Anthony Briscoe talks theatre, comedy and creativity in a time of Covid

Ant Briscoe

Q. Tell me a bit about you?

Hello there, my name is Anthony and I’m going to try and answer this question without it sounding like an awful tinder bio. I am an artist and performance poet specialising in: Socially engaged art, motion graphics, graphic design, film, theatre, and education. I’m still trying to find a way to try and put that all on a business card without it having to be A4. I’m a graduate of Lancaster University with a Ba (Hons) in contemporary theatre and also a graduate of Edge Hill University with a PGCE in post-compulsory education. I also like long walks on the beach, cozy nights in, the crunch of the leaves in autumn, oh wait sorry, scratch that. Not the stuff that makes me sound good, not that.

Q. How has your lockdown been?

Lockdown for me has been like it has for pretty much everyone I think, weird, confusing, upsetting at times and although there have been some good bits on a personal level it feels so nebulous and ethereal as a thing its hard to say exactly how I feel about it. Lockdowns and pandemics have always seemed to be something that couldn’t happen. Something you’d see in a film (often not with a good outcome, unless its war of the worlds, those aliens get completely wiped out by a cold) or something that happened a long time ago that you’d see in a history book and with all our advancements in technology and medicine it couldn’t happen now, then obviously it did. Everything just sort of stopped. On a personal level as an artist, I was at the time riding a little high on getting a few good projects lined up and was just offered a 20-30 minute slot to do my own poetry show live after working incredibly hard throughout 2019 to establish myself more. Then, nothing.

That sounds final, it felt it at the time. It felt that everything I have worked doing had just ended and with no idea like everyone else about how this was going to pan out it was very scary. I’m happy to say things are getting better, slowly but it’s going to take time for momentum to return. Not just to me but a lot of other artists/performers I know are in the exact same place professionally, or sadly worse and my heart goes out to them.

It is no secret that the arts have taken a huge battering with COVID and its hard to see a sector I have spent all of my life wanting to work in, learning to work in, and finally putting myself out there to be in getting crippled so quickly. It’s incredibly disheartening and sad. There is, of course, a good argument that it’s adapted to be online but no amount of zoom calls can ever replace the visceral nature of the physical presence of art and performance. You can’t hug code.

The arts will survive but its recovery depends on if people will value it as ‘viable’ (to use an awful term in vogue at the moment – also spoiler alert – The arts are and have always been viable, not just a hobby).

Q. How would you describe your performance?

I would describe it as energetic, humorous, and absurdist but often with something to say based on my experience of Brechtian Epic Theatre. I am also not adverse to just trying to make people laugh as I personally believe laughter is one of the greatest things we have. I love laughing ( I have a loud laugh, much to the distress of people who know me) but I feel that if you laugh you should laugh, loudly and proudly. Humour is incredibly important to me, I was brought up on comedy from Tommy Cooper to The Young Ones and Bottom. Making each other laugh is how me and my family communicate and I find myself making jokes all the time, either to the delight or annoyance of friends.

Q. What inspires you?

This is going to sound very cliché but my friends and other artists. It is thanks to other artists and the support of my friends I am able to do what I do in the first place especially during COVID. They are there when things go wrong and they are there to celebrate success. A few have almost seen me perform never every time. In fact, when I came back to performing in 2019 A housemate at the time bought me a pin badge (you should be able to see it in the pictures that will be with this article) I promised them I would wear it every time I perform. So far I believe I have. That level of support I find vital in my line of work. When I started someone very close to me at the time told me that me wanting to be an artist was ‘taking the piss out of real artists’ and that almost stopped me before I began however even though I was just some guy who decided to take the plunge and try to be an artist I was taken in by the artist scene of Blackpool. It is an incredibly supportive network of people who showed me that I had what it takes all I had to do is do it.

With their support and want to help I like to think in at least some ways, I’m proving them right.

Q. How does Manchester compare to Blackpool?

I think it’s a little unfair to compare the two really. You have the seaside town of Blackpool vs arguably the capital city of the north therefore you will always find Manchester has quite a few advantages. In my experience, Manchester being bigger has more groups and opportunities to get involved with performing etc. (i.e Blue Balloon Theatre @blueballoontheatremcr who I’ve just made a short show for)but with that comes a slight degree of separation you don’t have in Blackpool. Blackpool’s art scene feels like a small community comprised of many different disciplines whereas in a city it feels more like each discipline has separate groups each one its own welcoming community but separate in a way. This however is just my experience as it stands and it can change.

Q. What is next on the agenda for you?

In this year of COVID I cannot, unfortunately, and frustratingly give a clear answer to that. However, I have not given up yet nor do I ever intend to. I will keep creating my animations, poetry, and performances (hopefully get into a few festivals…if they are allowed) and keep working at being an artist. It took me a long time to call myself one and believe that I am and that isn’t going to stop any time soon.

Ultimately I hope I can make Blackpool proud as I am proud to be from Blackpool. I mention it all the time, even in my official artist Bio I use for jobs or any of the other interviews I have done. It is my hometown and is a part of me and I will be returning to visit as soon as I can and it is safe to do so. I still get that giddy/warm feeling when I see the tower when I’m traveling back and I haven’t visited for a while.

I’m looking forward to that moment again.

Follow Ant on: Twitter  You Tube  Abfreelanceartist

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