Mintfest’s a family affair

It’s official.  Mintfest is established – on the international street arts circuit and in Kendal. Local residents, tourists and arts professionals from as far flung places as Korea, New Zealand and Canada wandered around Kendal for the three days of street entertainment that was this year’s Mintfest. Its organizers Lakes Alive presented a huge array of work of a great variety and high quality.

Mintfest in the streets

Unashamedly a family affair, there was however something for all tastes and that is the beauty of a festival like Mintfest and good programming. I can personally list five highlights (Carabosse’s Fire Garden, Theatre Irrwisch, Motionhouse, Circus Ronaldo and Salamandre) which is quite exceptional for any festival.  MINTFEST are probably promoting the best international work in street performance today.

The surprise and spontaneity of street arts practice  – the random interventions that you don’t know are going to happen – alongside the staged or sited installations, performances and theatre shows – made for an exciting if challenging experience – in a programme of such scope there will inevitably be work that is not to your personal taste.  On quite a few occasions I did wish I had brought some kids with me or some mates as it was very much a festival programme focused on family and entertainment but in terms of engagement, i cannot think of a better or more  exemplary example of reaching new audiences.  The dog really works and there is no doubt that Mintfest has embedded itself into the fabric of the community through its programming approach and that is why  it is succe ssful. I did wonder about the reactions of the 18 – 30 age group though (who dont have kids). Does Minfest have enough edge? Could Kendal cope with  a more dynamic and challenging programme ie less entertainment?

Minfest - motionhouse

Minfest - motionhouse

As a festival linked to the Lakes Alive programme which is part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, Minfest was exemplary. Its content celebrated and promoted  internationalism and cultural diversity, inspired and involved young people and generated a legacy in terms of cultural participation, audience development, tourism, social cohesion and international linkages – which it will continue to build on year on year. Mintfest 2012 is a very exciting prospect.

Like never before’ is the ambition and vision for the Cultural Olympiad and it’s clear that the 2009 edition of Mintfest builds on the work of the previous two years of Mintfest to take bold new steps forward – into commissioning new work (artisani) and also into large scale community participation projects (Welcoming the world).  Overall I personally would have liked to have seen the programme including process and development activities for professionals. Street artists need support – to develop their skills and practice without the pressure of delivery or the focus on being entertainment.  The sector it seems to me would benefit greatly from opportunities to explore and play free of pressure and in collaborative contexts with artists from other disciplines and other locations. Mintfest as a melting point for a diverse range of street arts practice has a role to play in promoting such support, dialogue and debate between street artists and the new generation of practitioners who work outdoors but don’t describe themselves as street artists. The Mintfest International Network Exchange for Street Arts would be a welcome addition to the Lakes Alive programme.

~ by Debbi Lander on September 1, 2009.

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