Beginnings, Festivals and Ends- #edfringe2016

Apologies for the bluriness- I’ll replace it with a clearer one soon. But in the meantime…The panel discussion on Festivals at this morning’s Visiting Arts Producer’s Breakfast in Edinburgh, Scotland.

I’ve just got back from Day 4 of the festival, which served as the culmination of the #WCC week-long program as the participants were featured at the Visiting Arts’ Producer’s Breakfast. The event is a pretty big deal and features many of the festival directors, arts organisations and performance houses which are involved or would like to be involved with the Edinburgh Festivals. Yours truly was honoured to be part of a panel discussion at the breakfast which centred around festivals and the role of festivals for artists, cultural workers and audiences. That meant that I got to sit up on the stage in front of a lot of people, alongside three other #WCC representatives and two of the world’s most influential and successful festival directors. Luckily, Ruth Mackenzie, the Artistic Director of the Holland Festival who sat next to me was super chill. Her chill must have rubbed off on me because there was no way I brought any chill to the table myself. (As you would know from my networking account on Tuesday, I am not the smoothest operator when it comes to these things). But the room was relaxed and the discussion was flowing freely, so much so that many persons commented afterwards that they wish it had gone on a bit longer.

My favourite question was posed by the Director of the Edinburgh International Festival, Fergus Linehan. He asked about the urgent need for smaller countries (like T&T) to engage in international collaborations and work across cultural borders. He raised the issue many Trinis have debated about over drinks at Carnival events; that our culture is in a sense, running away from us into the world and we MUST catch up to it. From Steelpan in Japan to Soca music in Germany to the many international Caribbean Carnivals, our culture is already out there and somehow, to a large extent, we’ve managed to become excluded from the migration. Morally, culturally and economically, it absolutely makes sense for a country to not only be a part of an international conversation, but to lead an international conversation on their own cultural products.  And that means not only international collaboration, but physical, honest to God international work.

Outside of the panel discussion, the Producers Breakfast was popping. Many of our representatives could be seen meeting people with whom they immediately shared a professional spark- a thought of ‘This work would be a perfect fit for me! Nah, but that’s me right there!‘ While this week has been overflowing with the potential for new opportunities, it became apparent from speaking with the other participants that the opportunities started becoming realities at the Producer’s Breakfast- discussions went up a notch and are likely to lead to action. International collaboration was no longer a theory, but a reality coming to light before our eyes. It’s an overwhelming and humbling thought, yet many of us could not contain our excitement over simply the possibility or working with an Arts Organisation in Scotland or perhaps the British Council. Coming from such small places where our cultural work has often been confined to a tiny piece of land with an even smaller market, the partnerships arising out of these connections may be the first of their kind not only for many of the #WCC artists, but also for their countries.

Rochelle Amour is an independent, non-fiction writer who is part of the current T&T delegation to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2016. She will be live-posting the event. Follow her on Twitter @rochelleamour for updates.