Standing in the evening sunlight on a balmy Brazilian evening, surrounded by families enjoying the idyllic setting of a former coffee plantation that seemed to me like something from a dream, I was taken back to a moment seven years ago that changed mine and Rowan’s lives forever.
As we sat at my kitchen table all those years ago and discussed the idea of creating the perfect family arts festival – camping out in the woods, singing round campfires, feasting under the stars, dancing with our children and immersing them in an artistic adventure – even with all our optimism and foolhardy determination, we would have been astounded and more than satisfied that we have managed to make this idea a reality, an award-winning reality at that; that the same concept should now have travelled around the globe and enchanted hundreds of families in Brazil would have seemed beyond even our wildest imaginative visions.
Just So Festival Brazil took place for the first time on the 15th/16th October on the beautiful site of Fazenda Vassoural in Itu near Sao Paulo and was brought to life and translated for a Brazilian audience by four like minded women, who shared our ethos and passion for increasing confidence and creativity in children, families and communities through celebrating the arts together outdoors. They’ve faced so many familiar challenges and I think it’s fair to say the journey to their first festival has been a long and often difficult one, taking place as it has in a tough economic climate. And on top of the cuts in arts budgets, Roberta, Maira, Isabella and Joanna had to convince families not brought up in a camping culture that sleeping under canvas can be a wonderful experience.
On the Friday before the festival began, they had to deal with monsoon-like conditions and watching the rain hammering down and the site beginning to flood it seemed so cruel a fate; however some thinking as quick as the lightning that lit up the night sky, saw an amazing team of staff and volunteers managing to relocate camping and adapt performances so that the festival could not only go ahead but become a wonderful triumph.
Over the festival weekend the sun shone and the team’s vision and hard work paid off. It was a huge privilege to attend the festival and see so much creativity and so many wonderful performances by artists and by families alike. My highlight came on Saturday evening, when, having sung songs around the campfire, families snuggled down to watch Charlie Chaplin’s ‘The Circus’ on an outdoor cinema screen under a beautiful full moon.
I can’t wait to see how the festival develops in coming years – being a part of this adventure is the most incredible experience and I dream now of international artist exchanges with our Brazilian counterparts, of establishing the festival in other countries and seeing families around the world revelling in amazing, awe-inspiring arts experiences at Just So Festivals in their countries… as my plane took to the skies I was left feeling proud and pleased, and marveling at what can be born out of a humble conversation round a kitchen table.