Jessica Dargo Caplan, Director of Education & Community Outreach, Luminato

5 questions to...

Jessica is Director of Education and Community Outreach at Luminato Festival and also oversees the Volunteer Programme, so I have had the great pleasure to work directly with her for the past six months. I’ve been wanting to ask her my “5 Questions” for a while, but given that we were both in the same festival boat, I know very well how busy she has been lately. She took it upon herself to rewrite and rearrange the questions in a fitting manner for a post-festival interview.

1. Luminato Festival’s Education & Community Outreach projects are very different year-to-year, but what are your programming principles?

As part of the festival’s core programming, our Education & Community Outreach projects reflect the Luminato Festival’s guiding principles of accessibility, diversity, collaboration and transformation, with a strong emphasis on the creative process, to ensure meaningful community engagement and authentic experiences.

2. The 2013 Luminato Festival just wrapped up on 23rd June – what was your favourite moment, the one that made it all worth it?

Getting the chance to see how our Education & Outreach project participants directly engage with our Festival artists. This year we worked very closely with the incredible Mark Morris Dance Group (MMDG) on L’Allegro Movement Project – an intergenerational dance initiative which involved young students from Winchester Junior Public School and Nelson Mandela Park Public School, as well as participants with the Toronto-based Dancing with Parkinson’s group. Together they explored the expressive possibilities of movement through the choreography and music from MMDG’s L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato.

Five months of weekly workshops and rehearsals culminated in a final public performance on Wednesday June 19th at the Daniels Spectrum in Regent Park. This meaningful public performance, featuring the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir, highlighted the impact the arts can have on improving the quality of life in both youth and adults.

The most magical moment for me was walking into the theatre right before the final dress rehearsal… seeing our dancers moving around nervously and enthusiastically in their bright and colourful costumes, while the Tafelmusik musicians tuned their instruments… just feeling this beautiful spirit of true artistic collaboration in the room was completely, and overwhelmingly, beautiful.

3. You’ve been at the head of the Education & Community Outreach department since the inaugural year of the Luminato Festival. What gets easier with time? And what doesn’t?

Juggling the work flow never seems to get any easier – it’s like childbirth… I forget how difficult the Festival season can be, but my work is incredibly rewarding so it’s worth the stress (and many sleepless nights!).

4. During this post-Festival period, what’s a typical day like right now?

There isn’t really a typical day — I spend much of my time in meetings with colleagues in the office and arts/community partners analyzing and reflecting on the projects and programs, process and outcomes. (The worst part is sorting through what seems like mountains of paperwork!) At the same time I start to transition into a major planning phase for next year’s Festival.

5. What other festival would you love to attend as audience member?

I would really like to get the chance to experience and learn more about some of the incredible outreach and creative learning projects in the UK and other parts of Europe. There are too many to list, but festivals like Manchester International Festival (which is going on right now), Latitude, Hay Festival, Ruhrtriennale and Augenblick Mal! are doing really interesting collaborations and progressive outreach work.

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This year’s Education and Community Outreach projects also included Future Tastes of Toronto: At the Kids’s Table, a collaboration with performance company Mammalian Diving Reflex around kids and food (of which a trailer is available here, alongst other food-focused programming at other festivals); and School Days, a joint concert with musicians from the Arts & Crafts label and Regent Park School of Music students. A documentary about L’Allegro Movement Project filmed by a youth apprentice team during the Festival will be screened in November 2013 as part of the Regent Park Film Festival, Toronto’s “only free-of-charge community film festival”.

Luminato Festival returns for its 8th year in 2014, from 6th to 15th June.

Manchester Jazz Festival 2013

Steve Mead, Artistic Director

5 questions to...

For the first installment of my ‘5 Questions‘ to festival folks, I have the pleasure to share insights from my good friend Steve Mead, a veteran Artistic Director who’s been involved with Manchester Jazz Festival from the very first 1-day showcase, in 1996 (which, for the anecdote, was rescheduled at the last minute because of the IRA bomb that exploded in Manchester city centre that very same day).

1. Hi Steve! Your next festival is in July 2013. What’s a typical day right now?

You’ve caught me at my busiest time of year – I’m at the tail end of programming our festival (75 bands in 10 days) and just starting to write the copy for our brochure and website. So recently I’ve been having lots of phone calls and emails with artists about everything, ranging from whether a repertoire of Swedish folk songs is appropriate for a jazz festival (I think it is!) to whether a vibraphone, drum kit and sousaphone will all fit in one car… Putting together the copy – apart from the challenge of trying to find 75 different ways to describe music – really helps bring into focus the intense audience experience that a festival creates. Seeing the full schedule unfold before your eyes, one wonderful event after another, makes me feel enormously privileged to be just a small part of making it all happen.

2. You’ve been organising mjf for 18 years now. What gets easier with time? And what doesn’t?

Yes, it’s our 18th this year, and I wouldn’t say things get easier with time, the problems just become more familiar! One thing I do hear more of is how relaxed and well-organised the staff & volunteer team looks during the festival itself. Planning ahead and being able to anticipate potential problems (equipment or people not turning up on time, flight delays etc), and making allowances for tricky situations that may not actually happen, gives us more breathing space during the event if everything does go smoothly – so we’ve clearly got better at planning. The constant challenges are almost invariably financial: in the current economic climate, there can be unforeseen disappointments in any one of our income streams, which impact right across the organisation.

3. Before, during or after the festival – what’s your favourite moment, the one that makes it all worth it?

Seeing a band give an inspiring performance – especially if it’s an artist you weren’t sure about and were taking a bit of a risk on, or the premiere of new project that really delivers and connects with the audience. During many of the gigs I’m positioned alone at the side of the stage and often revel in some beautiful spine-tingling musical moments.

4. What other festival do you or would you love to attend as an audience member?

I love to see how other festivals work so can rarely attend just as an audience member. There are many jazz festivals like Molde in Norway that I can never get to because of our timing clash. I love going to other small festivals like One Taste in London – not jazz but a curious mixture of styles and settings that makes for a special festival experience.

5. Over to you – Steve Radio Presenter*, what question would you ask Steve Festival Organiser?

If you were to hand over the reins to your successor, what one piece of advice would you give them? I’d say: be yourself, be memorable and don’t just copy what I’ve done – make your own mark and take it in new directions.

* Steve’s other dream job – listen to him introducing each gig and occasionally on ALL FM and BBC Radio 3!

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Manchester Jazz Festival has just announced its new commission for mjf 2013 – I wrote a few words about it in a previous post, and you can read more about it here.