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The sky is not the limit: Pip Rush talks Arcadia ambitions

Arcadia Spectacular, the arts collective behind Glastonbury Festival’s famous Spider, has showcased its work right across the globe since launching in 2007, with the aim of facilitating a more inclusive and communal live music experience.

Following on from the debut of the Pangea stage at Glastonbury last year, IQ catches up with Arcadia co-founder and creative director Pip Rush Jansen to discover more about the inspiration behind the company’s latest project, the fate of the famous fire-breathing Spider and how the right kind of live experience can serve as the antidote to modern society’s smartphone obsession.

 


First things first, Arcadia Spectacular has been around for years now, but how did it all begin and how have you changed over the years?
The first thing we ever built was a DJ stage that people could dance on or giant fire pits people could gather around. We had to be resourceful and it was all made from recycled stuff we could find in scrap yards. That was how Arcadia was born really. We were young and inspired to make creative environments to party in.

Taking these installations around festivals, we started meeting more and more people around the fire, from engineers to mad scientists – all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds who were full of ideas for where it could go next. Over time it’s gathered momentum, the installations have grown and we’ve become a large touring operation with a lot of those same people still with us.

We’ve now got a non-profit arm called Arcadia Reach and we’re currently building a mobile water drilling rig for a charity that operates in remote villages in Sierra Leone. The truck also turns into a stage with an inbuilt sound-system so we can engage in the music and cultural scene there.

What we experienced on our research trip is the sheer, genuine joy there, where everyone including grandparents, kids and people who were previously fighting each other come together in celebration, and throwing a proper sound system into that is really exciting.

So we’re building a real global audience and we plan to develop better ways to use social media to harness, connect and share multicultural ideas and inspiration across the globe. It’s a long process and we’re still building the team, but we believe it’s a very positive mission and will influence our work going forward.

Our DNA is about thinking outside the box

Last year you debuted Pangea (a stage inspired by the prehistoric supercontinent and modelled around a 140 tonne crane) at Glastonbury Festival, can you tell me about how it came to be?
The amazing thing about Glastonbury is you can push boundaries and try new things. We recognised our DNA is about thinking outside the box so we didn’t want to just make a different creature that did the same as the last stage (the Spider). And we knew that to do that, we’d have to begin a new journey.

We’ve looked at scrap yards in Russia and India and places like that in the past, which have amazing bits of kit, but when it came down to it, the environmental impact was key. We should be recycling something local.

It’s harder to access UK scrap due to regulations, but eventually we found an enormous crane at our local docks in Avonmouth, on the outskirts of the city of Bristol. (Glastonbury founder) Michael Eavis wasn’t so sure when we showed him pictures, but when he came and saw the scale and potential of it he started to get excited.

It took 12 trucks to move that thing and we had to dig concrete foundations ten metres into the ground to hold it up. But we only had to move it a few miles down the road and it will remain stationary for a few years now. So in all it’s taken a huge amount of the environmental footprint out of what we’re doing at Glasto. We also run 50% of our flames of bio fuels and this year we are developing technology to make that 100%.

Fatboy Slim and Carl Cox played amazing sets and everyone loved it. We’re very lucky to have such a supportive fan base, and with tons of ideas flooding in from all directions, everyone’s inspired about the next phase.

What comes next?
The next thing is to really start taking over the sky. We flew a big moon built by Luke Jerram last year as an experiment and it was really beautiful, so we’re looking to develop the scope of that and collaborate with international artists who fly sculptures over people.

Very often, people can stand at the back of these huge stages and feel distant from what’s going on. If you can take over the space above people’s heads, you can really involve them. That’s the idea – to make an experience as inclusive, massive and yet personal as possible.

If you can take over the space above people’s heads, you can really involve them

What has become of the Spider?
The Spider is an artwork originally built for a limited number of UK events and it’s amazing that it’s gone on to do so much global touring. We’ve stood under it on dance floors with people from all around the world now and that feeling of unity and those peak moments resonate with all cultures.

It’s been amazing to see, and we learned from and got inspired by everyone we met. It’s back in Europe this summer for its first show in Norway, but we’re looking for somewhere to site it more long term, to increase the footfall and decrease the footprint.

