Freespace Festival 2013

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Want to get a feel for the future of West Kowloon? What better way than to experience it in a festival, writes Mark Tjhung

For more than a decade, West Kowloon has been the beacon of hope for the city’s creative community – a place where, potentially, all artistic communities can come together, in world class surrounds. However, it’s only been in the last two years that designs for the hub have become concrete, and even more recently, that the Freespace at West Kowloon has been confirmed as part of the final plan. 

The Freespace refers to the expansive tree-filled park space proposed for the cultural district, which, by 2015, should be home to several multi-disciplinary performing arts venues and an outdoor auditorium. And debuting last year, this free two-day festival looks to showcase West Kowloon’s vision of the future Freespace, through a series of creative events. 

“We called the fest a ‘journey of cultural exploration’ last year. It proved to be a successful attempt to test the boundaries of cultural freedom in public space where participants can sing, dance, play or simply sleep at their will,” says Louis Yu, the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority’s Executive Director Performing Arts. “We want to emphasise the free spirit and the breaking away from boundaries, from festival, organiser, audience and artists’ points of view. The programmes are geared towards interactivity and audience involvement, effectively turning ‘audiences’ from passive receivers of information to active contributors of art, each person genuinely creating ‘Your Freespace’.”

This year, the Freespace Festival covers almost 50 percent more space than last year, and expands its programme to include new media, literature and a series of cultural workshops. Here are some of the highlights of this year’s edition…

Music 
As one of the centrepiece elements of the Freespace, it’s only naturally that music should play a big part of this festival. This year, curated by influential music critics Yuen Chi-chung and Chang Yieh-chih, the lineup expands, featuring music from a raft of stars from Hong Kong, China and Macau. Former at17 singer-songwriter Eman Lam heads up the billing, along with Cantorocker Jun Kung, excellent Mainland folk outfit Wild Children, Wuhan indie rockers AV Okubo, Shíjiäzhuäng’s much-hyped Omnipotent Youth Society and Taiwan’s Lin Sheng-xiang. 


Enam Lam

Street performances
If music is the centrepiece of the festival, stage performances – which will have a significant presence in the Freespace once the venues are finally complete – run a close second. This is reflected in the lineup for this year’s festival, which hosts a whole gamut of acts from a diverse range of disciplines. Co-curated by Virginia Hyam, who has directed programmes for the Melbourne Fringe Festival and the Sydney Opera House, and local company All Theatre Art Association, the street acts include drama, contemporary circus shows, parkour and street dance, both on a set stage as well as roving around the festival. 

Sound parade!
Did someone say parade? Here at Time Out Towers, we love a good parade, especially when it’s curated by Hong Kong’s multimedia-art tour de force Samson Young. This particular instance, featuring the laptop orchestra Electric Company, invites the audience to follow in a procession of sound throughout the grounds to its culmination at the festival main stage, as well as interact through a special, downloadable app. Want to take part? Get the app from the Freespace website and get ready to march. 

Grassfest
Indeed, grass! It’s not exactly a common feature of our urban landscape, but West Kowloon sports one of the finest patches of green within the city. Naturally, this is to be celebrated, and this year, in association with local organisation Lawnmap, the festival features a series of games, fun, installations and art designed to get people interacting with grass. Not that it’s probably needed – its presence is god send enough… 

Literature
A new element this year, the Freespace Festival celebrates literature in a series of performances featuring renowned novelists, writers, personalities and musicians, all based on various books and texts. There are also readings, poetry/music jams and interactive literature games (we’re interested to see these in action) taking place across the weekend. 

Fest Fact File

In a nutshell: 
Music, art, creativity, the outdoors: a showcase of what West Kowloon’s Freespace promises to be all about.

Started: 
2012. 

Recommended for: 
Fans of Hong Kong and Chinese alternative music, and those curious about the proposed Freespace.

Fun fact: 
By 2015, there should be two music venues in the Freespace, as well as a 500-person outdoor theatre!

Details: 
Dec 14-15 West Kowloon Cultural District. Tickets: Free, registration required. For the full programme, see freespace.hk.

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