Long after the Olympics are over and London wonders what to do with a big stadium, Nottingham will be bringing together 1,000 of the world's most talented new artists from over 100 countries, and turning them loose on the city over ten days. Do expect live music, dance performances, theatre installations, spoken word, film events, visual arts exhibitions and gastronomic events over two and a bit weeks in September. Don't expect to get a table in Lee Rosy's.
The work of these artists - all under thirty - are going to scattered across thirty venues in town. Some of them are the obvious choices; the big places, like Broadway, Lakeside Arts Centre, The Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham Playhouse, Nottingham Contemporary, New Art Exchange and Nottingham Castle will be taking part, along with indies such as One Thoresby Street, Crocus Gallery, Backlit, Gonzo and Switch Galleries. But there's more to WEYA than that; certain spaces, shop units, and churches are getting involved, including Paul Smith on Low Pavement.
And - it goes without saying - the Old Market Square will be acting as the hub of the festival, showcasing live performances over the whole ten days, including the finale of the Cultural Olympiad in the East Midlands which will be huge. This will be - without question - the biggest art event to ever hit Nottingham; it's almost like everything that's happened in town art-wise over the last decade has been leading up to this moment.
In a nutshell, what is World Event Young Artists?
I’m afraid it’ll need to be a large nutshell, because it’s such an ambitious project. On a deeper level, WEYA will be an opportunity for international exchange on a global scale; it is as much about intercultural dialogue across political borders as it is about the practice of young artists. An inspiring events and workshop programme will run across the main festival, and will offer artists and visitors an intriguing, interactive and challenging series of events, happenings, debates, lectures and interactions across many settings. The World Event is for everyone. And I should mention that it’s free.
What’s your definition of a 'young artist'? What’s the cut-off point here?
All of the artists are aged between eighteen and thirty. Following much debate about “what is young” as a team we have worked hard to be as inclusive as possible. This age range also brings the festival in line with other European festival models.
How long has it taken to organise?
Discussions and commitment from the four main partners - Arts Council England, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham City Council and Igniting Ambition/Cultural Olympiad started a few years ago. The WEYA team came together a year ago, and the production team came on board a few months ago.
How hard has it been to get all this art together?
It's been very complex, but thankfully we have a really fantastic, dedicated team who work together brilliantly to make sure the process for everything - gathering artist profile information, technical specifications, travel requirements - is as seamless as possible. Shipping the artwork, as you can imagine, is a very big job; so is getting the visa applications sorted. Almost 500 artists required visas, and we’ve been really fortunate that our legal partner and immigration law specialist Paragon Law came on board in the early stages. They’ve guided us through the whole process and have been amazing.
What’s been the hardest thing to get over here?
The two Syrian artists and their art works, given the current political situation there. We cannot mention their real names in any communication or even next to their art works, due to the repercussions they might face.
What do you think of Nottingham’s art scene?
Nottingham has a vibrant, independent and exciting art scene that certainly holds its own with its international counterparts. There’s a lot of support for independent artist led organisations, especially from established institutions such as the School of Art at Nottingham Trent University, which you can see by the level of graduate retention here. The quality of work from UK WEYA applicants was very high; I think there are eleven just from Nottingham. It really is the perfect place to hold the World Event, and the way that the city - and in particular the arts community - has embraced the festival has been fantastic.
Whittling down a global creative community down to a thousand sounds like a huge job.
The shortlist must have been incredible and amazing. Our partner organisations in each of the almost 100 countries put them together following an open call in each country. We had about 400 applications in the UK; we believe it was a similar amount - if not more - in other countries.
It sounds like the perfect introduction to art for those who have never set foot in a gallery. What would you recommend?
There'll be a wealth of creative experiences into the city in all sorts of spaces, not just galleries. A great place to start will be the Market Square, where there will be all sorts of events and showcases throughout. It'll act as a sort of Festival highlights showcase, giving people a taste of what’s on offer across the city, and inviting people to try new things. In the lead-up period, there are a number of exciting projects happening with partner venues and community groups; many of these will be in the Square, from photography projects in Bulwell to Middle Eastern poetry. There also be a number of drop-in family days that people can get involved with as well.
Some of our independent galleries are putting up their own exhibits, almost as a fringe event. What's your take on that?
This festival has a democratic approach; we’ve worked to ensure the event isn’t monopolised by one person or a group of people coming to Nottingham externally. We’ve been working in collaboration with local venues; many of them are not only hosting the World Event exhibition, but also presenting work and events by local artists in response to the festival. It’s been very important to us that the local creative community is engaged and involved as fully as possible.
What are you looking forward to the most?
There are so many events and activities every day that it’s very difficult to choose. One activity we’re working on right now is one of the opening events for Saturday 8 September; Gilles Peterson will be curating a music event at the new Barton’s Bus Depot in Beeston. We’re organising a bus shuttle service between the city centre and the venue to take people there and back. Starting around 6pm, there’ll be live performances by WEYA musicians that Gilles has selected before he finishes with a set.
Anything else you'd like to say to LeftLion readers?
Make use of the WEYA volunteers at the information point in the Square: they'll be able to point you in the right direction. There'll be guided walks that people can sign up to that will take them to different elements of the festival, mass singing events, the creation of a 46 metre length of dyed silk that will happen live in Market Square, music, poetry, dance and much more.
World Event Young Artists, across Nottingham, Friday 7 - Sunday 16 September