MiniFesto review - Art Festival with Manifesto Jamaica

About the festival

Just a quick review about my personal experience working with Manifesto Jamaica on one of their art festivals, MiniFesto. Designed to engage youth through the arts, developing and nourishing creative skillsets.

“MiniFestos are creative platforms for community building and cooperation. They pop up where community leaders, emerging talent, and Manifesto Jamaica’s network of social workers and creative professionals collide. MiniFestos feature curated introductory-level entrepreneurial and creative workshops, performances and exhibitions” – Minifestos series 

Let the FEST begin…

Capture of Afrobeat dance workshop - August Town Primary School

Capture of Afrobeat dance workshop - August Town Primary School

Yesterday was the big day we’ve all been waiting for. The MiniFesto art festival at August Town (Primary School), on Saturday 17th August. I woke up bright and early with excitement and slight anxiety at 4.50am ready to hit di road and finally begin to assist in delivering the best festival in town.

I arrived with 3 other Manifesto volunteers. We began to help set up the venue. From decorations, sign posting to registry checks. Mind you we did have a cheeky vegan (Ital) Jamaican breakfast first. Boiled dumplings, callaloo, yam, sweet potato and green banana!! Thanks to Natalia’s cooking skills. Let’s not forget, I already had cornmeal porridge for breakfast before I left out. As Jamaicans say… Ya bellyful. I was buzzing all day with energy due to all of that good good food. I felt productive for the day ahead, since food = fuel.

Stretching exercises - August Town Primary School

Stretching exercises - August Town Primary School

It was a slow start. We expected at least a decent amount of young children strolling through in the morning as it was on a Saturday. Sadly it was dead quiet the first few hours. Thanks to the DJ he dropped some records from reggae, ska and to 90s rnb and dancehall. Followed by a fun arts & crafts workshop with Abigail. Along with storytelling for children. Plus a Business Basics for Social Innovators workshop and a Filmmaking workshop, ideal for youth interested in setting up their own business.

Of course I sprinkled my own contribution and introduced dance to the timetable. I led a swift Afrobeat dance workshop for all ages. I purposely chose a style that is not typically or widely taught across Jamaica. To be honest I’d rather be taught by locals of Jamaican dances than me teaching it. So why not introduce something fresh and different from the ordinary; although Afrobeat is not new and is well known in Jamaica. It is still worth bringing it to inner cities such as August Town. The dance workshop was a blast. Very busy and HOT! I was literally sweating buckets and gasping for air. I underestimated the beaming sunshine. Since I am use to teaching indoors, in an air conditioned studio back in the UK. Most participants were under 12years of age, beginner’s… ish, but simply loved to move and groove. I say ish because they picked up the choreography quick. With so much ease. Many were unfamiliar with most dance movements I taught, such as Shaku Shaku and Zanku but they were fully familiar with the Gwara Gwara, (a South African dance move). Even the camera girl, Rochelle, felt the riddim, along with parents who joined in and observed, a few volunteers and our Managing Director Lesley. (Yes I see you boo).

Networking is key

As a bonus Rochelle is also a dancer, training in Ballet. It was great connecting with her and learning about her goals and aspirations too as a young adult. It gave me the opportunity (apart from volunteering) to network with artist during the festival. Understanding their circumstances, environment and what avenues she can pursue in dance, as well as other young dancers, in comparison to the circumstances in UK. Speaking of the UK I managed to meet a gentleman, Mike, from the UK (the world is small) who is also currently working in Jamaica, sent from the prince’s Trust International (the world is even smaller). Wow! I gain mentorship and support from the Prince’s Trust for my dance business, so it was a pleasant surprise to bump into someone who also works closely with the charity based in the UK.

The Princes trust is a UK based charity founded by Charles, The Prince of Wales.  Offering guidance for young people in practical, social and financial skills for work and future career- Prince’s Trust

 

It didn’t matter that he wasn’t into dance but networking is key. This helped towards my own personal research & development into the arts industry in Jamaica. I would love to revamp my own current business, Unique Movez Dance Collective and develop additional opportunities oversees in Jamaica. To facilitate and manage workshops and festivals ideal for aspiring dancers who are at early – mid stages of their dance career. This festival truly sparked the idea and solidified my desire to work closely in international collaboration via dance. Thank you

 

But on the other hand…

MiniFESTO stage - Showcasing talent

MiniFESTO stage - Showcasing talent

I only volunteered with Manifesto once throughout the duration of my trip. It was a shame as I was looking forward to working with the team at all 5 communities I was initially promised (in and around Kingston). It didn’t go to plan due to unforeseen circumstances and in reality we all know plans don’t always go to plan.

Considering I was notified in November 2018 to embark on an international programme in Jamaica, it was quite disappointing that I didn’t gain enough practical work experience to fulfill my desires. I must say.. it is important to be prepared for any downfalls. For instance plan your plan Bs and allow room for new possibilities and opportunities. This does not stop me from re-visiting Jamaica (for artist development reasons) and continue building a rapport with Manifesto. This experience was only the beginning.

Give thanks

I loved how the space was open, (during my dance workshop and all workshops at MiniFesto), allowing outsiders the freedom to observe or join for a quick taster. Something I have noticed so far in Jamaica, the openness of inter-generational communities engaged together. Whether there is an activity or not. Surprisingly most who joined in the dance workshop were young girls who asked for Ballet and Contemporary dance. I assumed most would love an upbeat, energetic dance style. Hence why I chose Afrobeat (out of all the other styles I am trained in). I find Afrobeat similar to Dancehall merely due to its rhythms and tempos which tend to attract similar jerky, athletic dance movements. I gave those young girls the opportunity afterwards to try out a few Contemporary dance floor work exercises, ending with yoga and a deep stretch. Again it was a blast. I felt humbled by the overall engagement and appreciation towards dance from the young people. Even if their choice is to not pursue dance, but their curiosity and natural connection to movement sparked me to look into the link between youth development and dance in Jamaica. Another task added to my to-do list.

Manifesto Jamaica team

Manifesto Jamaica team

I met a few parents at this time and the governor of August Town Primary School, Kamo. They were all so warming and inviting. I wish I brought more business cards to hand out in order to stay in contact. No worries, I trust the universe will work in my favour. Someday, somehow, somewhere I will return and who knows I may bump into the August Town community again and/or connect with Manifesto Jamaica to pick up where I left off PLUS MORE… Which is to share my love for dance and the arts!

Learn more about Minifestos festival


  Blog by: Tamar Dixon

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P.S. Big thank you to Good News Jamaica for offering me a platform to share my experiences as a British Jamaican in Jamaica. Thank you to Manifesto Jamaica, Brouhaha UK and European Commission Programme Capacity Building in the Field of Youth – Festivals as a Platform for Community Development for this international opportunity and lifelong learning experience. Big up unnu self