27-Dec-2000 to 30-Dec-2000
The Tunbridge Wells Winter Street Festival is a free event that brings street entertainment to the town. This year was a first in that the final parade was a community based project, featuring only local groups & performers.
We first started rehearsing on the 17th of October you can read about most of them in the TWJC Diary for 2000, so far undocumented though is the final dress rehearsal that was on the 29th of December. Most of it took place at the Camden Centre where we fixed the timing problems in the club swinging routine by setting up a series of visual signals in Dave L's (who was our lead) routine. We also got the chance to practise the club passing in front of the band again this time without props, which was much easier. In the afternoon we all marched down to the performance site in Calverly Grounds to get a feel for the space. We all love the snow but it seemed that buying all white props was a bit of a mistake. We had to contend with sledges hurtling at us from down the hill too. It was cold; the club passing was very painful with frozen fingers. It was also very difficult to do the running snake entrance to our clubswinging routine without sliding away & the weather strangely seemed to be adversely affecting Dave's counting. It was all progress though & lots of laughs were had.
In The Street
All the time rehearsals were going on professional street acts were doing their thing around the main precinct. Thanks to our lovely camcorder donated by the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council a few of us managed to record several acts so no one had to miss out. The town saw the gorgeous gorillas of Creature Feature playing around. The beautiful costumes & extremely realistic animal behaviour were fascinating to watch. Also beautiful was the marionette Saraswati, expertly controlled by Indigo Moon to perform a graceful dance to live Asian drumming.
Under Attack performed some energetic breakdance routines, with some highly impressive & acrobatic spins & handstand moves. It was good to see some performers really enjoying themselves. The Better Halves had a superbly surreal costume, which was a person with a large television screen for a head, which showed the audience what the character was seeing. The TV man was accompanied by the living chair, which provided a surprise to unsuspecting punters. Also picking on people were the strangely familiar Stilt Martians befriending anything orange & communicating with various street signs.
Music wise there was some great African drumming from Dagarti Arts who managed to get a good number of the cold Tunbridge Wells crowd dancing which is certainly no mean feat. The other band I caught was Tragic Roundabout, I couldn't possibly describe their genre of music but it was real toe tapping stuff. It was their little dog that stole the show. Closer scrutiny afterwards showed that the dog's tail wagged perfectly in time with the band too, that must've taken some training.
The best of the bunch were the simply superb Men in Coats; I ended up watching these people three times they were so good. Everything was spot on, hundreds of hilarious visual gags performed to perfection & really tight to the music too. Somebody book these guys for the next juggling convention.
After the not altogether effective passion promoting exercise of passing the bottle round all the performers we began the parade. We were situated behind The Samba drummers & Elvis in the love mobile. Once on to the road we started doing our set pieces & in between we all did our own thing. The original premise for the parade was lots of moving both back & forwards & time to stop & do whatever we wanted, which is what we designed our set pieces to do. Unfortunately it didn't quite work that way & we had to adjust accordingly. We did look very good though, despite only one of us managing a completely dropless performance throughout :-)
After the parade we all squeezed into position, went through the funeral spiral (but with considerably more joviality than was perhaps allowed), once in position we began the show. It began with a four person flag waving & dance routine (starring our girl Helen) all to the sounds of Ensemble QTR, an experimental recorder duo who had completely rewritten the fingering system & produced some very weird music. After that the Tunbridge Wells Orpheous Male Voice Choir together with composer Juliette Russell began their piece. Dave L. picked a random Q & we began our clubswinging set. We did our best ever run through. From the word go it was executed really well. There were a few minor mistakes, but even they looked really good.
We then made our exit to make way for the Tunbridge Wells Samba drummers who had been working with The Carnival Collective. They played, we danced, great fun. As they played on, we marched back in for our club passing spot. We started really well, everyone passed in time, everyone ran when they were supposed to & changed position correctly too. It fell apart a little bit when we did the back to back boxes but we made up for it during the freestyle bit I think. The show came to a climax, the drummers started a drum roll, on the final bang we all threw our props in the air & with surprisingly perfect timing the first firework of a very good aerial display (which Dave K. & I enjoyed immensely :-) exploded in the sky & beautifully illuminated the snow covered banks around the grounds.
All in all it was a good show, everyone had a good time, the dancing, shouting, singing & performing had us all on a real high. After everything had finished it was back to Dave L's for takeaways, videos, massage, belly dancing & all sorts of things.
Zap Productions for their support & encouragement.
The guy promoting Livewire drinks.
The Dave L. & Kim household for putting me up for the whole Fest.
Kim again for sorting out the boiler suits at short notice & a hundred other things.
The Tunbridge Wells Samba drummers coached by the amazing Carnival Collective for the sounds.
Update: You can now visit the Tunbridge Wells Samba Band website.
The Coffee Pot for some great toasted cheese & bacon sandwiches & drink.
Bryn for the massage class.
Helen for the belly dance workshop.
All the sponsors who made the festival happen:
- Courier Newspapers (Doubly so for granting permission to use one of their photos)
- Tunbridge Wells Borough Council
- Invicta FM
- The Arts Council of England
- South East Arts
- Cultural innovation in entertainment & the arts
- The National Lottery
But mostly TWJC needs to thank Mr Sean Gandini for the endless show of skill, fantastic tuition, unparalleled enthusiasm, constant encouragement & for firmly inserting the word 'noice' into the TWJC vernacular.
Visit the Gandini Juggling Project's official site: www.gandinijuggling.com
Tunbridge Wells Winter Street Festival 1999
Tunbridge Wells Winter Street Festival 2001
Tunbridge Wells Winter Street Festival 2002
Tunbridge Wells Winter Street Festival 2003
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