Curatorial Policy

The artist Rrose sits infront of a large metal gong, in a beautiful church. She wears a black wig and black dress. Her back is turned.
Image: Paul Blakemore

Submerge Curatorial Policy

A playground for wild and experimental artistic practices that challenge the status quo.

Submerge is curated by invitation only; programming decisions are led by Artistic Director Mike Pony. Commissions and offers to show work at our biennial festival are made directly to artists and companies where we feel there may be a clear match with the values, goals and priorities of the organisation. 


Submerge is a queer-led organisation, and as such the work we develop and programme fits broadly into the category of “queer” as an organising principle. This means that either the artist directly identifies as queer, has collaborated with (or wants to collaborate with) queer artists, or that the work is queer in its approach and/or content. Everything we do is informed by our queerness, but we avoid calling Submerge a “queer festival” so as to not limit it’s scope and reach. We seek to present work by (and create work with) queer artists without it having to be about their queerness, personal stories or identity politics. 


Submerge typically looks to support artists whose work is radical and doesn’t easily fit into traditional programming contexts. The work we support comes from a broad range of artistic disciplines, often combining elements of liveart, body-based practice, visual arts, dance, sound art, installation, light, club performance, electronic music, immersive technique, audio-visual and digital practice. We thrive on work that is visceral, immersive and experimental. 


Submerge are interested in developing pathways between the underground and the mainstream. Nightlife contexts are often the first place queer artists are able to experiment with making radical work, and these environments are often the playground for wild ideas which are free from institutional restraints. For this reason our early career artist opportunities are often aimed at developing artists working in club, cabaret and nightlife contexts.


Submerge is interested in overlooked, difficult and risky artistic practices. We try and foreground work that isn’t often seen in the UK, is difficult to programme, and doesn’t fit traditional presenting contexts. We know that presenting international contemporary arts within nightlife contexts can make experimental arts practice more fun, more accessible and more understandable for wider audiences. 


We believe that creating space for radical and experimental artistic practice in the UK is deeply important, contributing to creative dialogue, inspiring local artists and audiences and challenging the status quo. We try not present work that has previously toured in the UK unless it has been significantly changed or developed, or it has gained a new relevance through its cultural context or themes. 


Submerge doesn’t commission or programme shows from repertory theatre or the playwright/director system, because this is already well established in the region. The work we programme shuns naturalistic modes of performance or “acting” and we try not to programme seated “theatre” shows unless the form, context and content is deeply meaningful or radical. We recognise that theatre is a broad term and has different meanings across the globe; as such we are sometimes interested in theatre that is experimental, site-responsive or site-specific. We are also interested in participatory performance, and work that engages with immersive and experiential techniques. 


Submerge work closely in partnerships with a number of venues and cultural organisations in Manchester and we like to compliment and not replicate each other’s programming. We recognise good work when we see it, and for this reason our curatorial policy remains fluid. Sometimes we make exceptions to our programming for things we deem important and brilliant, as long as they fit with our values and politics.