We’ve had a few conversations with people in America and there is lots of interest in places like China and the Middle East, but we were also in talks with the Eden Project which is just down the road and right up our street.

You talk about making a fan’s experience as immersive as possible, why is there such a demand nowadays for these kinds of ultra-immersive experiences?
I think it’s got a lot to do with overconsumption of screens. People are used to constantly consuming visual content and having access to different kinds of experiences through virtual and augmented reality, and although it’s supposed to connect us all, I think if it gets overused then in reality it isolates us.

When people do get time out, they thrive off having an actual visceral experience, one that you can’t get through your iPhone. What people ultimately want to feel at a festival is human connection, friendship, laughter and creativity – and not only does that make us happier, but all these things are completely sustainable.

The purpose of the environments we create is to bring people together, that’s why we always do it in the round – people are literally facing one another. I believe that if people are having a really good time and dancing in the moment; that’s when the phones get forgotten anyway.

The purpose of the environments we create is to bring people together, that’s why we always do it in the round

The live events and experiential space is becoming ever more competitive, how do you continue to set yourselves apart from others?
When we started out, not many people were doing what we do and our mission was to inspire people. We’re not promoters and now Arcadia’s taken off we’re not looking start cutting corners to compete.

We’re an arts organisation and we focus on pushing boundaries. To do that we have to make sure that we’re always exploring new territories of our own and that’s why we’re moving outside our box at Glasto to lay a radical new foundation.

Our structures are evolving from 360 degree to hemispherical. Our inspiration is moving from local to global and our materials are moving from global to local.

There’s a whole bunch of other stuff emerging in response to the new challenges we’ve given ourselves, so in respect of starting a new journey, it’s really exciting times for us.

Looking to the future, it is obviously a big year as Glastonbury is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year – is there extra pressure to wow due to the big birthday?
There’s a little bit, but Glastonbury really is a hotbed for art and we feel it’s important to let artistic processes go on their own journey in their own time, so we’re not too worried.

If our team and the new people feeding into Arcadia come up with the most mind-blowing idea next year, we’ll do that. But if we need to test new things out a bit before we can make something really magic, then we’re not afraid to do that either.

Either way, there’s going to be a lot of amazing and new stuff at Glastonbury this year. It’s a festival that has really inspired people to take that time out and connect with each other again, and for me it’s no doubt the best one on the planet.

 


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Pangea’s Glasto debut showcased in film

Glastonbury’s Pangea showcased the world’s first projection-mapped sphere this year, now captured in a film by Trago Studios.

Pangea, which takes its name and inspiration from the prehistoric super continent, hosted sets from Carl Cox, the Black Madonna, Bicep and more at this year’s Glastonbury Festival.

The collaboration between performing arts collective Arcadia, Astral Projekt and Heckler attracted crowds of 100,000 over three nights.

New media artist and Astral Projekt founder Joe Crossley and Heckler creative director Glenn Urquhart created the spherical projections, which featured collaborations from media artists including Peter Walker (Astrix), Sam Lisher, Brad Hammond and real-time effects engine Notch.

“Partnering with Arcadia and Astral Projekt to bring Pangea to life is incredibly exciting and a huge honour”

“Partnering with Arcadia and Astral Projekt to bring Pangea to life is incredibly exciting and a huge honour,” says Heckler co-founder and executive producer Will Alexander. “We look forward to developing new-media works at Glastonbury over the next five years to global audiences.”

“Working with Will and Glenn at Heckler has been such a pleasure and I am excited for future collaborations and projects such as Glastonbury,” comments Crossley.

“We are embarking on some exciting new projects in large-format media art, and our partnership with Heckler will enable us to push the boundaries to new heights in this space.”

The Arcadia stage at Glastonbury follows Astral Projekt’s immersive projects at the 2019 Vivid Festival and in 2018 at Burning Man.

 


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Festival weekend: Glasto, Lolla, Community bake in the sun

It was a scorching weekend for European festivals, as music events across the continent were bathed in sun amid a Europe-wide heatwave.

At the UK’s Glastonbury Festival, the mercury hit 31°C (88°F) on Saturday 29 June, with fans braving one of the hottest-ever days at the famed event to see acts including Liam Gallagher, Janet Jackson and headliners the Killers, who brought on Pet Shop Boys and Johnny Marr in one of the most talked-about sets of the festival.

