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What's on at Ipswich Spill Festival 2023 in October

50 Dangerous Things coming to Spill festival. Photo: Live Art Denmark
50 Dangerous Things coming to Spill festival. Photo: Live Art Denmark

For the past decade Ipswich has embraced the Spill Festival, a community arts take-over of the town, which, through its international connections, has put Ipswich at the forefront of the nation’s cultural agenda.

This year Spill is back with a new mission and a new look event more focused on its community roots and with plans to stage a run of fun, art-based activities that will bring people into the heart of the town.

New artistic director Robin Deacon says Spill is weaving itself into the fabric of Ipswich with more events than ever being staged on the Cornhill, with other activities and performances dotted around the town centre as a way of reintroducing people to the area after the alienating effects of Covid.

Robin fell in love with the town’s historic town centre during his post-lockdown strolls, when he discovered much of the town’s history by looking up to the first floor of buildings and realised that the story of this port and market borough was preserved in the architecture.

Great British Life: Mega Bunny, coming to Ipswich. Photo: Bruce AsbestosMega Bunny, coming to Ipswich. Photo: Bruce Asbestos

He said that the return of Spill was an opportunity to celebrate the richness of Ipswich, both past and present. 'Ipswich is a beautiful and fascinating place with an incredibly rich history, and much of our programme taps into this location, with its cultures and communities. I hope the festival will show the town in a new and exciting way.'

Key events will include the introduction to people, on the streets, of Mega Bunny and his friends Egg the Cat and Octopus; Japanese-style cartoon inflatables, designed by artist Bruce Asbestos, which will be dotted around the Cornhill; and there will also be an opportunity to revisit the town’s historic legacy when French artist Olivier Grossetête will invite visitors to help construct Cardinal Wolsey’s College out of cardboard boxes and packing tape.

Robin Deacon described Monumental Constructions as a family friendly spectacle which will bring to life something that Ipswich’s famous son never got to see. 'The Cardinal never got to see the designs for his college completed; all that’s left of it today is the historic Wolsey Gate on College Street near St Peter’s Church. This October, we will finish building it together, before gathering for a public demolition — a huge, joyful celebration of Ipswich and its people.'

Great British Life: Keyboard player and bandleader Hailu Mergia will be performing at Spill. Photo: Hailu MergiaKeyboard player and bandleader Hailu Mergia will be performing at Spill. Photo: Hailu Mergia

Spill will also be creating other memorable experiences for children and young people during the 10-day festival including the rather alarming interactive event 50 Dangerous Things (you should let your children do) presented by international entertainers Live Art Denmark.

Adapted from the book by Julie Spielger and Gever Tully, 50 Dangerous Things has been a huge hit across Europe and is set to be one of the most memorable performances at this year’s Spill. The publicity for the event asks some very pertinent questions: 'Have you ever licked a 9-volt battery? Lifted the lid of a popcorn pan while the corn pops? Never ever? Then this show is for you!'

Robin adds that children love that sense of danger and the feeling of adventure. 'Live Art Denmark are experts in creating performances for young audiences and their families and providing a safe environment for children to take risks and try something just a little bit scary.'

Although many activities are being staged on the Cornhill and in the surrounding areas, the Waterfront has not been forgotten and is playing host to a number of key events including a pair of performances at the Jerwood DanceHouse. Multi-disciplinary artist Maritea Dæhlin creates a unique visual and sonic landscape which weaves languages together, reflecting the reality for many who move between different cultures and locations. 'They must leave space for interpretation, misunderstanding and lost words,' she writes. In her show Originally a Plant, Dæhlin questions about who is seen and heard, and who is not.

Great British Life: Multi-disciplinary artist Maritea Dæhlin creates a unique visual and sonic landscape in Originally a Plant. Photo: Vegard KlevenMulti-disciplinary artist Maritea Dæhlin creates a unique visual and sonic landscape in Originally a Plant. Photo: Vegard Kleven

This will be followed by Inscribed in ‘Me’, choreographed and performed by Alethia Antonia, a dance piece that uses movement, voice, and music to explore both personal and historical experiences of feminine blackness and self-authorship. Brendan Keaney, artistic director of DanceEast, described Alethia as ‘an amazing technician with an extraordinary stage presence'.

After her performance, Alethia will join SPILL Robin Deacon on stage for a discussion about her work which she describes as a journey of self-discovery and healing; both deeply personal and universal.

Commissions, as always, play an integral part of Spill and this year Robin has asked international experimental artists Secret Agency to come up with a project celebrating the Shefarers of Ipswich which will involve collecting the stories of women who have close connections to the sea, whether they are sailors, boatbuilders, tugboat pilots, sailmakers or sea swimmers. This project will be based on the Ipswich Waterfront onboard the barge Victor, which has been temporarily renamed Victor’ia for the duration of Spill.

't’s a wonderful opportunity to get involved and share their stories, possibly some family history or just shine a spotlight on the seafaring history of the town and women’s role in that legacy,' says Robin.

The Shefarers of Ipswich will be holding an Open Ship on Saturday October 21 which will involve hosting a banquet, performances of sea-shanties from the all-female folk singers The Silver Darlings, and a procession down to The Hold to deposit the facts and the stories that the project has accumulated over the festival. To support the Shefarers project the King Street Cinema will be screening the classic Wes Anderson film The Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou.

Other new work will be showcased in the Spill Viral strand. Local artists and film-makers, aged 18-25, will unveil work they have created over the summer and early autumn – still images, video, film, digital art and audio – reflecting their concerns about the world at the moment.

Great British Life: Guy Cry Club will stage a takeover of the festival hub at St Stephen's Church. Photo: Guy Cry ClubGuy Cry Club will stage a takeover of the festival hub at St Stephen's Church. Photo: Guy Cry Club

This year, the festival hub will be based at St Stephen’s Church which will house the box office, a chill-out space and a performance venue. Grassroots organisations Future Female Society and Guy Cry Club will be hosting take-overs there during the festival.

The Festival Hub will also be home to the musical aspects of SPILL, curated in association with local promoters Brighten The Corners and featuring performances from keyboard player and bandleader Hailu Mergia, musical polymath DJ NikNak and psychedelic improvisers The Utopia Strong.

Film and visual media plays an important role in this year’s event with the pupils of St Matthew’s Primary School creating a working TV newsroom at the Gallery Studio Theatre, which will be echoed with the screening of the Oscar-winning film Network at the King Street Cinema.

Robin says the public will be invited to watch St Matthews’ young journalists preparing their news broadcast. Guided by artists Andy Field and Beckie Darlington, the pupils will be encouraged to think about ‘the news’ and ask the basic question ‘what is news?’ as they come up with a TV bulletin made for adults by children.

'From your seat at the Gallery Studio Theatre, you’ll have the chance to watch the news being made right in front of your eyes in the UK’s smallest news studio. The pupils from St Matthew’s Primary School present the headlines from their everyday lives, offering a distinctive look at what’s going on in Ipswich right now.'

Spill Festival runs from October 13-22. Tickets can be booked online at spillfestival.com/festival



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