Wednesday, 4 March 2009

WOMADelaide: the Bombay Picture Palace

Matt Connell continues his report from the WOMADelaide 'Sounds of the Planet 2009' festival, highlighting some of the complex 'behind-the-scenes' processes involved in producing cultural events like festivals.

The festival opens to the public on Friday. It's now Tuesday, and on site preparation in the beautiful Botanical Gardens in Adelaide is well underway, with stages going up and a real bustle about the place. There has been some heavy rain - v.unusual, and most welcome - firstly, because they need the water in South Australia, and secondly because usually the main problem at festivals here is dust. So long as it clears by the weekend, everyone is happy for some dampness now. Having survived a few very muddy festivals in the UK, it certainly feels strange to be happy about rain!

The Bombay Picture Palace tent is up, and decoration has begun. The main task for the team has been to check that the complex set of rigging kit, artists materials and shipped exhibition items has been correctly assembled. The process of long range ordering of materials by the Mumbai artists , which has taken place via the Charity Shop DJ team in England communicating with the WOMAD group in Australia, has involved various translation issues and the potential for 'chinese whisper' communication distortions. In fact, as everyone gathered around the boxes and crates and began checking everything off, everything was more-or-less as hoped for.

Building on the detailed organization by the CSDJ team in the UK, the WOMAD team over here in Australia have done wonders getting several hard-to-source items, and the relief of the Indian artists was palpable as they could see that they were now equipped to to what they've come to do. One of the more interesting aspects of this was their need for dry powder pigments, to be mixed and blended with linseed oil on site, to produce their own paint. This way of working is now more-or-less unheard of outside India, with almost all European, American and New World artists using pre-mixed paints - so tracking down the right powders and potions was quite a tricky task. Everyone is happy. The space is taking shape nicely, the shipped exhibition items have arrived (including the Bombay Picture Palace collection of Indian film posters, hoardings and paintings).

Prep work on the 'Bolly' hoarding that will take shape over the course of the festival will begin in earnest tomorrow, with the large boards being gridded up using thread and chalk (the chalk is rubbed on a thread which is stretched across the board and then twanged, leaving a dead straight chalkline across the board). The grid will then be used as a guide for penciling in the outline design. I'll let you know about that - and the pigment mixing - in my next post.

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