A family festival at its heart, bOing! festival has sparked the imaginations of thousands of visitors over the years. Through offering a mixture of internationally recognised productions and free outdoor shows, its emphasis on play and discovery ensures a weekend that will feel like pure magic.
This year bOing! has been awarded EFFE status, labelling it as one of the most remarkable festivals showcasing across Europe; this status was judged on both the quality of its work and its links with the local community. The festival has grown into a network where artistic ideas are exchanged internationally, and where people gather to be inspired by new creative ideas.
Canterbury Culture speaks to bOing! director Liz Moran to find out more:
What can we expect from this year’s bOing! 2017?
If you’ve been to bOing! before, you will experience even more amazing creative artists; if you’ve not been to bOing! before, you’re in for a real treat. It offers experiences that you will not get anywhere else — not just in the UK, but internationally. What’s unique about bOing! is that we try and offer something that is genuinely engaging and fun for all ages. A lot of festivals will focus on children or certain age ranges, whereas we try and engage all ages.
How do you manage to cater to a wide range of age groups?
Some of the work is particularly relevant to babies; we have Paulo Lameiro’s Concerto Para Bebés (Concert for Babies), which is an amazing event. It’s a company from Portugal and their director Paulo Lameiro is recognised as a world leader in terms of engaging babies with music. I experienced it and could not believe how mesmerised babies were with Mozart and Brahms and there was no compromise, it was just the music.
Through to things like The Ruggeds from the Netherlands; that’s very much a show that I would argue, no matter what age you are, you would love — even though it’s very much based on hip-hop — it really is just so incredible to watch. Then outdoors we’ve got more international companies at bOing! than we’ve ever had before; companies from Finland, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, and the company from Finland are absolutely incredible.
What’s brilliant about the outdoor work is that people who’ve not really experienced the arts before or who are not willing to invest in paying for a ticket get that opportunity to be part of it as well. Our vision is that hopefully by doing that they might come and see something in the physical spaces such as the theatre, but if they don’t, it’s not the worst thing in the world.
What is your process for selecting performances and acts?
We’re looking for work that perhaps you wouldn’t otherwise see in Kent, if not the UK. Bringing something new, fresh, unique — but above all else, makes you go ‘wow’. And even if you don’t necessarily like what you see, you go away thinking ‘Okay, but that was a fantastic artist’. Something new, unique, innovative and above all else really incredible quality.
It’s an interesting question because the first year I did bOing! it was easy as I have been working in this field for a very long time. I know a lot of work; I knew those companies and so it was easy to do my ‘shopping’ and book them. It’s easy to sustain that, but I needed to know how to make every year just that bit better. So what I need to do and what my team need to do is to get out there and see work. Paulo Lameiro’s Concerto Paras Bebes I saw at Early Years festival in Barcelona, so I’m going back to that, then I’ll go to Take Off which takes place in the north of England. It’s about seeing things, but also building your own network of people that you trust to go out and see things.
As a programmer, you get lots of things sent to you, but you kind of need to see it and know that that’s going to be incredible. It’s an interesting challenge because we’re already thinking about next year. I went to a dance festival in Australia and I met someone who was putting on a massive dance festival in the middle of Melbourne and I’m hoping to bring them to bOing! festival next year to do something.
How has bOing! grown and developed this year?
This year we are part of the University of Kent and it’s fantastic to have all of their facilities, but we also want to engage more with the university departments. So this year we’re working with Physical Sciences to do the Planetarium, I’ve also been speaking to one of our academics from Biosciences and talking about doing fingerprinting and cellular dynamics. To open up the labs and let families go in there. Science is as creative as the arts and they both feed each other, so we’re just going to open up the whole university to bOing! for workshops or performances in the lab. It’s about bringing science and art together.
We’re also taking bOing! off site again this year — last year we did Invisible Dancing and this year we’re doing secret encounters and Beastie, which will both be in Canterbury town centre.
Kubla Khan is a show that creates work for young ones and engages young people with learning difficulties. That’s an important part of bOing! for us — finding ways that we can engage with young people who have physical or mental challenges.
There’ll be buskers around the site from ART31 and a silent disco with professional dancers leading it and choreography developed around what the children and adults are doing.
One of the really interesting shows that we have commissioned this year is called ‘A Little Wilder’ and it’s by one of the best directors for young people. I think that’s recognised because his work has toured all over the world; from North to South America and beyond. He has this unique ability to know what engages not just children, but everyone else who is watching it. Beautiful, gentle, work.
What other festivals inspire you?
Each festival is different. When we were trying to develop bOing! we were thinking ‘what could be different about bOing!? I was brought up in Scotland and worked in Scotland for a long time and was very involved when we developed the Scottish international children’s festival many years ago in a park in Edinburgh — I remember it well, it was all in tents. Then in moved and became Imaginate which has become one of the world-leading festivals in terms of a theatre festival for children. They attract people from all over the world who come to Imaginate see work, so that’s one that really inspires me. It’s been on the go at least 20 years, that festival.
If there was one performer that you could say you were most excited by or intrigued by…
— I can’t do it! I honestly could not do that, they’re all brilliant in different ways — Andy is a brilliant director of theatre for children, Siri from Norway is brilliant at creating dance for children, Paulo for music — I honestly could not single one out. They’re all of equal merit but for different reasons.
There’s nearly 100 artists staying on campus which gives you an idea of the scale of it. We also have wonderful volunteers. It’s not only bringing together our local audience, but a much wider audience — and it’s the one time all of our Gulbenkian staff work as one team.
Also, it shows off the university; the School of Art spaces, Lumley, the Gulbenkian.
Do you find it difficult to get people to come up to campus to attend the festival?
It depends what you have on — if you have something that fires up imagination, it doesn’t matter where that’s happening, people will come. It’s about touching people with bOing! — for some people a university campus isn’t where people want to go, but as we gradually get to know them and they get to know us as a brand that they can trust, I would hope that they would come up here.
Thank you, Liz! To find out more about all of the fantastic events going on at bOing!, visit www.boingfestival.com