Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival is the lovechild of Burlesque performers & producers, Lady Wildflower and Heidi Bang Tidy. Together they have over fifteen year’s experience of staging live events and burlesque shows. They have built a reputation for staging spectacular events across the North of England. In addition to HBBF, Heidi & Wildflower have also worked together to produce ‘Green Eggs & Glam’ at The Dancehouse Theatre, Manchester, ‘Champagne & Showgirls’ in Halifax & Bradford and ‘Dr Sketchy’s Hebden Bridge’.
Lady Wildflower is an internationally acclaimed Burlesque artist and teacher who has toured the globe performing all over Europe, China and New York since 2008. She is currently placed No. 67 worldwide and No. 8 in the UK in the 21st Century Burlesque Top 50.
Wildflower is also the producer of ‘The Frou Frou Club Burlesque & Cabaret Show’, which has been entertaining audiences in Hebden Bridge since 2011 as well as in Manchester & Grimsby.
Heidi Bang Tidy’s ‘Bang Tidy Burlesque’ show has been a hit with audiences across Yorkshire over the last 5 years. Prior to retiring from stripping In 2017, Heidi’s solo comedy burlesque performances were a celebration of British eccentricity with routines inspired by budgies and lollipop ladies. She performed solo and in a comedy double act, Tidy & Tips. HBT is now a much sought-after burlesque and cabaret compere.
2019 marks the 7th year of Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival. What started as relatively small 2 day event has grown to be one of the biggest events of it’s kind in Europe. It takes place in the small picturesque West Yorkshire town of Hebden Bridge and nearby Todmorden. Hebden Bridge is known for it’s bohemian spirit and creativity. With its independent boutiques, organic cafes and independent art galleries set amongst the beautiful, quintessentially British cobbled streets and rolling wooded hills. Hebden Bridge has been labelled “The Greatest Town in Europe”, “The 4th Funkiest Town in the World” and “The Lesbian Capital of the UK”. HBBF is one of the town’s many fabulous festivals.
HBBF was awarded “Best Burlesque Event” at the 2016 Burlesque Awards and their newcomers’ competition ‘Legend in the Making’ was nominated for “Best Burlesque Competition”. In 2016 & 2017, HBBF was awarded funding by Arts Council England – the only Burlesque weekender to receive such funding.
Previous HBBF headliners include Perle Noire
Jett Adore, Kitten de Ville, Sweetpea and Victoria Futterweit AKA Vicky Butterfly.
This year’s festival takes place on 2nd – 5th May 2019. Headlined by Sydni Deveraux and featuring 44 hand-picked performers from the world of cabaret. There will be 9 events and 9 workshops from industry professionals over 4 fabulous, fun-filled days!
If you are looking for a healthy portion of fabulous, featuring some of the best performers from the world of burlesque and alternative cabaret, served up with a great big dollop of Yorkshire hospitality, then Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival is the place to be
1 What do you look for in an act.
Originality. Great musicality/ timing. GOOD FACE. Acts that take you on an emotional journey. You can have the most fabulous costume in the world but if you don’t connect with the audience and make us FEEL something, it’s a no from us.
2 How do you think the scene has changed.
HBBF is 7 years old this year – so much has changed! The standard among newcomers has definitely improved – we see people applying for Legend in the Making with acts that are so polished, it’s easy to forget they are newbies. (And their rhinestoning game is strong!)
There’s also much more diversity on stages now – thank god! We’ve always tried to programme with proper representation in mind: we want to make sure that our audience members can always find someone to relate to on our stages. 7 years ago that wasn’t very easy, maybe because producers presumed (wrongly) that audiences wanted a particular aesthetic?
Audiences seem to have grown with producers – when we first started out we played it safer than we do now. Now we feel like our audiences trust us to take them on more of a journey – they are willing to see and experience things that challenge them, make them ask questions and see us take risks with our programming. Audiences are also more discerning and critically engaged – if they see something they don’t like, they are much more likely to tell us. It feels like there is more of a conversation around big issues than there was maybe 2 years ago. And we like that – Burlesque should be subversive and innovative. It should move people. And challenge them.
3 What are your top tips for performers applying for one of your shows.
READ. THE. CASTING. PROPERLY.
