Yesterday, I attended the press briefing for Village Green 2014 at Metal’s beautiful HQ, Chalkwell Hall in Westcliff-on-Sea - about 25 minutes walk from my house, lucky me!
The briefing was led by Metal’s Managing Director Colette Bailey and Sean McLoughlin, Senior Producer; they were ‘assisted’ by well-known comedian/actor/cartoonist - and local - Phill Jupitus, who gladly posed for the assembled photographers... He has performed at Village Green himself, and he has also worked with Metal on several occasions. He actually purchased the first two tickets himself at the press briefing!
Below are Phill Jupitus and Sean McLoughlin (photos: yours truly)
Village Green has become one of the most important events in Southend’s cultural and artistic calendar; last year’s headliner, Wilko Johnson, attracted the national press to Chalkwell Park – and I hope they will come back again this year, because I strongly believe that the work Metal do in the area deserves wider coverage.
Arts organisation Metal have been running the event for six years now, and it has grown bigger and better every year. This good-natured celebration of arts and culture is truly for everyone, aged 0 to 110 - and a few well-behaved pooches!
There’s music, of course – spread over several stages and including classical, folk, world, hip-hop, rock, indie, electro, etc. as well as an art and craft market, workshops, live visual arts, cabaret, comedy and spoken word, film – with a cinema provided by the always excellent local company The White Bus who also run the fab Southend Film Festival – and performance artists including stilt walkers, acrobats, jugglers, etc.
Want to get a taste of what the Village Green experience is like? Watch this lovely little video of last year's event!
It is an exciting experience for all the senses: you can listen, taste, look, watch, participate, make, try things out… There is even a whole day (this year, it will be Friday 11th July) for local schools to have their own mini-festival on site: Village Green: The Next Generation.
New for 2014 will be the Kid’s Village, a whole area of the park dedicated to children and families and allowing them to get involved in loads of different activities.
The Metal team also revealed some of the headliners who will be gracing various stages on the day – they are in talks with some more headlining acts, but couldn’t reveal anything as no contracts had been signed with them yet.
So far, have been confirmed: Scottish singer Eddi Reader – she had a hit in the 80s, “Perfect”; hip-hop duo Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip; New York ska band The Slackers, Londoners Man Like Me, Sheffield indie band The Hosts, the world-renowned Philadelphia Boys Choir, popular local band Youth Club and also local, the extremely entertaining Goldmaster Allstars . Also confirmed are four visiting visual artists from Shangai who took part in the prestigious Liverpool biennial.
Now, we are coming to the controversial bit:
Village Green has been a free festival until now. Because of its growing success, audience numbers reached 30,000 last year, and costs have gone up at the same time as funding of the Arts has been drastically cut.
This year, an entrance fee of £10 per adult (plus booking fee, as the tickets are issued via an agency) has been introduced. Children 0-10 go free, and 11-17 are £5.
At the press briefing, I really got the impression that deciding to charge an entrance fee had been quite a difficult decision to make for the team. But this is the price to pay to keep this event going, and we should be grateful for it happening at all.
Now, I could probably write a 10-page essay about the importance of art and culture in society, but it probably wouldn't change anything. I could also write another 10-page essay about how wrong it is to think that anything creative (music, books, art, etc.) should be available for free all the time. It involves a lot of work and costs.
As we were reminded in a short promotional video during the briefing, a big part of Metal’s work is to get schools, children and teenagers involved in and inspired by the arts and culture. Throughout the year, they give Southend children the opportunity to come into contact with artists and their work, as well as getting them to create and express themselves.
I think about the kids who have attended and will attend Village Green and realise how lucky they are. You never know, it might ignite a spark in some of them...
And also, would you like to live in a town where nothing happens? Culture puts towns and cities on the map and improves them, makes them alive. Southend is lucky to be so close to London, and if it keeps up the good work, it could economically and socially benefit from the interest generated by events such as Village Green.
So really, what is £10 for an adult in that case?
I have bought my tickets and I am looking forward to discovering new artists. Let's hope the weather will be on our side!
To get more info about how to buy tickets and the various ticket options, line-up and the event in general, head HERE.
Metal will be keeping everyone up-to-date with the line-up etc. on social media, so go to their FACEBOOK or TWITTER ACCOUNT
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