Hong Kong Freespace Fest is an annual two-day outdoor arts festival, where artists present outdoor works, focusing on engagement with the audience. The festival is free to attend, with residents required to register online prior to the event, in order to guarantee entry.
“We like to think that Freespace Fest is a festival that really reflects what is great about Hong Kong. Not shopping, skyscrapers and tycoons – just everyday people, meeting, performing, playing and creating something special. This two-day outdoor festival is a place where artists and audiences can meet and you can truly witness the friendliness and passion that we love about the city. Get up close with like-minded people, bring art into your life and unleash your creativity!”
Freespace Fest has been running the last three years, while in 2014, there were more than 400 local and overseas artists and arts groups taking part, “ensuring that there is something for everybody” - with 10 co-curators in performance art, music, literature, parkour, contemporary circus, and more.
The organizers are designing a program geared towards interactivity with the public, allowing everyone to create their own idea of what a “free space” means. Picnicking, bike riding, dancing, and games are encouraged, while the venue aims to be green and accessible to all.
The festival explores the concept of free public space at the West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD), a long developing project that aims to be the largest arts and cultural project in Hong Kong. The space has yet to be completed, with plans for multiple performance venues and a new visual arts museum, M+.
While the WKCD is still in development, Freespace Fest has been using the green space near the harbour, to promote arts and community involvement in the dense urban environment that is Hong Kong.
By taking on an audience-centred approach, Freespace Fest 2014 will present famous Spanish dance company La Fura del Baus’ MURS, the world’s first interactive "smart" show, in which the audience will be invited to contribute to the performance with a specially designed smartphone app.
"Music Mash-Up" includes a variety of on-stage and off-stage performances wherein musicians will challenge traditional genre distinctions to bring something fresh and new to listeners. A silent disco will also be featured at "Club 0db", where more than 1,000 audience members can access DJs simultaneous through personalised smartphones and headphones.
"s.l.o.a.p." (Space Left Over After Planning), a production by Syndey-based company Branch Nebula that will feature parkourists, contemporary dancers and a trial biker from Hong Kong.
Events for kids, picnic grounds, camp sites, a farmers market and bazaar, and a literary festival were all big hits at Freespace Fest 2014.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Freespace Fest is the amount of audience involvement that is encouraged throughout the event. Last year there were calls to join in and participate before festival began and during the days of the actual event.
Participatory programs included: being one of the musical cyclists for ‘Parade for 111 Cyclists’, call for poetry writers to participate in the ‘poetic babble’, DJ workshop with chance for a group performance, puppet performance workshop, be a human obstacle for s.l.o.a.p., help create gigantic art installation at ‘tangle’, and even simply “throw colourful balls at our acrobats” – a physical theatre production.
Freespace Fest has had tremendous success focusing on and getting audience participation to be a main aspect of the event – do you think urban arts festival have an obligation to engage the audience through direct participation?
Freespace Fest has been free to attend the last three years, however, in the early stages of its’ development, it had planned to sell tickets to the public – do you think these large scale urban festivals need to be free in order to have the kind of success that they have?
More and more cities are having large scale urban arts festivals like Freespace Fest – to what extent do you think it is necessary for cities to have these kinds of events, and what kind of impact do you think they might have on the local residents?