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rrramble meets FemFest

A circular image of FemFest's logo. It is a nostalgic, 2000's style digital image of a pink folder with a flamingo on it. Beneath the folder, pink text reads 'FEMFEST' in capital letters.

This week, Abs - Director and Co-Founder of rrramble - managed to drag themselves away from watching a grainy Tiktok of Lizzo covering Rammstein's Du Hast on repeat to have the pleasure of chatting with Maddie, Artistic Director and Founder of FemFest.

FemFest describes itself as 'Brighton's only fringe theatre arts festival that advocates for and showcases the work of women, trans and non-binary performers'. FemFest is a week-long multi-arts festival, which is taking place at beloved queer venue The Actors, Brighton from 6th - 12th March 2024.

As we head into the fourth(!) annual festival, Maddie gives rrramble the scoop about all things FemFest - how and why the festival was founded, the fantastic team behind the scenes, and the inside scoop on some of Maddie's festival highlights...

Two people holding a neon Flamingo lamp. The lamp exudes pink light, illuminating their faces. They look upwards, in a seemingly hopeful gaze.
Image credit: Rose Bainbridge

Maddie, we're so excited to finally link up & chat about FemFest! We'd love to hear a little about how FemFest came to be...

FemFest was born out of my general disappointment and dissatisfaction with the state of the Fringe theatre industry in the UK. Having produced at Brighton and Edinburgh Fringe and in London fringe venues I was left feeling quite underwhelmed by the lack of support for early-career artists and gatekeeping nature of the industry. It also didn't help that I was producing work on sexual harassment and assault and the safety of my audience and artists was always at the top of my to-do list, which I didn't feel venues and festivals were able to help me accommodate. I created FemFest as an antidote to this. I wanted to build a space where people can be free to be weird, get on stage and do their thing unapologetically all whilst having a supportive producing team to assist them in making their work. I also aim to make FemFest as economically accessible as possible for artists and audiences - so much of the arts is off limits to people on low incomes and we want to try and be part of the resistance to that, which is building in the UK.

Who is the team behind Femfest?

Myself - Maddie Ross. I am the Artistic Director and Founder of the festival. I have produced award-winning theatre and dabbled in DIY documentary film making which explores feminism. I also work in TV production as my side hustle.

Annie North. Annie is our Producer at FemFest. She is a fantastic Director in her own right and was part of the multi-award-winning theatre collective, Clap Back Club.

Bertie Hodd. Bertie is our Junior Producer. Bertie is a theatremaker and performer who uses clowning and audience participation to explore big topics like Gender as well as their own experiences to tell funny and thoughtful pieces of work.

Jesse Payne. Jesse is our Technical Manager. I have been working with Jesse at Fringe venues since 2018 and found her creative and accessible way of working so refreshing that I have dragged her on to every iteration of FemFest.

Sally Woodcock. Sally is our graphic designer and is the absolute mastermind behind making FemFest look beautiful online and in print.

What audience do you have in mind when you're planning FemFest?

FemFest is for anyone who has a lived experience of misogyny. Our events are open to any member of the public but everything we programme has a throughline of feminism, activism and celebration of female, non-binary, trans and queer voices. Everyone is welcome in our spaces but we ask that those who attend who hold privilege to be mindful whilst attending the festival and respect the voices and other audience members that they are sharing the room with.

Two people with long blonde hair sit cross-legged on a red, velvet corner sofa. Behind them are varnished wood panels on the wall, and a gallery of framed photographs above them. They look into the distance, straight-faced.
Image credit: Rose Bainbridge

Your programme this year looks awesome - it's hard to choose what shows to see, I want to go to everything! Can you tell us a little more about your process for curating and programming the festival?

We like to do some hand-picked curation by attending shows throughout the year to try and build a list of work we would love to see at the Festival. We also hold open calls for submissions to take part in the festival. We then all sit down with the combined list and decide who we would like to take part in that year. Everyone in the producing team has a say and we try to make the lineup as diverse as possible to represent the audience we are catering for and provide them with a varied lineup with different experiences they can relate to.

What do you hope audiences take away from attending a FemFest event?

My number one aim is always to build community. We hold workshops and more informal creative activities to try and facilitate this. There is something very magical when a group of female, non-binary and trans people sit in a room to watch a piece of work that reflects their own experience. Getting to hear audiences leaving and really taking something from the work and giving them the language to discuss their own experiences is really heartwarming. We also use the festival to fundraise for our partner charities, Survivors' Network and Brighton & Hove LGBTQ+ Switchboard.

Go on, give us the goss. What events are you looking forward to most at this year's FemFest?

It's so hard to choose when everything looks so good! I'm particularly excited for: Blood, Sweat and Vaginas which just had a short run at The SoHo Theatre. MOONFACE, which I've been trying to see the last few times it's been performed and finally have the chance to see now we've programmed it - I've heard brilliant things. ANTICHRIST by Amiot Hills (who is one of our Early Career Artists this year) looks absolutely fantastic. I'm looking forward to presenting our FemFest Scratch Night and seeing all the weird and wonderful new work that's on offer there. Finally, I'm really looking forward to having emerging artist, Ellie Higgins, return to the festival and her new show WALK looks so interesting, I can't wait!

Digitally-designed, noughties inspired FemFest poster. A pink grid background, with a heading which reads '6-12th March 2023'. In the centre of the poster, there is the FemFest logo - a pink digital folder with a pink flamingo on it, and website ''. At the bottom of the image, there is a box which reads 'The Actors, 4 Prince's Street Brighton, BN21RD'. There is another box which reads 'Partners', and includes the logos of Survivor's Network, LGBT Switchboard, and The Feminist Bookshop,

To find out more about the programme and to book your tickets, head to the FemFest website.


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