Emerge Festival blog – No4 by Namiwa Jazz

Working on Walsall Emerge 2019 has been an eye-opening experience, over the 12 months I have learnt so many valuable skills that I will take forward into my professional practice. The last three months of Emerge included the big Festival day at our unique location of Walsall Arboretum Park and the evaluation day in Birmingham with all the partner organisations and funders.

In the lead up to the day sessions at the school became focused around stage performances and getting ready to showcase what the young people from Shelfield Ormiston Academy had been working on for months! For some of the group it was their 1st time performing to a live audience and for others it was opportunity for them to develop the performance skills by performing on and outside stage. The reception at the festival was great, group they opened the festival with a flash mob to Don’t Stop Believing choreographed by one of the students. All the young people performing showcased their original ideas to over 200 people throughout the day. I received so much positive feed feedback from the young people themselves, audience members made up of the invited public, supporting families and local community.

The group had over 3 hours of performance material crossings over a mix of drama, dance, music, poetry and singing performances, all devised by them in sessions lead by Namiwa Jazz. All the sessions linked back to Arts Award where some are taking bronze and others gold.

On reflection, I feel that the day was a huge success. This project called on local partnerships with Walsall Council, Creative Factory Walsall, Punch Records & Gallery 37, Giggles Entertainment, Glitters Ltd and Walsall Arboretum park. As the festival producer on this project I held a bird’s eye view of what was happening, working with the young people and the venue provider to ensure a smooth running of the event.

Part of my learning has been around planning and organisation. Having a plan, A, B and C helps when it comes to festival planning, especially when there are so many elements to consider. Just the process alone of working out potential risks and what ifs I found extremely helpful. A good example of this was planning around wet weather! I was over the moon that it didn’t rain (we all were) but the wet weather plan in place would have sound proofed the event and enabled us to carry the event under rain cover. In my experiences working on other projects, elements around planning for first aid, event insurance and other event safe guarding matters had been the responsibility of someone else. As the lead festival producer this became my responsibility, it was part of my role to ensure that we were working to standards set by Emerge, Walsall Council and the local authorities.

I attended a final evaluation at the Mac in Birmingham where I got to present a 15-minute presentation on my time on Emerge and give the low down on the festival day. As well as this, I had the opportunity to hear about the other festivals produced by artists in the Emerge 2019 cohort. It was refreshing to hear some of the positives presentations and a relief to know that we all shared some common ups and downs. I have enjoyed working on this project, working and connecting with young people from across Walsall bringing their stories and ideas to light has been the most rewarding part. Seeing everything come together on Saturday 6th of April, with no rain and smiles all round was a triumph. I am looking forward to the updates from the 2019 Emerge collective and becoming and active alumni member.