Grime star Stormzy played a politically charged headline show on Friday, wearing a union jack-emblazoned stabproof fest and interspersing his hits with video clips discussing racial division and social inequality, while the Cure brought down the curtain on the festival last night.

Sunday at Glastonbury also saw a surprise appearance by naturalist Sir David Attenborough, who praised the festival for ditching single-use plastics this year – though the decision to do away with disposable plastic bottles was identified by many UK newspapers as the cause of up-to-hour-long queues for drinking water. (Cans of water were reportedly available for a steep £2 each.)

Sunday at Glastonbury also saw a surprise appearance by naturalist Sir David Attenborough

In a statement, Glasto refuted rumours of a water shortage, saying all bars were offering free tap water. “Water is also being given out from our info points, and we have roving teams providing water from backpacks,” it said.

Also sweltering in the summer sun was the inaugural Lollapalooza Stockholm, which welcomed 56,000 people to the Gärdet area of the Swedish capital on 28–30 June.

Mixing pop, hip hop and rock, Lolla Sweden headliners were Travis Scott and Lana Del Rey on Friday, Foo Fighters and Swedish singer-songwriter Laleh on Saturday, and Chance the Rapper and Lil Uzi Vert on Sunday.

“More than 56,000 fans have laughed, danced, eaten, drunk, hugged and experienced three days of world-class live music in beautiful Gärdet,” says organiser Live Nation Sweden. “Stockholm, and all Lolla Stockholm fans, are now officially part of the international Lolla family. This is just the beginning…”

During the festival, Roskilde becomes the fourth-biggest city in Denmark

Back in the UK, one-day Festival Republic event Community Festival celebrated its best year to date, with 35,000 people gathering in Finsbury Park, north London, for its indie-centric line-up featuring the Kooks, Blossoms, the Amazons, Gerry Cinnamon and Kate Nash.

In Denmark, Roskilde week got underway, as campers began pitching their tents for Roskilde Festival, starting with the traditional ritual of knocking down the fence before finding a camping spot on its 2.5 million square-metre site. (During the festival, Roskilde becomes the fourth-biggest city in Denmark.)

Roskilde 2019 – the 49th – begins with a show by Swedish rapper Silvana Imam on the main Orange stage on Wednesday, and continues through to Saturday 6 July, with headliners including Bob Dylan, Cardi B, Travis Scott, Robyn and The Cure.

Also beginning this week is Broadwick’s Hideout beach festival in Croatia, whose pool parties kick off today. And with temperatures in Novalja expected to remain around the 32°C (90°F) mark all week, festivalgoers are going to need all the water they can get…

 


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What to expect from Glastonbury Festival 2019

Glastonbury Festival returns tomorrow (Wednesday 26 June) following a year’s hiatus. As hundreds of thousands of fans prepare to descend on Worthy Farm, here’s what to look out for this year.

In a slow year elsewhere for UK festivals, enthusiasm for this Glastonbury remains high. Standard tickets for the 2019 event sold out in 36 minutes, compared to 50 minutes in pre-fallow year 2017.

Stormzy will become the first UK grime act to head up the Glastonbury Pyramid Stage on the Friday night, followed by the Killers and the Cure on the following evenings. Kylie Minogue will play the Sunday afternoon Legends Slot.

Festival organisers recently revealed dancehall star Sean Paul as a late addition to head up the John Peel stage on Saturday.

Elsewhere, European Talent Exchange Programme (Etep) leaders and May’s Radar Station runnersup, Fontaines D.C., will show why they’re one of Europe’s fastest emerging acts on the William’s Green stage.

Other popular Etep acts performing at the festival include Black Midi, Flohio, Pip Blom and Octavian.

Performing arts collective Arcadia will bring a brand-new installation to this year’s festival, in the form of Pangea. The new arena, Arcadia’s “most ambitious yet”, will see performances from the likes of the Black Madonna, Four Tet and Carl Cox.

Standard tickets for the 2019 event sold out in 36 minutes, compared to 50 minutes in pre-fallow year 2017

The weather, a major talking point of any UK festival, is looking to turn around in time for Glastonbury. Some forecasters are predicting the hottest Glastonbury Festival on record, with London’s Met Office indicating temperatures could hit 35°C.

