Would one super festival be a better stage for Lincoln’s talents?

Lincoln Drill Hall

The Lincoln year is punctuated by festivals of one kind or another; my question is whether we might be better served were they brought together in one – say – two week period in the summer? This could be put another way, would a single Lincoln Festival be a greater attraction for our visitors?

The Festivals in the Lincoln calendar, for example the Book Festival, The Chamber Music Festival and Frequency, are well supported, of good quality and greatly enjoyed. This year a number of different events are being brought together around the Magna Carta weekend and the Magna Carta celebrations more generally. These embrace film and beer as well as street entertainment and offerings for big outdoor audiences at the Castle.

The Drill Hall plays its part in the existing festivals and also in the Magna Carta events. For the weekend itself, we act as ‘book ends’ with dance at the beginning and music at the end, and quite a bit in the middle as well. The Dance, a piece entitled Refugees of the Septic Heart from Tom Dale productions, is a great example of how to offer an alternative view. In the early discussion about the commemorations of the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta, I became worried that it might focus too much on the historical event or just attract ‘establishment’ celebrations.

Tom Dale’s piece is distinctly alternative, it questions established values, in many ways it does what the founding fathers of America believed Magna Carta did; it stands up to those who seek to exercise power. Specifically it explores how the power of money is abused. It does this with dance but also with digital imagery and music. It is a first for Lincoln and one to be proud of since, having been a hit at the Edinburgh fringe, the production will next be performed in Hong Kong.

The music at the end of the Magna Carta weekend is quite different and will be the result of Sinfonia Viva working with local schools and the creative efforts of the children.

These two events demonstrate something of what the Drill Hall is about, giving space to new and adventurous work and being a place where Lincoln people can participate in performance. Of course the Drill Hall is about more than this; its role is to be there for a whole range of Lincoln communities and offer, perhaps not something for everyone, but certainly a variety of performance  that will be enjoyed by most.

So, back to the question of the Festival, do we want a big Lincoln Festival? It would give audiences the chance to experience a number of different forms of performance: theatre, film, dance, music and literature. It could be built round a theme, as the Magna Carta weekend is. It could say something about what is special about Lincoln: a vibrant modern city in an historical setting. Importantly, it could give space for home grown talent to perform.

Well, perhaps the Magna Carta weekend will be a good taster. My instinct is that we will want a bit of both. Certainly something big that brings the city together and offers a broad spectrum of events, but also focussed festivals at other times of the year. We could take a leaf from Cheltenham’s book and drawn them together as The Lincoln Festivals.

This piece was first published in the Lincolnshire Echo of 4 June 2015