Failure Lab: what artists learnt from ‘failing’ fast

What is failure compared to success, and who decides on that? What if failure turns out to be as positive as success? Be inspired by artists who faced their fears…

Watch the Failure Lab roundup video and read on to find out what happened when 15 artists from across Europe worked together for 8 days in Belgium exploring the topic of Failure and taking creative risks as part of the Push+ Failure Lab.

Video by Jassy Earl for Push+

The failure lab was an incredibly useful way to expand my sense of artistry within a wider lens than the one that I usually understand it through – coming from Scotland, where theatre for and with young people is a relatively small sector. The lab allowed me to re-contextualise my practice and, as an emerging maker, allow a new sense of self-belief to emerge as well as the formation of organic friendship and collaborations across Europe. This is something that I otherwise would never find.

Eoin McKenzie, artist and participant

PUSH+ is a 3-year Creative Europe co-operation project led by Imaginate (Scotland) alongside Aaben Dans (Denmark), Krokusfestival (Belgium), Scenekunstbruket (Norway), The Ark (Ireland) and associate partner Bangkok International Children’s Festival (Thailand). PUSH+ will stimulate European dialogue and initiate new artistic ideas and performances around three important topics in performance for young audiences – Home, Failure and Different Bodies.

Artists getting stuck into the Push+ Failure Lab. Photo by Jassy Earl

These are topics that push us to take more risks as makers and presenters, to address the underrepresentation of different lives and bodies on our stages and to tell stories that really connect with children and who they are. Each topic will have a year-long focus with a Lab, Residency and Festival Visit/Presentation. Push+ will also explore three artistic formats – Participatory, Site-specific and Intergenerational – across all three topics.

In September 2019, 15 artists from the partner countries worked together for 8 days in Belgium for the ‘Failure Lab’ exploring the topic of Failure and how it impacts them as artists and the children and young people they make work for.

The Lab opened up questions and research around failure in different ways: as a value in itself, as a start for something new, and as a space of freedom for creativity. The artists worked with two Belgian artists, Joke Laureyns and Jef Van Gestel, with input from several non-arts experts from different social fields, and spending time with children/educators/parents/presenters.

After all, Stephen Frears is (maybe) right: ‘To be successful at anything, you need the right to fail, not just occasionally.’

Find out more about Imaginate and PUSH+ here.

Do you have any stories to share about ‘failing to succeed’ in your artistic practice, and what life lessons you’ve learnt from a set-back? Tell us!


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