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2008 – The Festival Adventure

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This following article is a chronicle of events from The Festival Adventure – Symposium 2008, at Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance. It provides an overview of the first stand in a three-year research project that reflects on the notion and purpose of ‘festival’ with particular regard to celebrating diversity and building communities.

Introduction

The Festival Adventure was Rose Bruford College’s 2008 Symposium, which ran from 14 – 18 April 2008 on campus. It marked the beginning of the college’s latest research project which explores the notion of “festival”, its purpose, the ways in which a festival can celebrate diversity and the role of a festival in a community.

The week included interactive workshops, ‘in conversations’, demonstrations, presentations, rehearsed readings, ‘work in progress’, panels, forums, installations, screenings, and live performance in many forms. To this end, we worked with artists, practioners and companies from around the world. We also worked closely with the Rose Bruford College Student Union (who hosted a marvellous House Party on campus as part of the closing celebrations), as well as alumni and graduate companies from the college.

Each day comprised of three main strands:

– Workshops
– Talks, Presentations and Panels
– Performances

This information page follows those strands, highlighting the key events in each category and summarising the week under each point.

Workshops

This year, we ran over 30 workshops with a record-breaking 1060 sign-ups from a student body of around 650 full time. That means that a good proportion of students were signing up for 2 or more workshops!

This year’s schedule of workshops saw repeats from some of last year’s big successes, such as Circus Skills (with Timothy Lenkiewicz), Street Dance (with Hakeem Onibudo from Impact Dance), Capeoira and Object Theatre (with Chris Baldwin). Musician Arun Ghosh also made a repeat appearance, but this time ran a week-long workshop with students culminating in a performance in The Rose Theatre at the end of the week.

Dance Warm UpOf particular note (and a new addition) was Hungarian dance artist and choreographer, Yvette Bozsik, who led Rose Bruford and Bird College students in creating a dance piece which was ready for a public ticketed (and subsequently sold-out!) performance on the Friday.

Continuing the international mood, we were also pleased to present Les 8 Bottes Jaunes, a physical theatre company (who also performed their piece Labyrinth in Eden in the Barn Theatre), and Katsura Kan – the celebrated Butoh dancer and choreographer who worked with Jason Arcari and European Theatre Arts students. Showko Shoufukutei also brought a distinctly Japanese flavour to the proceedings when she ran two hugely entertaining and popular Rakugo workshops – the ancient art of comic storytelling (sitting down!).

Workshop ActivitiesAnd for those non-performers out there who didn’t want to go remotely near a dance, acting or movement workshop, there was still a lot to do! Among some of those things were the Bohemian Events/Spiral workshops where a group of students assisted in the building of two giant puppets for the Friday night closing celebrations (telling the story of St. George and the Dragon) and the astounding Shakespeare Machine (by Marek Becka), which produced each Shakespeare play in 60 seconds with puppets! Complete with sets, costumes and actors, audience members were able to select their favourite work from the Bard’s repertoire and enter a booth for their very own private performance Punch-and-Judy style! Again, incredibly successful with many repeat showings on the Friday!

Talks, Presentations and Panels

Audience ViewOn the less-practical, but just as interesting, side of things – David Bown (Chief Executive of Harrogate Theatre). addressed attendees in The Rose on getting to know regional theatre organisations, the Academy (Harrogate Theatre’s training scheme for new arts practitioners), how to get ahead in the arts, how he got to where he is, before opening up questions from the floor.

Jatinda Verma (Artistic Director of Tara Arts) was the keynote speaker for Tuesday, where he talked about the Olympic Torch Relay in Trafalgar Square (you’ll remember all the press coverage of the protests around that) and Tara’s tour of The Tempest, which was seen at the Arts Theatre in London earlier this year.
Other talks during the week included the De Montford Festival Forum (with Christopher Maughan and Kathy Dacre), which explored the context of comedy festivals, and Stage Manager of the Year – GCB (real name Gary Cooper-Burrows) – spoke about his role as a stage and production manager and the absolutely necessity of social skills and the knowledge of people management.

