HOME’s Push festival returns with brand-new commissions and a groundbreaking experimental video game

This year’s Push Festival at HOME will feature six brand-new commissions and – for the first time – an experimental video game, exploring extremism via digital narratives.

Push is HOME’s annual celebration of the North West’s creative talents, and this year has been reimagined to become a strand across the whole year, allowing work to be seen both live and digitally, despite the coronavirus pandemic which is currently keeping theatres and arts venues closed.

In response to work carried out with the Freelance Task Force, HOME changed the commissioning process for Push this year. The six new commissions were chosen via a process which took into account the extra pressure the pandemic has placed onto freelance artists, requiring only a brief initial expression of interest for the first stage, and with shortlisted applicants given financial and administrative support from HOME’s Talent Development team. The final works were chosen by an independent panel of artists who were paid for their time, and all shortlisted applicants received detailed feedback from the panel.

The commissioned artists are Grahem Arnfield, Emmanuel Bajiiji, Katherine Hollinson, Jenni Jackson, Holly Rush, and Hope Strickland & Jessica El Mal. Their works encompass a vast range of styles, experiences and perspectives on the world in which we live.

Jenni McCusker, Head of Talent Development at HOME, said: “Our Push commissioned artists for 2021 are so exciting and look set to take audiences on a journey of re-looking and re-examining the world around through a variety of performance styles. We are so excited to be working with them to bring their projects to life and can’t wait to see how they develop.

“During the pandemic with countless lockdowns and restrictions the freelance artistic community has been devastated so we continue our commitment to support artists at all levels and make as many opportunities available as we can for artists to make and present work in these very challenging times.”

Gaming included in festival for the first time

In addition to the new commissions, the strand will start with the online computer game Closed Hands, created by Manchester indie games studio Passenger, formed by artist and activist Dan Hett.

The game examines the lead-up and aftermath of a terror attack in a fictional UK city, through the lens of five core characters and dozens of other lives brought together by the same event – the attack itself is intentionally never depicted, leaving the game to draw a complex picture of the reasons why it occurred, and long-last effects it had on people, communities, and the city itself.

Closed Hands is the studio’s first work which builds upon the experimental games series developed by Dan Hett, exploring his personal experience of losing his brother Martyn Hett in the Manchester terror attack in 2017.

Dan said: “We’re really excited to present Closed Hands to new audiences, and we really hope that it helps push forward the idea that games should, and can, boldly hold up a mirror to our reality in new and interesting ways. The story is deep and complex, and presented in a way that we hope can be explored by both games audiences and those outside it, too.”

Closed Hands will be available via the HOME website from 5 March.

Six new commissions currently in development

The new commissions will be presented across the year, with more details to be announced via HOME’s website and social media channels as each work develops. Audiences can also read about the artists’ practice on the HOME website.

The six new works are:

  • Grahem Arnfield: The White Ship (Artist Film)

The film is a collaborative historical re-enactment of the 1112AD “White Ship Disaster” from the perspective of the Hastings townspeople subcontracted to wait for the King Henry I’s White Ship – a ship that never arrived. The film highlights the care, solidarity and humour transmitted between precarious workers while working exploitive jobs, especially at times of great upheaval.

Graeme Arnfield is an artist filmmaker & curator who produces sensory essay films from found, often viscerally embodied, networked imagery. His films use methods of investigative storytelling to explore issues of circulation, spectatorship and history.

  • Emmanuel Bajiiji: Candy Floss (Live Theatre)

Candy Floss is a charming storytelling piece charting one man’s journey as he reflects on life in Oldham, his new town, in a new country, on a new continent.

Emmanuel Bajiiji has worked as a writer and performer in varied settings including theatre, healthcare, and education, facilitating creative writing workshops and storytelling in schools, universities, community organisations, and businesses. In the past he has worked with Contact, Community Arts Northwest, Oldham Theatre, Z Arts, Action Factory, Global Link, Sheba Arts and HOME as a storyteller.

  • Jenni Jackson: Endurance (Live Theatre)

This multidisciplinary work explores how we can observe a woman wilfully push herself to the limit, how complicit the audience is with that experience, and how this destruction of the female body echoes through time.

Jenni is a Latinx British/Bolivian theatre-maker, movement director and actor who creates work that interrogates the female body in performance, her  relationship with the UK, and the duality of living between races and cultures.

  • Katherine Hollinson: Would you care to… (Digital)

Katherine is creating a digital work with her sister, Gemma, that looks at Gemma’s life living with disabilities through the lens of their sisterly relationship.

Katherine is a performer, maker and teacher from Manchester. A common thread running through her practice is the need to challenge notions of who can and can’t dance, and to minimise the barriers to accessing dance as a watcher or mover. A graduate of Central Ballet School, London, she has worked with choreographers including Simone Forti, Lucy Hind, Dan Watson and Liz Aggiss.

  • Holly Rush: Superhero Alter Ego (Digital)

Superhero Alter Ego takes the idea of social media and digital comic books and satirises superhero archetypes to create a surreal, escapist narrative.

Holly is an interdisciplinary dance practitioner who trained in Contemporary Dance at Trinity Laban and since then has honed a unique style of fusing elements of dance, physical theatre, performance art, poetry, Commedia dell’arte and clowning.

  • Hope Strickland and Jessica El Mal: If I could name you myself (I would hold you forever) (Artist Film)

If I could name you myself (I would hold you forever) engages with notions of Black resistance and feminist ecologies through the lens of trauma, memory and the visual conceit of the cotton flower.

Hope Strickland is a visual anthropologist from Manchester, UK. Her forthcoming projects are concerned with an experimental approach to exploring avenues for black agency within audio-visual media.

Jessica El Mal engages in a multidisciplinary practice through social interaction, critical and historical research, and speculative future imaginaries. Often centred around collaboration, co-curation and collective knowledge systems, her projects usually include research, workshops and artwork intended to have a lasting effect.

Features image: Emmanuel Bajiji’s Candy Floss

For more information about Push, click here.