According to Met Office forecaster Grahame Madge, “it will start out overcast and there could be the potential for some showers but going forward it’s going to be much dryer than in recent days.

“There may be some heavy showers in the south west of England, though these are likely to be further west than Glastonbury.”

The Greenpeace-partnered festival is striving to up its eco-friendly policies this year, banning single-use plastic bottles and encouraging attendees to leave no waste behind. National food retailer the Co-op will sell sandwiches in 100% compostable packaging at its pop-up shop at the festival.

A proposed Glastonbury spin-off festival, the Variety Bazaar, appears to be on hold. Organisers had previously claimed that the event would take place instead of Glastonbury Festival in 2021, on a different site.

 


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Pangea: Arcadia reveals new Glastonbury arena

Performing arts collective Arcadia has announced details of its brand-new installation, Pangea, which makes its debut at this year’s Glastonbury Festival from 26 to 30 June.

Exclusive to the UK festival, Arcadia claims Pangea is its “most ambitious engineering project to date” featuring a 50 metre, 140 tonne mega crane at its core.

The idea for the installation takes its inspiration from the prehistoric supercontinent, “where every land on earth was one and the future was yet to be written”, and will evolve over the next five years.

Pangea will host joint sets from Carl Cox and Jamie Jones, Fatboy Slim and Eats Everything, Andy C and Tonn Piper, as well as a solo set from Four Tet.

Performances will also come from the Black Madonna, Sub Focus and ID, Bicep, Daniel Avery, Craig Charles and Horse Meat Disco, among others.

A repurposed 360 degree radome – used to protect radar equipment during the Cold War – will feature visual art from Astral Projekt and Heckler following their recent artificial intelligence (AI) installation at Burning Man. Arcadia’s iconic Bug will also be present around the Pangea landscape.

“It’s time for a new journey at Glastonbury and heading into the unknown is where we’ve found all our best ideas”

“It’s time for a new journey at Glastonbury and heading into the unknown is where we’ve found all our best ideas,” says Arcadia creative director Pip Rush. “[Glastonbury co-founder] Michael Eavis has supported many generations of creative minds, and in that spirit, we want to make sure we’re also stimulating new generations of ideas and welcoming others to collaborate with our team.

“The structure gives us infinite scope to take over the sky and the potential is very exciting,” adds Rush.

Technical director Bert Cole says Pangea “has been a serious mission!”

“The sheer scale of it [Pangea] has definitely been a challenge but breathing new life into this old industrial beast and evolving the concept around it has been amazing so far,” Cole continues.

“This is a total voyage of discovery for all of us and we won’t know exactly what direction it heads in next until there’s a crowd around it – that organic evolution through a feedback loop with thousands of people is one of the best feelings on earth and is what Arcadia is all about.”

Arcadia is best known for its 50-ton fire-breathing Spider, which was a fixture of Glastonbury Festival for a decade. The Spider is continuing its global adventures, with appearances at events across the world.

 


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Report: Nina Kraviz, Killers are “festival heroes”

Festival discovery and booking platform Festicket has compiled a list of its 2018 “festival heroes”, naming the DJs and bands that performed at the highest number of festivals last year.

Russian techno DJ Nina Kraviz took the 2018 festival circuit crown, playing 35 festival sets over the year. Kraviz has 20 festivals confirmed for the upcoming season, including sets at Belgium’s Tomorrowland, Italy’s Kappa FuturFestival, Primavera Sound in Spain and Dimensions Festival in Croatia.

Belgian artist Amelie Lens also had a successful year, playing at 27 festivals, a massive step up for the DJ who played only four festival sets the previous year. 2019 is set to be even busier for Lens, who is playing at over 20 festivals, among them Coachella (USA), Creamfields (UK), Exit Festival (Serbia), Awakenings (the Netherlands) and Electric Daisy Carnival – Las Vegas.

Leading the charge for non-electronic acts are the Killers and Arctic Monkeys, who amassed 18 and 16 festival gigs respectively.

Russian techno DJ Nina Kraviz took the 2018 festival circuit crown, playing 35 festival sets over the year

The Killers played headline sets at Lollapalooza Brazil, Trnsmt in Scotland and Spain’s Benicassim. The band continues its string of headline performances this year with top slots already confirmed at Glastonbury Festival, Woodstock 50 and Kaaboo Texas.