Neatly finishing off the week was another key talk in The Festival Adventure. Fiesta to Festival with Spiral’s Chris Baldwin and Former Vice Principal Anthony Hozier, led the discussion on the weeks events and other festivals. Participants were invited to share their experiences in conversation. Attempting to answer the key questions we focused on in the introduction above, this forum and the feedback which came through forms the basis for future Symposia – more importantly, what happens next year?!

Performances

There were a strong crop of performances this year ranging from live music in The Rose to dramatic turns in studios and open-air locations!

Graduate company Shady Dolls presented three of their pieces over the course of the week – An Ornery Tale, Deadstock and The Hotsy-Totsy Club – after previewing the first two a few weeks beforehand. ‘Aint No Black In The Union Jack also took over Studio 2 for an evening where it presented the voices of young people in the debate on the current issues of Britishness and citizenship.

Two modern classics, one produced entirely by Rose Bruford staff and one produced entirely by Rose Bruford students, hit the limelight with huge audience attendance. Alan Bennett’s one-hander, A Chip In The Sugar, starring OLA/Stage Management Programme Director Richard Sadler took place on Wednesday, packing out a studio with demand meaning that an additional performance had to be scheduled! The other piece, created and performed outside by students, was Harold Pinter’s Victoria Station – a play about the relationship between a mini cab driver and his Controller, along with their communication issues!

On the live music front, there was the Shakespeare’s Band – a work in progress presentation around the work of Cervantes’ Don Quixote and Shakespeare, a dialogue between languages and music – and the in-house High Spirits gig, produced by 3rd year Organising Live Arts student Jo Smith. Featuring 3 college bands – CP62, Origins of Oceania and The Kids Jones – the show guaranteed lots of noise, fantastic tunes and sexy lighting. And the crowd lapped up the different genres of music from the stylish Kids Jones to the high-quality covers by CP62.

Student Union Events

This Symposium saw a stronger-than-ever collaboration with the Rose Bruford College Student Union. They put a huge amount of hard work into some of the more social aspects of the week, running various live entertainment for students just enjoying the atmosphere.

They were responsible for enhancing the festival atmosphere on campus by erecting two teepees which became a Games Tent and the Living Room Tent (full of second-hand furniture), where a Green Society Mug Sale took place, as well as a recycled-products fashion show (Project Catwalk) and a live Acoustic Set (by students from Actor Musicianship and Music Technology). All of these events were in aid of the Scene and Heard charity.

Two yurts were also set up by the organisers of The Festival Adventure and in co-ordination with the Student Union, they ran the Chill-Out Yurt in the Courtyard where screenings of short films from around the world took place. Last, but not least, they worked with Bohemian Events to create the closing celebratory party.

The Closing Celebrations

Illumination of Lamorbey HouseFriday was all about presentation and celebration. All the work which had been completed in workshops during the week had some sort of showing or presentation on this day, building up to the evening’s promised closing ceremonies which didn’t disappoint!

Following a simply amazing set of circus performances in The Rose (featuring a lady rolling around in a wheel), the crowd gathered in the Courtyard for the beginning of the Bohemian Events parade down towards the lake – following the stocky figure of non other but St. George himself! With the appearance of The Dragon, who was agressively approaching a damsel in distress tied to a large tree, St. George leaped to the rescue amid flames and fury. Dealing the Dragon several mighty blows, the job was done and the young lady in question was saved to the rousing sound of cheering from the crowd!

Then it was back towards the main campus for House Party and Bruford Burgers!

EPILOGUE

Bohemian Events DragonAll-in-all, not a bad job! Many thanks to all those involved who made it happen. Many thanks to all the participants and students who turned up. Let’s do it again next year!!!

Watch this space…

Photos © Copyright Mere Words Photography, 2008

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