Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Origins 2015

Voladores de Papantla
Origins came to an end last Thursday night, with the second performance of Beautiful One Day - the production that critic Matt Trueman said was "the most important show I've seen all year".  We must be doing something right. 

Actually, it's been by far the largest scale and best received festival to date - and we're genuinely delighted with the response.  It's going to take a bit of time to process all that was achieved: in fact, not all of it has been achieved yet, as the education and community work is ongoing, with a whole film project and oral history work coming later in the year.  It's pleasing to look at statistics which tell us more than 500 people came to Horniman's Pleasance on a wet Saturday to see the Voladores fly, and that 1,500 people turned up at the British Museum to see how very much alive the cultures shown in the museum's exhibition turn out to be.  It's great to know that the whole of Cavendish School came off timetable for a week to experience the festival, and that every child spent every day of that week exposed to indigenous cultures at first hand.  It's exciting that there are some clear marks of permanent impact - quite literally so in the case of Elliot Tupac's amazing mural at Acklam Market. 

The real impact, of course, will take longer to emerge. But, at this stage, I just want to say one thing.  We had proposed three key themes for the festival - Elders and Youth, Politics and Protest, Food and Environment.  These were present in spades, of course - but during the festival itself a fourth theme started to emerge very organically from the work being presented, and from the encounters between artists and between artists and audiences that were generated.  And that theme was one of fundamental change.  It probably seems odd to say this in the aftermath of an election that put the right very firmly in power in our country - but the festival served to put this in a much broader context, and left us all, artists and audiences, feeling that corners were being turned, and that our coming together in London was part of a genuine movement towards global justice.  Justice in terms of equality, land rights and self-determination.  Justice in terms of the environment and food sovereignty.  Justice in terms of a revitalized youth and respect for elders.  It felt real.

The festival included the solstice, which marks a time of change.  The Voladores ceremony, which is about the environment and regeneration, was traditionally only performed at the solstice and the equinox - so it felt appropriate.  We coupled it with the Guatemalan play Oxlajuj B'aqtun, which was not only about the solstice, but about an entire change of era in the Mayan calendar, and ended with a profoundly moving sense of spiritual and cultural resurgence for the Mayan people, as they emerge from the near genocide in Guatemala towards an era of renewed strength and vitality. 

This may just be the festival effect talking.  But I don't think so.  I think we're on the edge of something. 
Zugubal Dancers at the British Museum