The Festival of the Imagination
- Kirstin Innes
- 6 August 2010
A huge, groundbreaking new festival for the people of North Glasgow.
Big tops. Gigs. Silent discos. Theatre shows. Circus workshops. Ballroom dancing, sequinned bicycles and a ‘tented village of dreams’. And no, we’re not talking about Edinburgh. The Festival of the Imagination, the biggest ever arts event to be held in North Glasgow, is taking over the whole of Springburn Park for a week. All of the community groups and arts organisations working in the area are pulling out all the stops in order to create what looks like a really special event.
The Festival of the Imagination is being mostly run by Toonspeak, a theatre group for the young people of North Glasgow. ‘It’s all my fault, really,’ says Sarah Longfield, Toonspeak’s artistic director. ‘We’ve been getting such a good response, though: Toonspeak have built fully-functioning theatres in tents and on wastegrounds, because there’s no theatre space in North Glasgow. And on average, 30% of our audience say they’ve never been to the theatre before, so it’s obviously reaching out in a way that the city centre venues aren’t able to.’
When she had the idea for Festival of the Imagination, though, Longfield wanted to reach out even further, beyond the 12-16 demographic Toonspeak have been working with for years, to the community at large. ‘We’ve been involved with NGARN [North Glasgow Arts and Regeneration Network] for years, but we’ve never combined what we’ve been doing to appeal to different age groups, or worked with different art forms before.’
There are a number of community art projects in the area, and the emphasis of the Festival is to showcase some of the creative work happening at grassroots level, rather than parachuting in big name acts. It should also, hopefully, have repercussions for the community outside the week-long festival.
‘We’ve set up an employability project for 16 to 19-year-olds, training them in event management, and we’re bringing in a huge team of local volunteers to help run things as well – we really wanted it to be something the community would feel part of and take ownership over. The majority of the programme is participatory workshops, encouraging people to try new things, but we’ve also got three different theatre productions, a music tent managed by the group New Rhythms For Glasgow, and the Glasgow Council for Alcohol are putting on a show called Dr Drunk and his Alco-Science: we were really pleased that they wanted to do that rather than just turn up and hand out leaflets – it meant that they got it.’ Attracting the adult audience has been the biggest challenge for Longfield’s team, and has involved some pretty creative programming choices.
‘The kids will come anyway – they’re the easiest to get on board. What we’ve done is set up an inter-generational reminiscence project looking at the Barrowlands Ballroom, and we’re trying to recreate the atmosphere there for older people, with a series of tea dances. Although hopefully, what with the popularity of Strictly these days, everyone will want a go!’
Festival of the Imagination, Springburn Park, Wed 11–Sun 15 Aug, Springburn Park Cricket Oval, 12-9pm. Completely free, but ticketed, see www.toonspeak.co.uk/festivaloftheimagination.htm for booking info.