What’s on at Derby Festé 2014

Spark! Drummers Photo: Dan Brady

Spark! Drummers Photo: Dan Brady - Credit: Archant

Nigel Powlson talks to artistic lead Stephen Munn about this exciting high point of the festival year in Derby

Voala, Muare Photo: Sergio Bolanos

Voala, Muare Photo: Sergio Bolanos - Credit: Archant

Since Festé first burst onto the Derby arts scene back in 2007 it has caught the public’s imagination with a series of outdoor spectaculars that have thrilled tens of thousands of visitors.

As well as music, comedy and street theatre creating a buzz around Derby city centre for two days every September, there have been a series of visually stunning large scale pieces – from fire gardens and aerial acrobatics to parades of giant sea creatures and dance extravaganzas.

With a mix of performers from home and abroad the festival also has an international flavour that has helped attract in the region of 35,000 visitors annually.

Festé is now firmly established as one of the major highlights of the Derby arts calendar and, with most of the events being both free and family friendly, is enjoyed by all ages.

Flown by Pirates of the Carabina

Flown by Pirates of the Carabina - Credit: Archant

With the Arts Council now investing in the festival until 2016, its future is also more secure than at any time since it first began. Stephen Munn, Director of Déda and artistic lead for Derby Festé, said: ‘We have Arts Council and Derby City Council funding for the next three Festés. That just shows the importance of it and how the event has grown in terms of the city and the region. The Arts Council has seen the significance of it as an outdoor festival for the region.

‘Working in association with the country’s largest festival producer, Without Walls, enables us to bring a wide selection of the UK’s finest artists to the festival. That association also allows us to sit at the table with all the major festivals in the country. We can share programme ideas and talk about development with bigger festivals who have gone through what we are going through in the past. That’s invaluable.

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‘We can be a bit more strategic in our programming and can look for what we want to programme in two years’ time.’

One of the festival’s ongoing challenges is always to try to better the previous year’s event, with the bar pushing ever higher.

Voala - Muare

Voala - Muare - Credit: Archant

Stephen says: ‘When you have been hugely successful there is always that element of “how can we top that?” So we do look and think what’s out there that can be equally spectacular. That’s always going to be a challenge as there is a limited number of large scale spectacular shows we can bring in.

‘But I like to think that we are about more than just that now and we have quality through all the shows that come before the big headline act.

‘Saying that, we have the big spectacular show as well again this year.’

That headline act is Voala, with the large-scale aerial and live music spectacular “Muaré”. It is billed as an exchange of intensities between music and visual spectacle with the soundtrack provided live by the rock band Duchamp Pilot.

Stephen says: ‘It’s a brilliant show in the Festé tradition.’

This year because of the funding success Festé has been able to offer two local companies, Lost Boys and Babbling Vagabonds, the chance to make new work. Stephen says: ‘It’s great that with this huge international line-up we are able to make sure that local artists have a real profile as well.’

The official launch of Festé will take place at Derby Theatre in advance of the main weekend on 12th September with Pirates of the Carabina offering us ‘Flown’. A mix of acrobatics, stunts, aerial thrills and live music, the show can also be seen on 13th September.

Stephen says: ‘It’s a contemporary circus show which I saw at the Edinburgh Festival last year that really works well.’

It also marks Derby Theatre’s arrival as another partner organisation for Festé. The theatre’s artistic director Sarah Brigham says: ‘It’s the first year we have come in as a full partner which is great as it shows the cultural community is working better together.

‘“Flown” will be spectacular and our technicians are really excited about it as they will get to test the venue to its limits. The company have described it as choreographed chaos and I think it will be great.

‘It’s a typical Festé event but indoors rather than out.’

Also returning for another year during the main festival will be the Splash Stages, a showcase for up-and-coming acts from across Derbyshire with music, comedy and theatre performers invited to apply for a slot on one of the two stages that will be in operation in the city centre.

The Splash Stages will be organised by East Midlands music comedy and arts collective Furthest from the Sea. The main stage will be by the Waterfall in the Market Place with a smaller one in the Cornmarket near the Book Café.

Those artists chosen for the Splash stages will perform between noon and 5pm on Saturday 27th September.

For more information and updates for Derby Festé 2014 visit www.derbyfeste.com


Derby Festé was founded in 2007 to mark the opening of Westfield, Derby. This was followed in September 2008 by a second Festé event to mark the launch of the Cultural Olympiad in the East Midlands and the opening of QUAD. In 2009, Derby Festé became a stand-alone festival for the East Midlands and, since the first event, has had the ambition of developing into an annual event with funding from various public and private sector organisations.

This year’s festival takes place on 26th and 27th September at locations throughout the city centre including The Market Place and Cathedral Green. Some performances taking place during the Festé weekend will be priced and ticketed but most events and performances will be free.

Derby Festé is produced and presented by Derby LIVE, Déda, QUAD and Derby Theatre in association with the Without Walls Associate Touring Network. It is funded by Arts Council England and Derby City Council, with support from St Peter’s Quarter, Cathedral Quarter and Intu Derby (formerly Westfield Derby).


Friday 26th

Bad Taste Company – Faust

In this re-imagining of Goethe’s Faust, drinking, gambling, womanising, and general debauchery make the Speakeasy a perfect place for a man to lose his soul, as we see how Faust is manipulated, to both comic and tragic effect, into a deal with the devil where his very soul hangs in the balance.

Stephen Munn says: ‘It’s like a hip hop fire show. It has been all round Europe to great critical acclaim.’

Spark Drummers & Da Sunlounge

Stephen says: ‘Spark Drummers are almost like the David Bowie “Ashes to Ashes” character with LED lights all over them. They do a processional show and then come together and will do a static performance in the Market Place which will be quite stunning. Then we round off the evening with Da Sunlounge who will do a DJ set in his home town to round off the party in the Market Place.’

Saturday 27th

Motionhouse – Captive

Captive is a blend of dance and aerial work – ‘in order to survive, the environment is constantly transformed though physical ingenuity’. Stephen says: ‘They are a dance company who bring a large scaffolding structure with them and they swing all over it to a really good soundtrack. It’s a high octane show in the round.’

Stephen says: ‘This company headlined the Docklands International Festival and I went down to see them. It’s an incredibly spectacular show. You have a massive crane with a psychedelic mobile which hangs off it. Ten dancers hang from below and the crane swings over the crowd and then flies off into the sky. There’s a live rock band playing as well; so there’s a fantastic soundtrack to this performance.’

This show will take place on Bass’s Rec and there will be a small charge. £5 per person or £15 for a family ticket.

Pif-Paf – Something To Hold

A tale spun on an aerial sculpture by Pif-Paf, a ‘transforming world of action, metal and rope’. Stephen says: ‘It’s like a giant set of scales with people hanging off it, swinging around and doing acrobatics on Cathedral Green.’

DJ Woody – Hip Hop Is 40

To honour the anniversary, DJ Woody launches his new audio-visual show as an ode to the music and culture that has changed his and so many others’ lives over the last four decades. Hip Hop is 40 chronicles and celebrates all things hip hop; starting with the original breaks, the first rap records and taking us through to party rockers from the 1980s up until today.