Toni Oisin H.C. (QSO)
10 Questions With… The Passion Project
We caught up with Anusha Stribbling about The Passion Project, dream lineups, and the Project's upcoming livestream
In case you're unfamiliar, The Passion Project is a London-based organisation ran by musician Anusha Stribbling that seeks to break down barriers in the performing arts. Since it formed in 2019, the Project has provided support for artists trying to navigate the tumultuous and inaccessible arts scene, as well as putting on a series of events and making a documentary. In a couple weeks time, on June 2nd, the Project is back with a fully virtual gig featuring like poetry, music, and an open mic. Ahead of the Project's livestream, we caught up with Anusha to find out more about The Passion Project, and what to expect on the night.
1. Hi! Can you tell us a little more about The Passion Project?
The Passion Project started off as a bit of a ‘fuck you’ to my previous university. Our final year project was to put on the show but the prerequisites were wholly unfair. It really wasn’t about the music and more if you “looked” like a musician (i.e. having expensive clothes, a nice looking set etc.). I was disheartened with this so I started The Passion Project as the antithesis of my final year project. We were unpolished, unprofessional and more focused on the musicians who didn’t have access to being a “perfect” performer.
It then expanded to opening up to any sort of performer - outside of music - comedians, poets, rappers, DJs, visual artists - all came and showcased their work at The Passion Project. It became a place for artists to express themselves freely without having the industry pressures stopping them from performing. We gave advice, had discussions, had improv sessions and gave opportunities to artists who may not be exposed to performing.
2. How has the Project taken to shifting online due to COVID-19? So unfortunately, shortly after our last sold out in person gig in Bristol - the world stopped for a second. Personally, I was experiencing extreme financial hardship so pulling off that gig in Bristol was hard enough as it is. So I was close to just completely shutting The Passion Project down.
But I started venturing out with different projects such as sharing resources via making Excel spreadsheets that were sharing opportunities and resources. I started reaching out to other artists to share their wisdom or artistic techniques with other people. This was during now dealing with my medical condition (which started in May 2020) so it was slow and clunky at times. However, what was awesome is that our in person community turned into an online community and I’ve met so many people who are willing to help. Complete strangers from around the world. And now we’re bringing back the performance aspect of it but virtually.
3. You’re running a virtual show in early June. Tell us a bit more about that? I’m hoping that this is going to be a regular thing. As previously mentioned, we were originally just offering performance opportunities for people who wouldn’t originally be exposed to performing. I think with COVID-19, performers (including myself) have felt like they’ve had to choose between potentially risking contracting COVID-19 or missing out on performing all together. That is not fair. Performers should not have to risk illness to perform to people. There are other ways to perform to people, network and share your art. Zoom is one of them. It may not be the best way to perform but it’s the way we’re starting off right now.
4. I’m excited about the pyjama party theme. What was the idea behind theming the event, and how did you pick a theme?
So part of the final year project, I thought it would be nice to have a theme. I think I chose something along the lines of your own personal journey to music. I had teddy bears lined up, cue cards for people to fill out, people came in pyjamas - the lot. Every show since then had a sort of theme; The Sharing Circle, Summer Party, Improv Night etc. I wanted to bring that back because it makes it fun, not as serious and welcoming. I picked a pyjama theme specifically because of my heart condition, I often find myself in my bed. I want all my attendees to come through in their most comfiest.
5. As an attendee, what do you look for in a virtual event?
I’ve witnessed quite a few virtual events - less so now considering everything is “open” now. But the one thing I want to see in virtual events is thought and care. Often organisations will offer a virtual as a last resort because there is a slight demand. But it’ll be a janky camera in the corner with bad lighting and sound. And someone is talking in the background so you can’t really hear the performer. One person who really thought of it and who I want to congratulate was Travis Alabanza who live streamed “Overflow” with the Bush Theatre because I got to experience theatre in the comfort of my home. And it was done with care and thought of the people who are at home. 6. It’s really important that online events keep going. What can we do to support the digital events economy? Support them in whatever means you can.
That could look like; organisations offering the digital events economy money so that they can carry on, people spreading the word so that more people understand the plight of performers and the virtual events organisers, it could mean people who are part of the industry simply speaking up and asking other people to offer virtual events.
I had an organisation who flat out refused to offer help out with The Passion Project purely because they couldn’t imagine it working out now everything was “back to normal”. Which frustrated me because part of what creates change and how we create opportunities for those who don’t always get to perform is by imagining bigger. Jamal Edwards created a platform purely because he wanted to platform artists in the local scene. And look who we have now. We could be missing out on talented performers due to the lack of support. Just because the government has decided that we need to move forward from COVID-19 doesn’t mean that we need to forget about people who want to perform but can’t.
7. What are YOU most excited about about the event? I’m excited to meet new people. I always thought that when I started The Passion Project it would just be a few friends who support each other. I have met people from all across the UK and the world through this organisation.
I love hearing their stories and how they came into performing too. Each one of us has different stories but also have similarities so when people come together and share knowledge, we grow as people. So that’s what I’m excited for, new people.
8. You throw a coin into an enchanted well and make a wish to book any three artists, musicians, or performers to stream for The Passion Project. Who do you pick?
Gorillaz - I’ve seen them twice before but I feel like if there was an online cartoon only version of a live show would be a fantastic watch. Especially if they merged all the worlds they created together.
Doechii - is a rapper who came onto the scene and she is so charismatic, I would love to see her virtually.
And My Chemical Romance - purely because I had to sell my ticket for this summer’s gig so I feel a tiny bit salty.
9. What’s your future vision for the Project?
Truthfully, my health has been rapidly declining so I’m unsure how long I can keep up with The Passion Project. But ultimately, I hope to create a small little infrastructure to support artists who don’t have the means to perform. I also want to utilise Discord a lot more and provide resources or opportunities to create art. 10. Can we hope to see more digital events happening through The Passion Project later this year?
I hope so, there’s a bit of a financial cost to The Passion Project with the ongoing rise in costs to living. But I used to do this seasonally so I think I want to go back to that, which will give me time to save and network with more people. If digital events suddenly become financially unviable for us - we’ll find another way to support artists.
Find The Passion Project on their website, as well as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Discord. You can also buy tickets to the livestream here.
Toni Oisin H.C. is the Head of Audio at QSO Media. Read more of his writing here.