The River Cultures Festival has its roots in the local community. We work in partnership with organisations to identify the needs of our users. This helps us inform the arts, heritage and multimedia projects we set up.
These range from the festival events to heritage, workshops, training and arts projects with and for the community. Read below to find out about past and present projects.
Inspired by pilgrimages, this outdoor stilts project was a Pilgrimage of Diversity. A multicultural cast present the world’s major beliefs and philosophies - pantheistic religions with figures of Amaterasu, Apollo, Atum, Buddha, Durga, Guan Yin, Krishna, Ogun and philosopher Confucius. The great monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam were also represented. Pilgrimage represented the ethos of the Olympics, a gathering of the peoples of the world in a four year cycle of pilgrimage.
The performers created captivating paths as they wandered through the public in a strikingly simple yet spectacular format, animating outdoor public spaces and drawing crowds into exhilarating audience interactions. The sense of occasion, both respectful and joyous, will inspired communities to get involved. Participants had the opportunity of making music instruments of recycled materials in Enfield and Waltham Forest workshops, playing music and processing whilst joining the Pilgrimage in the Edmonton Community Festival and Carnival, Waltham Forest Mela, Chingford Day.
‘Pilgrimage’ also revisited the idea of the ancient Pilgrim’s Trail Along the River Lea that is the border of the two boroughs where the project took place – Enfield and Waltham Forest.
This production was funded by Arts Council England in partnership with FIPA.
This exciting project involves learning about the local heritage of Waltham Forest’s William Morris. Morris’s Peacock Carpet was an important acquisition for the William Morris Gallery this year and it has been the inspiration for exciting workshops in costume making and stilts performance with school children from Waltham Forest and performing arts students at Leyton Sixth form College. Led by our diverse ethnic stilt dancers, participants will perform in the festivals of Waltham Forest as caterpillars, gardeners and animals in a piece called ‘A Walking Garden’. This will feature a large resplendent peacock and lotus drawn from images in the Peacock Carpet. This project is funded by the Arts Council of England, Arts in Education Network and Apex Arts.
A Bangladeshi folk boat, the Nouka was an innovative departure for the Baishaki Mela. Created by a local Tower Hamlets resident, Cid Shaha was inspired by his Bangladesh heritage to create this boat on stilts which floats over waves of crowds. Nouka continues to ride the waves in other events such as the Curry Festival.
Qu Yuan Project
At the Dragon Boat Races on Sunday 28th June 2009, Royal Albert Docks.
This project commemorated the poet Qu Yuan (parading on stilts) who drowned himself in protest against a corrupt government. We held workshops with the Chinese Association of Tower Hamlets and The Forest Gate Youth Centre to create some marvelous waves and an on land dragon boat for the pageant. The waves were an ingenious design of the calligraphy of Qu Yuan’s poetry and painted with fish and dumplings.
River Cultures supported The Meridian Society in successful applications to the Arts Council and Awards for All to make all this possible.
- Birmingham (Victoria Square)
- Glasgow (Pacific Quay)
- Manchester (Exchange Square)
- London (Leicester Square)
Dance of the Cobra
Shandy Park, Ocean Estate, Saturday 8th September
"The crowd loved it. Everybody loved it. I loved it! It was good! Excellent!" remarked jubilant youth worker, Candice LaTouche after the thrilling Dance of the Cobra performance. "And well done the older boys who made up their own dance!"
"I really enjoyed it! First I was nervous but when the music started I was really happy and I really enjoyed it! And I think everyone loved it too!" an exultant 17 year old Shahin Ahmed enthused after a month of exciting workshops in which young people of 7-18 years, mostly from the Ocean Estate in Stepney, learnt Bollywood dance, stiltwalking and gained the wonderful experience of documenting themselves with video and photography.
An international cast of tutors and performers led the activities directed by two Tower Hamlets based stars, Cid Shaha, the charismatic dancer and Bollywood teacher from Bangladesh, and multidisciplinary performer Hi Ching. They were ably supported by the exquisite Ni Made Pujawati from Bali who gallantly kick started the stage performances with an impromptu Balinese dance when the first act was late, Indrani Datta, British-Asian Kathak dancer, Art Fazil, Malay composer from Singapore, and singers Graziella Rodriguez from Spain and Tunashree Guha from Kolkata. Lila Lifely from CircArts who took the stiltwalking workshops said how 'very rewarding' the whole project was.
Director Dr. Ananda Gupta of FIPA, Foundation for Indian Performing Arts, said, "It was great to see so many different cultural spectrums and mosaics - brilliant, it's wonderful." 18 year old Abeek Adhikari was equally thrilled and said, "I hope to do it again next Summer!"
Many of the scenes featured in the video below were filmed by the young people taking part - from seven years upwards.
Produced by River Cultures Festival in association with FIPA, the project was funded by Arts Council England, Denton Wilde Sapte Charitable Trust, Ocean NDC with workshop space provided by Arbour Youth Centre.
Children Ask, Faiths Respond
Over 300 children from all over Tower Hamlets were asked to draw cartoon-style pictures demonstrating something of concern to them. The young artists were then asked to provide a question related to their image. These questions have been directed to faith leaders to respond to. Many of these issues were similar. Main concerns were bullying, drugs, death, gangs. Thirty drawings were selected for a week long exhibition in November as part of the first Tower Hamlets Inter Faith Festival. See drawings with an accompanying questions from 30 young artists. This interfaith project was funded by Community Development Fund.
Print Positive (The Other Side Gallery)
Art printmaking workshops for disabled participants which were exhibited at the Museum in Docklands.
Circus Skills and Costume Workshops
Children learnt circus skills, in particular stiltwalking and costume making on the theme of birds. Parades of stiltwalking birds took place at the festival event.
Images Tell Stories (Dash Gallery)
An exhibition of photographs inspired by the cosmopolitan heritage of tea taken during Summer workshops by young people from multiethnic backgrounds, including deaf young Bangladeshis. They learnt how to use manual cameras
Basic Security Training (Museum in Docklands)
Certificated basic security training workshops for young men who participated in a buddy programme at the festival event - coordinated by Manguard plc.
Fire Drawing (Alpha Grove Centre)
Young people designed fire drawings of a central crown (marking the Queen's Golden Jubilee) flanked by two seahorses (signifying the return of seahorse to the Thames). The workshop was coordinated by Emergency Exit Arts.
Circus Skills (Alpha Grove Centre)
Young people learnt stiltwalking and other basic circus skills.