Adiós, arrivederci and bon voyage to our self-proclaimed ‘festivals girl’, Beki Bateson
16th November 2018
In true Beki Bateson style, the speeches at her leaving party left us all feeling inspired, moved and incredibly proud of everything LIFT stands for and all of the people that make it happen. So, as she steps off of our international rollercoaster after driving it for 9 years, we thought we’d share some of the words we heard as we waved goodbye to our ‘festivals girl’:
I joined LIFT in October 2009, Mark Ball’s first appointment as Artistic Director – on day one we appointed Kate Ward as General Manager and then the three of us set off on a new London adventure with the team.
I quickly found mentors in LIFT’s founders, Rose and Lucy. It has been inspiring to have them so engaged during my time at LIFT, they have been role models and sounding boards and in a sector where over two thirds of the workforce are women but leadership still doesn’t reflect this, it has been a privilege to have such inspirational women ahead of and beside me.
Mark wasn’t your average Artistic Director, he was highly involved in the day to day as part of our small team, he knew everything about VAT and was passionate, as am I, about human rights – we both began our careers in that world. His ambition, values and ideas really did make LIFT what it is today and between us, I hope we have held to the through-line of internationalism, politics and bold and important storytelling for all Londoners and beyond.
On their time working together, Mark said:
For 8 years you were my fellow traveller, co-conspirator and mischief maker at LIFT. We strived to be incredibly ambitious, pulling off along the way some remarkable projects for London – an 8 hour Great Gatsby extravaganza in the West End; Elizabeth Streb’s performers catapulting themselves across London; turning the basement of Shoreditch Town Hall into a Syrian detention centre; processions of the dead in Deptford, hot air balloons over London, a Tottenham take over and many, many, many more. They were projects full of joy and surprise and often too full of politics and a belief that theatre can make change possible and the world a better place.
One Extraordinary Day (Elizabeth Streb, LIFT 2012) Image Julian Andrews
Over the past decade LIFT has made, presented and produced some extraordinary work celebrating internationalism, London and community, often as a festival, in some of our renowned cultural spaces but also in contested airspace, on the river, in carparks and cemeteries, in ice-cream vans and shipping containers, in moats and in 500 year-old trees. We have collaborated with partners and people from every walk of life, leveraging impact well beyond our own means and helping place-making, risk-taking and scale-making for our peers alongside tours to new audiences across the UK and internationally. Making original work with refugees, teenagers, former street children, veterans and more has been amazing and life-changing for us all.
To support Mark’s and most recently, David Binder’s artistic visions has been really inspiring – I have learnt so much from them and met some extraordinary artists. And although I’ve only had the pleasure of working with LIFT’s new Artistic Director, Kris Nelson for the past 7 months – who arrived 2 months before this years’ festival and duly jumped in with both feet, booking flights, feeding pigeons and making calls to embassies to ensure visas were issued – I am so excited for his vision for LIFT and the performances and partnerships he is going to create and lead.
Tottenham UpLIFTer’s peaceful protest (2017) Image: Jalaikon
LIFT is about the local as much as it is about the global and in the summer of 2014, LIFT’s then Senior Producer, Erica Campayne and I spent several months walking the length of Tottenham as we started to create an intervention for LIFT there. Our delightful teenage UpLIFTers continue to amuse and inspire me and everyone we have worked with there has a certain joy and grace and generosity that has embedded itself in my heart.
My own children were 2 and 5 when I joined LIFT and have been dragged the length and breadth of London and are true LIFT fans. When I asked them what their favourite shows were they both said Session – a LIFT Tottenham Original which premiered during this year’s festival. But my daughter also said One Extraordinary Day from 2012 – aged just 6 at the time, she particularly remembers the London Eye – and my son’s second favourite was The Roof – Requardt & Rosenburg’s outdoor show with Fuel about a computer game where the audience stood in the middle of the set and listened through headphones. He would have been ten then – the impact of the work for audiences of all ages still surprises me a little – everyone has a LIFT moment.
Session (Still House, Empire Sounds & Steppaz, LIFT 2018) Image: Paul Blakemore
Minefield (Lola Arias, LIFT 2016 & on tour) Image: Tristram Kenton
Many LIFT shows go on to have a life of their own, not least Lola Arias’ Minefield which not only brought genuine reconciliation and transformation for men on opposite sides of war but has shown that walking in someone else’s shoes and experiencing empathy is a powerful antidote to the fear that is prevalent in so much of society today. To open minds and encourage curiosity is a real privilege and a personal lesson – there is so much more to learn. I know Kris wants to continue to commission this kind of work and I as I leave I would encourage you to join me in becoming a Commissioning Circle member and support work that speaks to and for London.
LIFT is often cited as creating moments of magic, as the Chair of LIFT’s brilliant Board, Bernard Donoghue would say ‘our gift for London’. And it is thanks to a fabulous team that has kept up this illusion. It was never magic but the blood, sweat and tears of the team that brought artists visions to life, animating the city with spectacle, intimacy, empathy and joy.
Working at LIFT has been a truly international adventure that has given me life and laughter and has taken me around the world – now as an audience member and supporter I look forward to many more years experiencing its radical, monumental and often unbelievable cultural interventions into our great city and beyond – I hope you can join me.