Beyond the Threshold

We spoke to Threshold festival director Chris Carney, and found there’s fight in this town yet… 

To the casual observer, not to mention those directly affected, the last few months have been chastening to say the least for the city’s creative community. With the CUC and The Masque abruptly shutting up shop, Ceri Hand announcing her decision to high-tail it back to LDN, and even more recently, the Mojo calling it a day as a gig venue (reportedly due to poor ticket sales), things look bleak indeed. Needless to say this has generated much hand-wringing and column inches, not least in these very pages.

But take a closer look, and there are reasons to be cheerful. Camp & Furnace (previously A Foundation) has hit the ground running, the old Lomax on Cumberland Street has flung open its doors once again, and so too – for better or worse – has Eric’s. Perhaps the real story emblematic of this not so minor resurgence though, is Threshold - so-called, according to one of its directors, Chris Carney, as it refers to “the limits of what you can achieve”.

Perhaps predictably, given the already mentioned near-calamitous events, it’s hardly been plain sailing: in preparation for its second year and with everything seemingly going to plan, the rug was pulled from beneath the feet of the fledgling festival, when venue, and in many cases employer, the CUC announced its impending closure. As Carney says: “In early November, Kaya [Herstad Carney, co-director] and I both admitted that things were going a lot smoother at that point than the year previous… the news came that CUC Liverpool was closing, and we suddenly found ourselves thrown right back in at the deep end.”

It must have been a major blow, but the co-directors and the rest of the team rallied with impressive speed. Keeping their heads, and apparently without hesitation, they moved quickly to secure new venues, spreading from the CUC out to Camp & Furnace (there they are again), and beyond; the Scandinavian Church, Elevator, and The New Picket have all come on board. From looking disaster square in the face, to utilising great swathes of the hungry Baltic Triangle hinterland – that’s an impressive display of thinking on your feet.

“There is an element of ‘phoenix from the flames’ and it’s hugely important that there’s a positive outcome for the area”

Carney openly concedes that Threshold was one of the CUC’s, and therefore, The Baltic Triangle’s, biggest concerns, which surely brings pressures of its own to get things as close to spot on as possible? “I wouldn’t call it pressure, we feel incredibly supported. There is an element of ‘phoenix from the flames’ and it’s hugely important that there’s a positive outcome for the area.”

We concur. On paper, so far so good, but the next trick is the real deal-maker. Or breaker, depending on which way things go. Though boasting an impressive assortment of venues, seemingly perfect for large, multi-platform, multi-disciplinary events, The Baltic Triangle has form when it comes to difficulty in attracting the requisite numbers. And for a festival still in its infancy, Threshold can’t rely on a massive array of big name talent to do the work for it. Instead, they’ve boxed-clever, belying their relative inexperience. Alongside the likes of favourites such as Stealing Sheep, The Thespians and Organ Freeman, there is a dedicated programme of talks, presentations, exhibitions and screenings, to entice those not convinced merely by a re-invented Sandi Thom. Carney points out that this time around they feel much more prepared, and personal expectations have risen. “We’ve been able to be more selective about what we’d like to see. It’s still very much a grass roots event but it’s not a massive open door; there’s more quality control.”

It’s this ‘quality control’ that will be key if the festival is to continue to develop and grow, but the good-will garnered from the success of last year’s Threshold, and the unbridled enthusiasm of Carney certainly stands them in good stead. There is also a sense that it has more than passed its trial by fire. In so doing, earning the right to what, potentially, promises to be a significant fillip, not simply to this area of Liverpool, but for the city at large.

Threshold Festival Previews Thursday 9 February, and runs Friday 10 – Sunday 12 February 2012
All tickets are available from Friday £8 / Saturday £10 / Sunday £10 / Weekend £20

Posted on 03/02/2012 by thedoublenegative