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Mac Stage To Become A Garden And 100 Birmingham Residents To Star At Crescent Theatre

...In This Year’s Be Festival.


This year’s festival of European theatre features two large scale performance projects with Birmingham residents at its heart

  • Atlas Birmingham creates a living map of the city with 100 residents representing a diverse range of backgrounds, professions and ages

  • Garden State, inspired by an old pirate story, is a four day installation created by plants leant by local residents

  • This will be the final festival from artistic directors Isla Aguilar and Miguel Oyarzun, who have been at the helm since the festival’s conception 13 years ago

“BE festival has grown to become the country's quirkiest showcase for new, experimental European theatre” Guardian


With two large scale performance pieces inspired by a Greek myth and pirate story, Isla Aguilar and Miguel Oyarzun are delighted to announce the programme of this year’s BE FESTIVAL, which will be their final after 13 years at the helm. BE FESTIVAL: Birmingham European Festival of Performing Arts was created to turn the notion of theatre upside down, crossing borders, creative disciplines and blurring boundaries between audiences: this year, Midland’s Arts Centre’s stage will become an audience space as it’s transformed into a garden utopia, and 100 residents will perform the opening show at the Crescent Theatre.

Ana Borralho & João Galante (Portugal) will be opening the festival with Atlas Birmingham (3 – 4 June, Crescent Theatre). They will be inviting 100 people from Birmingham to perform onstage to make a living map of the city. The participants will be from all backgrounds, professions and ages, mapping an 'atlas' of the complex cohesion of the social fabric of Birmingham. In Greek mythology, Atlas was condemned to stand with the Earth and Heavens on his shoulders. Atlas Birmingham takes inspiration from German artist Joseph Beuys’ belief in the power of universal human creativity to bring about revolutionary change. Through repeated mantras, and expressions of hopes, fears and dreams specific to Birmingham, this is a quiet revolution motivated by the belief that art should play an active role in society and that theatre is a political space.


As part of the Birmingham 2022 Festival , Fabrice Mazliah / Work Of Act, formerly MAMAZA (Germany) will be presenting the UK premiere of Garden State (8 – 11 June, Midlands Arts Centre). They will be knocking on doors of residents from across the city to invite them to help transform the MAC’s main stage into an exotic ephemeral communal garden made of their favourite house plants, transforming the stage into an audience space. Garden State is a durational installation where a programme of free workshops, yoga classes, photography sessions and live performances will take place alongside talks, open mic sessions, meals and concerts. The installation is inspired by the myth of Libertalia, an anarchist colony in 17th century Madagascar where pirates liberated ships of slaves and they all lived together in freedom in an exotic and peaceful community. Garden State is one the Birmingham 2022 Festival’s Creative City projects generously funded by Birmingham City Council.


Artistic Directors Isla Aguilar and Miguel Oyarzun said, “For 13 years we have aimed to create meaningful, lasting connections between people of diverse backgrounds through the medium of performing arts. In 2018, we envisaged the prospect of our time as directors. Consequently, we devised an exit strategy and since then, we have been accompanying our team to lead the organisation more and more. It is with extreme care for this project and the need for new energies to fuel it, that we are announcing this festival will be the last we direct. After 2022, we will be stepping down from the organisation and leaving it in the capable hands of the senior management team. During this period, we remain committed to working with the company whilst we support the future direction of the project. From 2023, the aim is to have a new operating model, adapted to the new challenges we now face, fuelled by the same ethos and values that have guided us for over a decade.


“We invite you to celebrate with us everything that has made BE FESTIVAL so unique. This summer we will be returning to the venues that supported us in our early days, with two large-scale participatory theatrical events. We want to provide an opportunity to the people who make up our community to be the protagonists, facilitating cohesion and conveying concerns, claims and stories from our common and particular biographies, through aesthetic and fictional artistic devices. Whilst some communities may be separated by political, economic, racial and class divides, we aim to create a safe space where all are welcome.”


BE FESTIVAL (shortened from Birmingham European Festival) takes place annually in the Summer. Inspired by positive experiences touring to European festivals, Isla Aguilar, Miguel Oyarzun and Mike Tweddle were met with great enthusiasm to the idea of a new arts festival in Birmingham and soon fleshed out a plan on the back of a napkin at a Birmingham curry house. Each year a daring and innovative programme of boundary pushing theatre, dance, comedy, circus, music, visual and performing arts takes place turning theatre’s rarely seen backstages into a den of creativity, discovery and exchange where diverse cultures are celebrated. The youth performance programme, BE NEXT engages and empowers young Birmingham based artists performing a new piece of work on the last night of each festival. BE FESTIVAL has a touring wing, previously taking “The Best of BE” around the UK and Spain.


Full programme for Garden State to be announced.

@befestival | #BEFestival2022 | befestival.org

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