Strength in Fluidity, An interview with Gypsy Disco's Jared Philippo about turning a club night
Jared heads up a circus production company called Gypsy Disco. What began as an idea and a desire to do something a little different, has gained so much momentum, that it’s been hard to slow down and keep pace.
Gypsy Disco started while Jared was studying at uni in Brighton. He was disillusioned with the scene there, feeling like the pubs and clubs were dominated by just one or two owners who were running very formulaic student nights with not much imagination.
He wanted to hear his favourite music played, which at the time was high energy Gypsy, Klezmer & Balkan Brass style music, a very much under represented genre in his opinion. Luckily he was surrounded by a few people who shared his urge to do something different, so in October 2012 they booked Chainska Brassika along with 3 performers and tested it out at a small venue called Blind Tiger Club.
What they did was more than just a regular club night. They created an immersive interactive experience that merged live music, circus acts, burlesque, story telling and décor encouraging the audience to be an intrinsic part of the theatrical performance.
Something Gypsy Disco does very well is make an honest and real engagement between artist and audience. You can never predict exactly what you will experience within the enigmatic mix of music, performance, art, style and - let’s be honest - a touch of the bizarre, but all of it treasured with a value far beyond currency.
It grew in popularity attracting more artists and had to move into larger venues in Brighton. For Jared, Gypsy Disco reached its pinnacle moment in Brighton when they began to bring their brand to the largest venue 'Concorde2'. It was here that over 800 party goers descended into their playground to be greeted and entertained by over 130 performers. Jared sought to produce each event by designing unique themes (and décor) which are played out through storylines in their circus show. The format of the event would usually entail utilising 3 – 4 rooms creating an environment that would allow the audience to explore different spaces which would each have their own unique atmospheric set.
Whilst Jared has seen the concept as a celebration of the joys of Gypsy & Klezmer music (hence the name 'Gypsy Disco') he has found himself having to defend accusations of cultural appropriation. He has seen it take the centre of some interesting discussions yet for him, it has always been about the music.
He embraces discussion about creativity and the realities of working in the arts, because “it’s easy to forget that the self-promotion we see in public are not the full truth”.
Gypsy Disco are passionate about being a free and loving space. “Imperfections are beautiful”, he says. “It’s a supportive environment between performers and audience”. There’s a comradeship which isn’t competitive”. They are keen to express that no one will be chastised for mistakes which nourishes a supportive and experimental show. Jared trusts the abilities of the artists he books. The collective consists of many circus graduates from Circomedia in Bristol and Circus Space in London. Young performers need a platform to develop their own style in the company of others and of course with an audience. In this way they find themselves learning from one another, which forms bonds and friendships that that in turn lead them to new creative avenues.
Jared runs gypsy disco with a core team of members who have been helping produce each show the since its inception 4 years ago. The team includes:- Maria who is the creative producer helping choreograph the shows and book/performers (along with belly dancing in the show itself). - Caitlin who stage manages and along with managing the health & safety requirements and writing the risk assessments- Ewan who manages the build and set design of each show- Kris who takes care of the sound for each event and brief aswell as being the resident DJ- Jess who manages the lighting for the stage show.Jared commissions the set design to a variety of artists & illustrators who he works with closely with from conception to build.
Bristol has provided a wealth of circus talent. Not least due to Circomedia, but also for it’s nurturing community. Shared housing and site dwelling is de rigeur, which can be crucial to the affordability of living in the early stages of any creative career.
As well as putting on events throughout the year, Gypsy Disco also perform at a number of festivals. They are able to offer a complete package which is flexible and has a good reputation. This makes performance opportunities more accessible to young performers and offers the camaraderie of living, performing and travelling together throughout the year and enjoying creative communities.
We are interested in their working model as a collective. Gypsy Disco effectively has a pool of artists to call upon, each with their own set of skills, yet no one is indispensable to every single show, allowing performers freedom and flexibility to come and go and to work elsewhere. They have even found themselves producing two separate, simultaneous shows at Boomtown Fair and Boom Festival in Portugal. It’s an advantage that they are not beholden to any one member of the cast with sets of cues and dependencies that a linear show encompasses although that is also something they can do.
In June 2016 they were commissioned to create a large scale circus production for How the Light Gets In, a Philosophy Festival in Hay-on-Wye. This format was different to any previous experience as they are accustomed to performing in environments whereby the audience members are standing and dancing whilst engaging with the show. For this however, it was a sold out, 15 run, sit down performance with 13 performers including Acrobats, Unicyclists, Aerialists, Burlesque amongst many other disciplines.
They have currently taken a period of rest from putting on events that has allowed them to innovate and allow members to develop their skills elsewhere. Their core members have all been actively involved with other projects and companies such as Caitlin stage managing theatre shows across the country, Ewan working for a sound production company, Kris working for a set design company Jess working in lighting and Maria having completed her masters. Jared has relocated to study a Masters in Labour & Social Movements Development at SOAS University of London. With Gypsy Disco, he has been leading quite a double life. Surrounded by humanitarian crusaders during the week and living the circus life at the weekends, which throws up much interest and debate between the two.
The move to London has encouraged a transition. He has just released a compilation album entitled 'Gypsy Disco Vol:1' which features 14 of his favourite bands from around the world that specialise in Gypsy, Klezmer & Balkan Brass music. Jared sought to create this as a means to promote the music he loves and make it accessible to a wider audience. To celebrate the album and to launch Gypsy Disco in London, they are putting on an event at the incredible new venue 'Styx' on Saturday 12th November. There will still be so much to interact with, in the form of massage booths, storytelling and performances.
Nothing is solid for Gypsy Disco. It is in a free and organic state. The collective has a firm identity and a tangible bond between the members. It’s hard not to want to run away with them on their adventures! Jared insists that he would never wish to be consumed by one venture because, “nothing lasts forever”. This helps Gypsy Disco to be all the richer in it’s cultural content. Their main strength seems to be in their natural fluidity. In a professional sense Gypsy Disco is achieving some highly valued qualities. It promotes audience development by nature in presenting world music styles and a cultural mix of performances. It is participatory. It creates jobs for emerging artists and provides a testing ground for new work. It initiates new partnerships and provides opportunities for artists to travel and work in different locations. The content is culturally diverse and demonstrates great value for money.
Purchase Gypsy Disco Vol: 1 - www.gypsy-disco.bandcamp.com/ Promotional film for CD: https://vimeo.com/183828970 London Album Launch Event (12th November) FB event: http://bit.ly/2ela7dQ Ticket link: https://billetto.co.uk/events/gypsy-disco-london/