Extraordinary live art, unusual experiences, and stories that surprise, inspire or catalyse: prepare to flesh out your February with some forward-thinking, cultural goodness at IBT17

The city’s creative calendar continues apace this month, thanks to international arts producer In Between Time (you know, the guys that brought us the Fog Bridge back in 2015) and its 2017 festival. Running from 8-12 February, with dance, theatre, live art, activism and music to be found everywhere from theatres and galleries to city streets and outdoor spaces, the IBT17 Bristol International Festival is bringing a host of world-leading British live artists – selected by a panel of esteemed live art producers and funded by Arts Council England – to our neck of the woods, to showcase their works to local audiences as well as 100 producers from six continents around the world.

IBT17Lone Twin present Beastie, image © Pekka Makinen

So what exactly is the big idea? Well, it’s all about sharing the work of artists who are unafraid to stand up for their beliefs as the world changes, portraying a version of Britain that is contemporary, open, defiantly different, and rich with a diversity of voices (like Bristol itself you might say), that’s what. The programme features everything from work by performance artist and cystic fibrosis sufferer Martin O’Brien, that questions what it means to be born with a life-threatening disease; to Nic Green’s Cock and Bull – a response to the repetition of empty political promises that sees three female performers convene their own, alternative party conference in a post-truth era.

IBT17Lone Twin’s Ghost Dance, image © Grace Surman

Tania El Khoury’s As Far As My Fingertips Take Me, over at Arnolfini, shares stories of those who have challenged border discrimination, through a conversation of touch and sound between an audience member and a refugee; while Katy Dye’s Baby Face explores the paradox of a society that encourages boys to be men but women to be girls; and Rachael Young’s Out challenges homophobia within Caribbean communities.

The whole thing starts with a 12-hour – yes 12-hour – performance of Lone Twin’s Ghost Dance: two silent, blindfolded cowboys ‘blown in from elsewhere’, perfectly matching each other’s footsteps and expecting members of the public to step up when exhaustion kicks in. Later in the programme, they present Beastie, a creation conjured from the imaginations of children and popping up at unexpected times, in unlikely locations, over the course of the festival – inviting children to attend workshops to complete Beastie’s story. Kids will also be able to get involved with the Live Art Development Agency’s Playing Up on 11 and 12 February – a role reversal game at Arnolfini, where all ages may find themselves dancing with animals, remote controlling an adult, or following a random passer-by.

IBT17Nic Green’s Cock and Bull, image © Julia Bauer

As well as an undoubted highlight in the form of UK premiere of The Record, by award-winning New York theatre company 600 Highwaymen at Bristol Old Vic, Ria Hartley, who married herself by civil ceremony in May 2013, will be in town to invite Bristolians to be her guests at Look No Further, her post-wedding reception dinner at Trinity Centre on 12 February.

“The last 20 years has seen a significant growth in a body of live art practice that is uniquely British and best placed to reflect the UK in all its extraordinary diversity,” says Helen Cole, the festival’s artistic director. “In Between Time has been central to demystifying live art, contextualising the work away from the margins and often placing it centre stage and in the public realm.” “Live art in the UK is a beacon for artists and curators from around the world who are engaged with interdisciplinary, experiential practices that offer audiences something new,” adds Lois Keidan, co-founder of Live Art Development Agency, and one of the panel who selected some of the exhibiting artists. “The IBT17 International Showcase will be an opportunity to see the work of some of the most interesting, exciting artists working in the UK today.”

IBT17Riah Hartley invites you to her wedding reception, image © Benji Reid

Keep an eye out for Lucy McCormick’s Triple Threat too, which sees her take centre stage to re-enact the New Testament through dance, power ballads and performance art. Hilarious and shocking in equal measure, it was considered one of the most extreme and extraordinary events at the Edinburgh Fringe. Then, there’s Katy Baird’s Workshy, for those who are interested in exploring Britain’s approach to work and the relationship between labour, class and aspiration; Woodland, running from 9-12 February in a secret location, and encouraging audiences to become at one with the forest via artists French & Mottershead’s meditative audio work; or Project O’s Voodoo which showcases two dancers who map out the movement of their memories and the gaps in their knowledge.

IBT17Lucy McCormick’s Triple Threat, image © Tamsin Drury

A further strand to the celebration is to be held at the old IMAX cinema on the Harbourside, where a series of music and film events programmed with Colston Hall is planned. On 9 February, electronic and techno producer Max Cooper will be joined by synthesizer genius Rival Consoles, before British electro-rock, post-industrial duo Factory Floor take to the stage on 10 February, sharing their musical experiments and joined by electronic musician and graphical artist Konx-Om-Pax.

Towards the end of the festival, on 11 February, the keenest musos among us might want to check out The Art of Application – a discussion on scoring for film with the likes of Bristol-born record producer and songwriter Neil Davidge, known for his co-writing and co-producing for Massive Attack; founding member of Tindersticks Dickon Hinchcliffe, and award-winning composer Michael Price, who has produced soundtracks for Sherlock. The same evening, the entire festival will be celebrated with the huge and immersive Dawn Art Party – featuring plenty of interactive light and video plus boundary-pushing musicians and DJs including Ivor Novello-nominated DJ and alchemist of avant-garde sound Matthew Herbert; Bristol favourites Shapes DJs; and otherworldly visuals from Limbic Cinema, at The Old Fire Station. Summon your inner night owl and join the dawn treaders from 10pm right through until 4am…

Set to be the “bravest festival yet” according to director Helen Cole, this is definitely one to make time for and we, for one, are excited to get amongst – no, in-between – it all…

• To find out more about IBT17 visit inbetweentime.co.uk

Featured image: Project O’s Voodoo, © Katarzyna Perlak