Blind in Theatre Festival in Zagreb

In October, along with Artist Development Manager Louisa, I lead Extant’s biannual visit to the Blind In Theatre festival (BIT) at the New Life theatre in Zagreb, Croatia. Louisa and I were joined by Samuel Brewer, Aarian Mehrabani and Alice Christina Corrigan. Sam and Aarian are both VI actors and theatre makers and of theatre company Flawbored. Alice is a VI actor and theatre maker who created her show Past Life partly during her time as Extant associate artist in 2022.

BIT has been a biannual trip for Extant for a number of years. However, this was my first visit to the festival and to the New Life theatre. This festival sees VI companies from around the world gather together to share work and conversation. We were excited to meet organisations from Croatia, Serbia, Romania, America and Slovakia. We saw shows from the Croatian, Romanian and Serbian delegations. All of which were fascinating food for thought. But perhaps our highlight of the trip was the exhibition at a local museum detailing the history of the New Life theatre where we were educated about the fascinating history and significance and important campaigning and artistic work done by the organisation over the last 75 years. Both on an artistic level and a campaigning level the New Life theatre has much to teach us and to be inspired by.

Our contribution to the festival’s program was a panel discussion which focused around sharing with the rest of the festival some of the exciting things happening for VI artists in the UK at the moment. Both Alice and the Flawbored boys were able to talk about their work and their recent successes and I took responsibility for talking more broadly about Extant, Evolve and the current state of UK theatre for VI artists. The panel seem to go down well, despite the challenges of interpreting into numerous languages.

Our undoubted biggest take away from the whole festival was to be reminded and educated about the variety of challenges faced by the VI community and disabled led theatre in countries outside of the UK. It was a useful reminder of the amazing progress that has been made for VI artists in the UK, lead and pioneered by Extant, in comparison to other countries but also a reminder of how much more progress needs to be made both at home and around the world.

I am also happy to confirm what many people already know. Zagreb is a fantastic city and Croatian food, and drink is delicious.

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