ORnboxed – the controversial and now heavily rebranded Festival UK 2022 – launched on 1 March, with a pledge to treat the whole of the UK as a venue and satisfy the public’s “huge appetite to get out again and stand next to other human beings.”
The choice to launch the first of the 10 major multi-site projects in Paisley was “a statement of intent”, according to chief creative officer Martin Green. “It is simply not on that large scale work of quality often gets dragged into the metropolis.”
Hailed by organizers as a “once-in-a-lifetime celebration of UK creativity”, the entirely free program of events will take place from end to end of the four nations and span traditional and online media until October.
The project was greeted with considerable skepticism when it was originally floated by former prime minister Theresa May in 2018, dubbed the Brexit festival and invited dubious comparison with the 1951 Festival of Britain.
The UK government was later urged to rethink the festival amid criticism of the £120m funding outlay, as the country struggles to recover from the pandemic.
Green, who confirmed that the festival was “on budget and on time”, said that the skepticism was based on “a myth” about the nature of the project, adding: “We have a huge appetite and it’s clear that people want to get out again. They want to stand next to other human beings and have new experiences, and so I’m really pleased to be able to provide some of those opportunities through the 643 different acts that we will be seeing across the UK.”
The celebration – supported by the four governments of the UK – begins at Paisley Abbey on Tuesday evening with about us, an immersive history of the universe from the big bang to the present day, combining multimedia installations and live performance. Created by 59 Productions, the Poetry Society and stemettesit will tour to Derry, Caernarfon, Luton and Hull to explore the infinite ways in which humans are connected across 13.8 bn years.
The project’s composer Nitin Sawhney described the challenge of “compressing the history of the universe into 25 minutes”. “To find sounds that accompany each aspect of that journey and score that was such an incredible privilege.”
About Us is the first of 10 major projects commissioned as part of Unboxed, which encompass science, technology, engineering, arts and maths and aims to reach 2.5 million young people.
dandelions is a Scotland-wide project inspired by the global “grow-your-own” movement, and aims to reinvent the traditional harvest festival for a new generation, with unexpected gardens, vertical farms and plant giveaways popping up across the country.
Dreamachine, presented in the UK’s four capital cities, is an artwork that aims to unlock the kaleidoscopic power of the human mind and also to be one of the largest studies of neuroscience ever undertaken.
Galwad will see the National Theater of Wales taking the whole of the country to year 2052 for one week in September, using world-building techniques.
Green Space Dark Skies has invented lighting technology to create illuminating outdoor artworks in 20 of the UK’s national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty, including the Cairngorms, Gower Peninsula and the Brecon Beacons.
Our Place in Space is a 10km scale model and sculpture trail of the solar system designed by children’s author and artist Oliver Jeffers, including an interactive augmented reality app, commissioned by Belfast City Council.
PoliNations brings together sustainable architecture and horticulture as giant fabricated trees and thousands of plants take over Birmingham city centre.
See Monster will transform a decommissioned North Sea offshore platform in Weston-super-Mare into one of the UK’s largest public artworks, as well as offering a blueprint for similar structures in the future.
StoryTrailsled by historian David Olusoga, will use technology to democratise and bring the past alive as people walk through 15 UK towns and cities, simultaneously creating a vast people’s archive.
moon tour is a festival of nightlife and countercultures, traveling in convoy around English nightclubs, pubs and university towns.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism