BE FESTIVAL 2017: Opening Night

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This year’s BE FESTIVAL opened to the sound of unraveling red tape. Not the kind brought about by current Brexit negotiations, but a physical red tape that stretched all the way from Ladywood, Birmingham to the Rep Theatre as MAMAZMA completed the journey of ASINGELINE; an art installation re-imagining red tape and using it to connect together art spaces and the local community.

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A solo performance packed with multiple personalities the evening’s first show, INDOMADOR, examined human vanities and the identities we choose to portray. Through the hour long performance Animal Religion led us from rubber chicken comedy to a darker, more sinister, look at the way we view animals and ourselves via precision acrobatics and perfectly choreographed body mimicry.

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The performance asked more questions than it answered and was the main topic of conversation as we took our seats for the interval meal on the main stage. Provided by Birmingham’s renowned Marmalade bistro there were options of Pesto Crumbed Pollock or Citrus Marinated Tofu, both served on generous helpings of vegetable couscous and accompanied by Mediterranean bread and Spanish salad. Gazing around I wondered how many famous faces had looked out to an audience packed theatre from the very spot where I was sat enjoying dinner.

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The second performance of the night, PALMYRA, saw Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas exploring revenge and the politics of destruction through the Greek tradition of breaking plates. Although initially playful and comedic we soon discovered their relationship was harbouring hurt and resentment. Loud and provocative the show harnessed the sound of broken crockery to startle and shock but it ultimately provided a musical soundtrack to Bert and Nasi’s sad and dysfunctional friendship dance.

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Choreographer Paula Rosolen’s goal, to make visible the inherent dance present in everyday life, is certainly evident in the evening’s final performance Aerobics! A Ballet in 3 Acts. Alternating grapevines with pliés Heptic Hide transformed our 1980’s keep fit obsession into a work of art. Precisely timed and synchronized, every move perfectly controlled, Paula’s choreography gave aerobics a fluidity and grace that, by the end of the show, even had an exercise-phobic like me wondering where I’d hidden my legwarmers.

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The atmosphere at BE FESTIVAL is hard to put into words but it’s theme of Crossing Borders may go some way to explaining it. Borders are not only crossed at BE FESTIVAL, they’re broken down and discarded. Performers, staff, and audience mingle between performances in a way I’ve never seen at any other festival. The evening’s dinner started at a table with strangers and ended with a group of new friends. It is, truly, a festival like no other and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us at BE FESTIVAL 2018.

Swingamajig Festival

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A few weeks after working at the Flatpack Festival I was contacted by Lauren, the festivals co-ordinator, to see if I might also be interested in volunteering at the upcoming Swingamajig festival.
Last year I filmed a television piece there, as part of our formats module, and I really enjoyed the festivals carnival style atmosphere. The festival celebrates all things swing and retro from music and dance to circus acts and big band performances. It’s very different to any festival I have ever been to before. Despite it growing in size each year it still manages to retain it’s friendly and welcoming atmosphere.

I arrived at Digbeth’s Rainbow Arches in full 1920’s attire, as I’d felt quite left out wearing normal clothes last year and dressing up was encouraged in the volunteer information so I thought I’d have fun with it. I’m so glad I made the effort now as how I was dressed ended up making a difference to the job I was given, so I’d definitely consider this when getting dressed for future job roles. I’d say, always ‘Dress the Part’. So if it’s a wedding or formal occasion, don’t turn up in casual clothes; if you’re going to be filming in the woods in autumn think about walking boots and waterproofs. It may seem like it doesn’t matter what you wear as a filmmaker or photographer but, sadly, we are still often treated how we are perceived and dressing appropriately can help to give an added air of professionalism. Even the simple, accessory filled, apron I wear on set helps to identify me as a crew member and it gives me a little more confidence and somehow makes me ‘feel’ more professional.

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There were five of us in the Stewarding team but as I was the only one totally over dressed they decided I should be at the front of the festival welcoming guests in and directing them in to the entrance gates.

This job was quite different to my usual roles but really allowed me a unique view of the festival itself. I got to talk to artists and musicians as they arrived, meet the photographers and filming crew, spend time with security and find out what goes on behind the scenes of running a festival that size but I also got to interact with the public and feel their excitement and enthusiasm for the festival itself.

Swingamajig festival is a true love affair of it’s creators the band Electric Swing Circus, who orchestrate the whole event with a very hands on, personal approach. During my time at front of house I saw Tom walking past again and again. Meeting and greeting musicians, carrying equipment, and even bothering to stop and make sure myself and the other volunteers were being taken care of and enjoying our roles on site.

After seeing Tom’s approach I feel that this is the type of director or producer I also hope to be one day. Someone who doesn’t think they are above everyone else; someone who gets involved and helps out when it is needed; someone who cares about the people on set and ensures the crew works together, looking out for one another, with one combined goal in mind; the success of your team and your final project.