Watch This Space is populist and disruptive. The longest running of the UK festivals, it uses its length (very nearly the entire summer season) and its central location (the pedestrian thoroughfare of London's South Bank) to smuggle the demanding, the cerebral and the weird in among its light entertainment. Much of the audience is coincidental, and one of the great pleasures of the festival is seeing oblivious tourists and cityworkers in among the diehards – usually happy, occasionally baffled, seldom bored.
Running for so long, WTS is subject to the changing weather, and will at some point, with certainty, be lashed by rain and plagued with cancellations. August is generally the worst month, but there's an attitude of good-natured determination: festival staff swab the stage at the slightest let-off, timetables are reworked; if a company can't perform one year they often come back the next.
In recent years the festival has begun with a series of week-long residencies which give companies studio space and the opportunity to invite in collaborators; all week they perform work from their repertoire while developing a new piece which is shown in inchoate form at the end of the residency. Another addition is the Square2 venue, a barriered and ticketed outdoor space for large-scale productions that demand greater attention or can be disrupted by a moving audience.
« There's a funny thing going on out there at the moment which is about money – on the one hand the free work becomes more and more valuable to people for totally obvious reasons, and I think it's brilliant when I see parents working out how to keep their kids entertained over the summer and they're sitting here studying the brochure working out which festival to go to next. Greenwich and Docklands this day, National the next – brilliant. And it takes on a huge value – and I know that because if something goes on late or if there's a change in the programme I get the complaints of people saying But I paid my bus fare to come to you today. On the other side of that I am, like the whole of this organisation, bracing for cuts and for how we deal with those maintaining as best we can everything that we do. So my hunch would be it won't be 14 weeks next year, but the obvious thing would be to just keep the quality and make it shorter. »
Angus MacKechnie, Watch This Space Producer (July 2010)