We think every producer will agree with us on that one! It’s a real pain in the bum when performers miss key information or even worse, apply for something they don’t fit the criteria for.
If the casting asks for video links – please send links rather than attaching large files as downloading them adds hours to our job. We love really bright, good quality promo photos (clearly labelled with the photographer’s credit.) And please make sure that we can clearly see your face in your videos – this is probably the most important thing.
4 What does a timeline of key events, for a producer/ promoter look like for a show?
We always start planning HBBF at the beginning of September (our festival is early May.) We start off with making looooong wish lists of performers we’d love to invite (that’s the fun part!) Heidi works out the budget (the less fun part!) Then we confirm our venues, start approaching performers with offers, send out contracts and collect promo info. After that, we build the website, put the tickets on sale and start marketing. Lady Wildflower designs all the posters and printed programmes and they get ordered. We book everyone’s accommodation and plan travel logistics for bringing over our international performers. Then Legend in the Making applications go live! Once we receive those, we spend a few days going through all the applications and decide who makes the final.
We have key staff meetings with our stage managers, technical manager and front of house manager in February. We meet with venue managers to discuss our needs. Around February we commission our official artwork for our merchandise. We open applications for traders for our Bazaar in February too. As we get closer to the festival, we start to put together running orders, tech sheets, and schedules for our performers, staff and volunteers. There’s loads of other things that happen along the way but we’ll be here all day if we go into any more detail!
Oh… and at some point we plan our outfits (and each take turns on having a bit of a melt-down around April… 😉 )
5 Biggest achievement so far ?
Our biggest achievement was definitely receiving Arts Council funding for two of our festivals. The application process was tough and we worked really hard to get it. As far as we’re aware, we’re the only Burlesque Festival in the UK to have received Arts Council funding. When we found out, we were in floods of tears! We were so happy and proud of ourselves. The funding meant we could do things that moved us and grew our audiences considerably, meaning the Festival could become self-funded again.
6 Advice for new producers or anyone considering going into it
Get some experience before launching your own night – volunteer to help an established producer so you can see how they do things. Don’t be a kid from Fame and go “let’s do the show right here!” – spend time finding a good (accessible) venue: they are worth their weight in gold!
Be organised. And probably the biggest thing: plan your budget – and stick to it. If you can’t make the money work, don’t put on the show! PAY PEOPLE PROPER FEES – no one should EVER have to work for free (including you).
Find excellent people to help you… and delegate to them – we have recruited an incredible team (who we pay for their expertise!) who take care of stage management, tech, front of house, volunteer coordination which means that when disaster strikes (venues being flooded out, headliner’s missing suitcases, last minute performer drop outs) we are able to deal with it – we learned very early on that if you try to do everything, it will almost kill you!
Pick your host carefully – a good MC can make or break a show: don’t think that because your mate Fred is funny down the pub, you should let him host your show!
7 What are your turn ons and turn offs when it comes to performers?
Turn ons: performers who treat bookings like a proper job and make it a point to be professional; acts that surprise us; working with people who obviously love what they do
Turn offs: when people gesture to the audience and ask for applause; labels in pants; being a diva; being impolite to the stage crew; non consensual touching (of audience members and of other performers) – big no no!
8 What would you like people to know about your job that isn’t common knowledge?
It’s 99% tea-fuelled admin in our pyjamas!
We also don’t think people realise that HBBF is organised by only the 2 of us (supported by a tiny team of superheroes) – right down to the website building, accounting, airport runs, print design and marketing, etc.
9 Glitter. Love it or hate it?
Love it! As long as it’s nice and chunky! It’s imperative that you let the producer know about any mess in advance and then we can arrange the running order accordingly (and check that the venue is ok with us using glitter.) We always use the best stage managers we can (Trixie Passion!) and discuss any mess with her in advance so she can have some input as to where in the running order that clean-up would work best for her and her team. We also make sure hosts know in advance if they need to fill time whilst a clean up happens.
10 And what’s the best thing for you about being a show producer
The curtain call! Everything up to that point is a bit of a blur sometimes!
Being serious, though – there is no better feeling than seeing an audience loving a performer and the performer loving them right back and knowing that you made that moment happen. It feels like a genuine privilege to be able to be a part of that.