Groupo Pujal a hit in Maryport

On Monday 29th August, I went to see the Lakes Alive presentation of K@osmos by Groupo Puja, a group from Spain/Argentina who presented a high-octane Ariel show in Maryport harbour followed by fireworks from pa-Boom. This was the third Lakes Alive spectacle event for the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad in this town and all of them have been world-class. The firework display on this night was particularly special and enchanting, helped by the wind to create a painting in the sky which drifted in a horizontal direction across the dark night sky, The whole experience was enchanting, enriching and well received by the audience.

Pre show, I walked the full length of the site where the audience were standing in anticipation and although the event was very well attended, the audiences seemed lower than last year and there was plenty room for more. Given that I had just arrived from Solfest – an annual music festival 8km away which attracts a Cumbrian, wider regional and national audience of 5000 + including the local community for Maryport and a crew and free tickets, bringing the audience up to 8000, I wondered if more than a few of the Maryport locals were just too exhausted to come out for the Lakes Alive event  after three days of magnificent fun and mayhem at Solfest.

This got me thinking about the development potential in this part of Cumbria and the potential for partnership between Lakes Alive and Solfest that remain unexplored but which could support a greater 2012 legacy for Maryport and the Cultural Olympiad.

The annual Solfest,is a music festival with  a strong family focus – there was probably at least 1000 people under the age of 14. As part of the summer season of festivals around the UK that cater to our human need to play and be free from everyday reality, this festival includes street arts activity:– strollers, small-scale acts and workshops from the street arts sector are all in the Solfest mix, revealing its interest in programming and supporting the outdoor and street arts sector. What it lacked was anything spectacular and of international quality in the street arts strand. This evidences an opportunity for collaboration with Lakes Alive. Solfest is not a free event which is the Lakes Alive ethos and this may be one of the reasons as no doubt is that they engage with the same audience to some extent, but I did wonder why Lakes Alive were not at the very least running workshops there by the artists they were presenting the day after Solfest finishes.  Flying  8 plus international artists into Maryport for less than 24 hours seems extravagant when there is a real opportunity close by for the artists to come in a day or two earlier and do some skills development work with both a local, regional and national audience. Individuals, communities and families who live in Maryport go to both Lakes Alive and Solfest so it would have made sense. No doubt more investment by the Allerdale Council or the Arts Council would have been required to cover the costs but it would have been a small investment to enable Lakes Alive to reach both a wider audience with their programming and make a deeper and more lasting legacy from London 2012 within the local community.

The K’osmos performance was amazing and awe-inspiring but I did feel that the people of Maryport deserve more than a 45 minute piece of spectacle once a year. Inspiring social change in the local community needs development activity as well as major events. Community Engagement is a local authority priority and I hope that one of the legacies of Lakes Alive working in places like Maryport will be the ongoing development of projects which connect participation to spectacle and support cross sector working between the public and commercial sectors – an annual collaboration  between international events producers like Lakes Alive and a commercial festival like Solfest is something Allerdale Council could embrace and enable with the support of the Arts Council. It’s a Big Society model for arts development and programming in the UK. We need projects like this and Maryport is fortunate to have this potential on its doorstep.

~ by Debbi Lander on August 31, 2011.

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