Arctic Monkeys appeared at festivals across the globe in 2018 including Primavera Sound, Lollapalooza and Sziget. The band are yet to announce any festival slots for this year.

Festicket used information from its database of over 500 acts and 1,200 festivals to compile the festival heroes report.

Festicket co-founder Zack Sabban spoke on the industry investment panel at this year’s ILMC. Launched in 2012, the company is backed by a range of investors including Beringea, Edge, Lepe Partners, ProFounders and Kreos Capital. Alongside its London headquarters, Festicket has offices in San Francisco, Amsterdam, Berlin, Porto and Nantes.

 

Festicket "festival heroes"

 


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The Killers, the Cure final Glastonbury headliners

Glastonbury Festival today released the first line-up poster for its 2019 edition, announcing the Killers and the Cure as the final two Pyramid Stage headliners to join previously released headliner Stormzy.

The line-up release includes more than 60 acts, including Janet Jackson, Liam Gallagher, Miley Cyrus, Tame Impala, Vampire Weekend, Two Door Cinema Club, Wu-Tang Clan, Jon Hopkins and the Streets.

The Cure join Coldplay as the only groups to have headlined the festival four times, following slots in 1986, 1990 and 1995.

 

London grime artist Stormzy had already been revealed as the Friday night headliner, while Kylie Minogue will play the “legend slot” on Sunday afternoon.

In a bid to makes its 2019 festival more environmentally-friendly, Glastonbury Festival 2019 will free of single-use plastic, with attendees encouraged to bring reusable water bottles and traders instructed only to sell canned drinks.

Glastonbury Festival will take place from 26 to 30 June on Worthy Farm.

 


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No more plastic bottles at Glastonbury

Single-use plastic drinks bottles will not be available at this year’s Glastonbury Festival, with organisers encouraging festivalgoers to bring reusable bottles to refill at free water taps, WaterAid kiosks and from bars across the festival site.

1.3 million plastic bottles were used at Glastonbury Festival in 2017. The Greenpeace-partnered festival has now announced that plastic bottles will not be available to purchase at this year’s festival and will not be supplied backstage, in the production, catering or dressing room areas.

Greenpeace estimates that up to 12.7 million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean each year. The environmental NGO advises that the best way to avoid plastic pollution is to reduce plastic usage.

Festival organisers urge visitors to bring reusable bottles, stating that the number of WaterAid kiosks dispensing water around the festival site has tripled. Free drinking water will be available from all bars across the site.

Traders who previously sold soft drinks in plastic bottles will now stock canned soft drinks and Life Water, available for purchase.

“It’s paramount for our planet that we all reduce our plastic consumption, and I’m thrilled that, together, we’ll be able to prevent over a million single-use plastic bottles from being used at this year’s festival,” says Glastonbury organiser Emily Eavis.

“I really hope that everyone – from ticket-holder to headliner – will leave Worthy Farm this year knowing that even small, everyday changes can make a real difference”

“I really hope that everyone – from ticket-holder to headliner – will leave Worthy Farm this year knowing that even small, everyday changes can make a real difference.”

The festival has already phased out plastic cutlery and plates from food traders, as well as single-use plastic cups and plastic straws.

Single-use plastics and reusables have been a hot topic of conversation within the music industry over the past year and will be discussed in detail at this year’s Green Events & Innovations Conference (GEI).

The Plastic-Free Festival Guide, launched at last year’s GEI, has sparked many festivals to take a look at their festival consumption.

Last year, festival operators across the corporate and independent circuits committed to a ban on plastic straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds at their events. Festival Republic, Global/ Broadwick Live and AEG/ Goldenvoice banned plastic straws across all their 2018 summer festivals. The move followed the elimination of plastic straws at Live Nation/MAMA events.

In the independent sector, 60+ signatories of the Association of Independent Festivals’ (AIF) ‘Drastic on Plastic’ campaign pledged “to eliminate single-use plastics at our event(s) within 3 years by 2021, and to promote reuse solutions wherever practically possible.”

The 11th edition of GEI, in partnership with the International Live Music Conference (ILMC), will take place on Tuesday 5 March at the Royal Garden Hotel in London.

 


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