Written by Sophie Wyatt
Let’s not beat around the bush, this past year has been a shit show to say the least. Nowhere to go, not much to look forward to and the chances of us planning near to anything have been put on hold. While all industries have faced troubles, none have been hit quite as hard as the creative community. With live shows put on hold and events that had been worked towards for such a long time cancelled, creatives are being forced to try and find new ways of expressing themselves and staying connected to their audiences. And just when we thought all hope was lost in terms of our beloved live events, Bristol based creative collective FUZE announced their annual show was returning, with a bang.
FUZE’s annual show combines fashion, dance and music to create one of the most unique shows in the country. Since launching in 2013, the UK’s largest student- run creative collective have raised over £120,000 for various charities. And while many shows put their plans on hold over the past year, these obstacles have only spurred FUZE on. Determined to bring light and colour to what we can all agree has been a very bleak 12 months. We spoke to FUZE’s managing director Pippa Adamthwaite-Cook to understand more about FUZE, it’s core values and how they have continued to keep creativity flowing through covid-19.
‘FUZE has evolved more into a creative collective this year, more of an organisation. Which I think has been the biggest change. I really wanted to root the organisation in a long-lasting legacy, so we brought in the core values of FUZE which is what we live by and what every department works back to; inclusivity, diversity, creativity and sustainability. We wanted to make sure that these core values were ingrained deep within our organisation and weren’t just surface level or performative, we wanted to commit to it. We wanted to make sure it wasn’t just on the creative side in terms of our cast, we also wanted that in our marketplace, our brands, our partners. Everybody that FUZE interacts with, we want to make sure their businesses and brands align on the same kind of core values. It’s been really exciting.
Day to day, we have a creative team that work to direct and produce the show, and our commercial team support the commercial elements like making sure the show happens, that the show is funded, that our partners are happy, things like that.’
Each year FUZE chooses one charity that they want to support with their show. However, after charities have taken a huge financial hit over covid, the collective have announced they are supporting two charities with their 2021 show; Black South West Network and Art Refuge. Although their aim is to raise money for said charities, the collective also want to become a platform which can bring awareness to the work these charities are doing.
‘We like to support charities that are in the South West and within Bristol, so that we can be close to our charities. Of course in a normal year we’d probably have a lot more contact with them. In previous years we’ve only supported one charity, but this year with Covid charities have been hit so hard, we wanted to make sure we could do enough to support two. So it has set us a big challenge in terms of making sure we could financially support two charities, but it’s been amazing. Black South West Network are an incredible charity and with everything that has happened this past year with BLM we thought it was very important to support a charity such as theirs. They do some incredible stuff with supporting black owned businesses and female owned businesses. Then Art Refuge work to help people who have been displaced due to the refugee crisis, and work with art therapy. Which obviously connects to our core value of creativity, and we really loved that element of helping people through the arts, which I feel like is what we do as well.’
Collectives like FUZE are vital in creating an inclusive and diverse art scene. In what can only be described as a competitive industry, many artists and creatives are sometimes over looked for reasons that don’t include their actual work. This is something that FUZE tackles with their core values, and beliefs that everyone deserves a platform for their art.
‘I feel like our community is everything we are, we are the community. The people involved are why we do this. We want to give people the opportunity to express themselves freely and have a space within the university, and more widely the city to feel safe and praised and celebrated.
To have the opportunity to be able to work at a professional level, to offer their first kind of taste of that. Not just expecting people to do stuff, but teaching people and giving people opportunity to learn. Which I think is what makes Fuze so unique, we are all driving towards this one show that needs to be a commercially successful show because of the charities. So there is that kind of element of, we are in this on our own. I’ve been involved in the organisation for two years, and I’ve been calling third party companies, talking to sponsors, having meetings with huge cooperations, and it just gives you such an amazing opportunity that I wouldn’t have had without FUZE.’
Every year FUZE decides on a running theme to accompany their show and work leading up to it. This year they have chosen ‘utopia’. Although utopia is defined as finding a world or space that is perfect in it’s entirety, this is not FUZE’s definition.
‘As managing director I started looking at how I wanted to drive the organisation forward, and what I wanted to do to make sure we got to the end goal. It’s very important for me that within the organisation that people have freedom and the creative autonomy to express themselves, but I think that a successful project still needs to have an end goal. When I thought about the theme I wanted to respond to the pandemic, because I knew by the time we come out of this we would be looking towards this new normal. People were consistently talking about this ‘new normal’. So I was thinking, can we find a word that represents this kind of freedom, inclusivity, new world. So it kind of all came down to Utopia, but we know that utopia comes with negative connotations in the sense of finding perfection. We didn’t want it to be that, we wanted Fuze’s version of utopia, which is this inclusive, safe world of equality. Where people can be free to express themselves.’
Although the FUZE team faced an incredible amount of extra obstacles this year, their goal has kept them determined. However, continuing to work on the show, hold castings and auditions has meant that the team have had to keep on top of covid regulations.
‘Luckily we got our casting done, it was an incredible few days. We did our casting at Lakota, had our commercial team at the front making sure we had the one way system, track and trace, hand sanitiser. It was a logistical operation and a huge team effort and we managed to pull it off with no covid scares, and we got a really beautiful cast. It was really important for me in the casting process to come back to our core values and make sure that we weren’t doing this kind of performative diversity, which is a very easy trap to fall into. We wanted to make sure it was true. So we had discussions questioning our unconscious bias. We wanted to make sure that everyone sat in the audience could see themselves represented on stage. So we’ve got an incredible cast, it’s the biggest cast that FUZE has ever had, and they’re all so passionate which is exciting to see.’
Finally we asked Pippa what we can look forward to seeing within the show. Following FUZE’s journey this year has been inspiring to say the least, but Pippa’s answer only further added to our excitement for this beautifully inclusive show in late spring.
‘This is going to be FUZE’s most ambitious show to date. We really want to tell a story with what we do, and we want our theme to be so ingrained in our show that when people come and feel like they’ve never been represented in a ‘traditional’ fashion show to feel like they’re seen. It’s going to be an explosion of colour, it will take you through this journey starting with the dystopian themes which then emerges into this self-expression. We’ve boycotted fast fashion on the run way, so the fashion team have done incredibly well at contacting all independent designers. And a lot of those designers didn’t get the chance to show their graduate collection last year due to covid, so it will be the first time these clothes have been seen. So it will be an exclusive look at some of the really up and coming designers in the country. There’s obviously the dangers of appropriation when aligning ones self with these avant-garde, camp aesthetics, but we are going to make sure that we insistently pay homage to the appropriate communities to which the design references are made. And hopefully do what FUZE says on the tin and fuze music, fashion and dance together to make a really, really beautiful show.’
In the run up to FUZE’s show in late spring, Haste will be collaborating with the creative collective to bring you stories on fashion, art, music and so much more from the creative industry. Head over to our Instagram for updates on Haste X FUZE updates, and FUZE’s page for updates on their upcoming show!