’m really looking forward to donning my bikini and swimming under artist Luke Jerram’s beautiful illuminated moon in Coventry’s Olympic pool.

Can you give us a special moment from last year’s festival that stood out for you?
I think I had many stand out moments but perhaps especially the culmination of Cardboardia’s making workshop in our Daimler space which turned into a spontaneous and completely unexpected party with a group who began the evening as strangers dancing and laughing together while workshop leader Sergey Korsakov played his Ambox, his newly invented wind up music box, similarly a collective audience and performers Waltz following on Teatro Tascabile di Bergamo’s beautiful performance of Valse.

Part 2 of our Festival feature dropping Thursday 21st September. Until then you can find out more at www.festivalofimagineers.co.uk.

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