WHAT is SLAP, the Social Live Art Performance festival in York?

"We like the risky and small-scale, we like big ideas and artists who are producing works on the fringes of traditional performance," say organisers Lydia Cottrell and Sophie Unwin. "We tend to put unusual work into usual spaces for unsuspecting audiences.

"If you like to laugh, to be moved, inspired and surprised, or you’d like to get involved, SLAP Festival is the performance event for you."

Lydia and Sophie, who run the 70/30 Split independent theatre company, will present an "assortment of bold, touching, personal and political dance, theatre, live art and cabaret performances by York, national and international artists" from Wednesday to Saturday.

These progressive SLAP performances will take place in five locations across the city – York Theatre Royal, John Cooper Studio @41 Monkgate, The Crescent community venue, York St John Spark Community Theatre and York Dance Space – complemented by a series of pop-up performances in the city centre as the festival "journeys through themes of queerness, zombies, Millennials and their predecessors, masculinity, connection and more".

York Press:

Emma Geraghty in Fat Girl Singing at York Theatre Royal Studio on February 21

Led off by Emma Geraghty's Fat Girl Singing show at the York Theatre Royal Studio on Wednesday night, events range from diverse workshops and dance and theatre works, to a one-to-one performance and a large-scale community dance project, culminating in Dryhump, a queer cabaret knees-up from eight till late next Sunday at The Crescent community venue.

SLAP was dreamt up and formed by Lydia and Sophie with a desire to bring exceptional performances to York and generate opportunities for like-minded artists who probe and produce raw, grassroots performance work. "What makes us tick is supporting, developing and programming experimental dance, theatre, live art, music, installation and film," they say.

The past four years have seen SLAP bring an international dance prize to a York nightclub; avant-garde performance art to a disused office space; public guerilla-style performances to the streets; an innovative performance art jukebox to a gallery and diverse works to York Theatre Royal.

Lydia and Sophie also have programmed dance and performance events as part of the inaugural 2018 York Mediale Festival, York Festival of Ideas and Illuminating York Festival, as well as at the York Guildhall, a club, a bus stop, a music festival and everything in between.

2017 saw SLAP stage the SLAPWeekender as part of Yorkshire Dance’s Artists Curating Dance project, funded by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation. That year, SLAP was a finalist in the Best Cultural Event or Festival category in the York Culture Awards.

York Press:

Northern Rascals in The Mesmerist at York Theatre Royal Studio on February 23

Looking forward to the 2019 festival, SLAP co-founder and director Sophie Unwin says: "SLAP Festival 2019 will be four days of eclectic performances from artists who work all over the country and beyond. We're really excited to have the opportunity to programme such a variety of celebrated artists, most of whom have never performed here in York.

"We continue to offer a daring alternative to the City of York’s current cultural offering while also ensuring there is something in the programme for everyone.

"After a series of successful pop-up events in the city, we're very proud that the SLAP Festival is our most ambitious and exciting project yet. This project has enabled us to work in partnership with York Theatre Royal, programming work into the Studio theatre, as well as working with Spark York and York St John University, offering their students an opportunity to perform as part of the festival in the brand new YSJ Spark Community Venue.

"We're delighted to be bringing work to York, finding and building new audiences for unusual work and contributing to the developing cultural landscape of the city."

Fellow co-founder and director Lydia Cottrell says: "Being artist led, our main aims are to provide a supportive environment for artists to create new work. Our main aim for audiences is for them to experience new contemporary performance in an accessible and non-exclusionary way.

York Press:

Beth Cassani and Joseph Meercier in The FAUN Project at York Theatre Royal Studio on February 22

"A big part of our ethos is that art is for everyone and we want everyone to feel welcome during all of our events. We have worked very hard to ensure that SLAP provides a safe environment and is a great opportunity to experience live art for the first time.

"We're also very excited that we'll be presenting two works that will have British Sign Language interpretation and two works that will be captioned. All of the venues we've selected have either flat or ramped access from the street, have elevators and accessible bathrooms."

Crucial to Lydia and Sophie's philosophy of the event being as accessible and affordable as possible, the SLAP Festival operates a pay-what-you-can policy. "SLAP believes income should not be a barrier to accessing performance and therefore we've made all events either free or pay-what-you-can," they say.

The ticket brackets are £3, £6, £9 and £12. "We ask everyone to be honest about their financial situation, but we will never ask anyone to prove theirs; just pick the amount that feels best for you," the organisers advise, with more details available at info@slapyork.co.uk.

Tickets are on sale at slapyork.co.uk, on 01904 623568 or in person from the York Theatre Royal box office.

See Tuesday's What's On Extra page in The Press for a run-down of all the SLAP performances and workshops. In the meantime, full details can be found at slapyork.co.uk.