The director of Birmingham Improv Festival, Jon Trevor, has a vision – to make the city the ‘Edinburgh Festival of Improv’. The dream is fast becoming a reality…
BEEN THERE DONE THAT
I’m an adopted son of the West Midlands, arriving in the early Nineties to run a touring theatre company. I then set up my own theatre company, creating a series of quirky shows, including A Brief History of Time – the Stage Show which toured nationally with the blessing of the late Stephen Hawking. Nine years ago I became fascinated with Improv as an art form and starting running a weekly drop-in to explore its potential. Out of it sprang a host of local performing companies and lots of shows, so there is now a strong Improv scene in Birmingham. I currently perform with three local groups – Box of Frogs who do Whose Line style games, Off Broad Street who improvise musicals, and Kneejerks who create scenes and stories from audience suggestions.
IT’S WHAT I DO
In 2016, it felt like we had enough momentum to create a festival and so the Birmingham Improv Festival was born and I am its director. Year one was a modest event with nine shows over a single weekend at the Blue Orange Theatre in the Jewellery Quarter with the ambition of “putting Improv on the Birmingham map, and Birmingham on the Improv map”. It was a sell-out success and BIF 2017 was more ambitious with 19 shows over seven days and greater emphasis on local talent – our tag line was “Bigger, Better, Brummier”. A grant from the Arts Council meant we could attract Improv groups from all over the country. For BIF 2018 we are thrilled that Birmingham Rep has come on board as a partner to enable us to bring in some of the bigger companies. We have managed to get Showstopper!, an Olivier award-winning Improv troupe who create a full West End-style musical brand new every night, complete with songs, choreography, plot, characters and music.
WHAT I’D LIKE TO SEE?
I have a vision of making Birmingham Improv Festival the ‘Edinburgh Festival of Improv’. An international event attracting performers and audiences from all round the world to experience the cream of improv shows, while also discovering unknown gems.
As a small festival we continually punch above our weight. The biggest success in our first year was luring famous improviser and local star Josie Lawrence to leave London and come and perform in our little 100-seater theatre.
BIGGEST LESSON LEARNED
You don’t have to do it all yourself. You can’t do it all yourself. You have to delegate.
WHAT I LIKE ABOUT BRUM
As an ex-Londoner, I love that Birmingham is built on a human scale and that we are surrounded by countryside in all directions. And I love that dry Brummie sense of humour.
I skydive for fun, it’s my hobby. I have just short of 2,000 skydives in my logbook!