Hundreds of musicians, dozens of dancers, a thousand colourful balloons…. Exeter Street Arts Festival returned on a sunny day in August to greet over 24,000 smiling faces!
On the last Saturday in August – for many, the last weekend of the summer holidays – the second annual Exeter Street Arts Festival took place in venues and on pavements across the city. From a craft fair on the quay, storytelling and circus skills on the cathedral green, and drumming and African dance in Heavitree Pleasure Grounds, to original live music and salsa dance in Princesshay, a hula-hoopathon in Bedford Square, breakdancing beside our pop-up street piano in the Guildhall, and a graffiti can art workshop for children alongside even more live music at Exeter Phoenix!
Musicians pounded the streets of Exeter from 10am when the festival opened with a procession led by the Exeter Street Band, playing as they paraded from Cathedral Close to the main festival stage in Princesshay Square.
From the quay and the bottom of Fore Street, along Gandy Street to Exeter Phoenix and Guildhall, and from the High Street all the way to Heavitree Pleasure Grounds, Exeter’s residents and visitors were treated to a wealth of free performances by an impossibly large list of talented musicians which included Sam Green, Mudskippers, Emily Howard, Samantics, The Rushes, Kimwei, The Moon Jazz Band, Harry Munk, Pattern Pusher, Windslide, Jerri Hart, Kebba Sarge, Stripey Hancock and many, many more!
But before the music had even kicked off the first signs of colour began to infiltrate the city centre streets as Exeter Street Arts Festival balloons were inflated alongside a hula-hoopathon where hoops were continuously kept spinning all day. Sunshine Ts encouraged children and pensioners alike to give it a whirl and enjoy themselves.
Widsith & Deor brought their alternative cabaret magic to the Cathedral Green and hosted storytelling with amazing masks, theatre, poetry & medieval arts. Also on the green was a circus workshop led by Michaela McQueen where you could try your hand at juggling, poi and plate spinning.
There were more chances to ‘have a go’ with a popular salsa workshop in the centre of Princesshay led by Abes Cisse, along with a number of quirky attractions in Heavitree Pleasure Grounds, including punk aerobics led by X-ray Spexercise (sic), African drum and dance workshops led by Shumba Arts, aerial silk displays and workshops with Silkestrella, Chinese Pole and comedy storytelling from Funky Fi, and knife juggling from James the Juggler all adding to the festival theatrics!
Miss C’s Graffitti Academy which has been responsible for updating the city’s subways with colourful and witty murals also ran an accessible art workshop outside Exeter Phoenix where 200 spray cans were decorated with graffiti and urban art inspired designs.
Majidah Tribal brought amazing colourful belly dance traditions to the centre of town, and young break-dancers from Just4Funk & Urban Flow brought fresh moves to the streets in Princesshay and the Guildhall. Festival artist Jean Paul Vachmnet captured the authentic likenesses of passers-by with the subtle strokes of his marker pen, while Sparky the Robot flashed and beeped with approval! And just passing through on her way to a new zoo, Hessie the elephant and her trainer created a jumbo spectacle.
Following their nomination as finalists at this year’s prestigious Exeter Living Awards, Substance & Shadow Theatre returned with their much loved characters Melvyn and Shirley, whose goody bag of cultural surprises included alternative guided tours. If you thought that our city centre was just a place for buying new undies and dental floss then think again! Melvyn and Shirley pulled back the net curtains between past and present to reveal a city rich with heritage. From Charles Dickens to The Rolling Stones, a pick ‘n’ mix of brain teasers and free lollipops, the pair tickled and teased unsuspecting passers-by with their unique wit and wisdom.
And after performing Nothing’s Binary, the last song of the daytime event at Exeter Phoenix arts centre, Kimwei & Billy Bottle invited a philospohical conversation about gender on the busy café terrace.
The festival returned after a brief break with an after-party featuring Jam the Channel DJs, and an upbeat and colourful showcase of bands, including Claibekas, Datura, Dilly Boys and Dakar Audio Club.
Exeter Street Arts Festival was produced by Music in Devon Initiative – a community interest company with aims to develop emerging talent, increase opportunities for musicians and audiences, and generate business for the music industry in Devon. The 2017 event was supported by Exeter City Council, Exeter BID, Exeter Phoenix, Interwoven Productions, Balcony TV, Jam the Channel, and local businesses including Chartman Retail (Spar), Chococo, Bishop’s Blaize & Stagecoach.
The festival organisers would like to thank all the performers and volunteers involved in bringing this kaleidoscope of colour and music to the streets of Exeter, as well as all those who donated on the day or contributed to the crowdfunding campaign, without which the festival could not have gone ahead.