Deloitte Ignite 2011 at the Royal Opera House: Festival Review

Over the 2nd - 4th September, the Royal Opera House was home again to Deloitte Ignite. Drawn in by the big names, I booked my free tickets and went along. These are some of my personal highlights, and in keeping with this year’s theme, “Just Tell the Truth”, some of the lows as well.

Written by Miranda Williams

Red Dancer by Claire Kearns

Red Dancer by Claire Kearns

Mike Figgis held the creative reins at the festival this year. One of the names he had invited along was someone I was keen to see – Hans Ulrich Obrist, the director of the Serpentine Gallery and art mastermind. When we arrived at the epicentre of the festival, the Paul Hamlyn Hall, Hans and Mike were in deep conversation about Mike’s career, and his thoughts on Hollywood. Mike spoke bitterly about what he saw as the corruption of mainstream cinema and wasn’t abashed to name and shame, as he slammed Michael Bay and likened Steven Spielberg to Adolf Hitler. A poor shot from Figgis I thought.

Paul Hamlyn Hall by Amelia Gregory

Paul Hamlyn Hall by Amelia Gregory

It was independent film maker Emily James and her two guests, who almost managed to stir the reserved crowd. Emily is an American film-maker who was at the festival to present her film Just Do It. It was actually reviewed by Amelia for this blog back in July 2011 – a great review, which you should go and read here. The film charts three years in the environmental activism scene, focussing on protest groups such as Climate Camp and Plane Stupid. Emily follows a number of activists with her camera, as they show up at places like power stations, bank headquarters, and with no exceptions, films the direct action that takes place. Emily’s documentary provides a refreshing change from the mainstream media’s representation of the activity of these groups, which is often negative and has a habit of portraying the activists as trouble-makers.

The star of the film is Marina Pepper, a passionate ex-journalist who now devotes her life to rallying. In the film she dwells on what she does, and asks, ‘will this really make any difference?’. Cue long pause. She admits that it probably won’t, but she has attached herself to this fight, and will see it through. Marina was one of Emily’s guests, alongside Leo Murray who works with Plane Stupid, who were the group behind the closures of Stansted and Manchester airports a few years ago. It was a shame that feisty Marina faced a timid crowd when she tried to initiate a discussion about the Dale Farm issue. ‘Who here doesn’t like travellers?‘ she bellowed into the crowd. I felt a small achievement was made when Marina did manage to rouse the inner activists with some of the crowd members. She reminded us all that the environmentalist’s bane, oil company BP were the sponsors of the Royal Opera House.

It was a thought-provoking and intelligent part of the day. I felt I’d been given a lot of information that honestly, I hadn’t really been prepared for. Amelia’s Magazine has blogged extensively about activism, and specifically about groups such as Climate Camp. After coming home from the festival, and preparing to write this review, I took some time out to read these previous articles. One article which particularly stood out for me was by Adam S – his account of when over 1000 protestors stood their ground at the Ratcliffe-On-Soar power station. If like me, your not familiar with the good work of these people, go read one of Amelia’s fantastic and energetic articles here.

Dress Display by Amelia Gregory

Dress Display by Amelia Gregory

Alber Elbaz, the creative director at Lanvin, delivered Saturday’s highlight. No-one in Camp Deloitte had anticipated that Alber’s talk would bring in the masses. Due to an impromptu room change (Alber preferred the opulence and beauty of the intimate Crush Cinema Room) not everyone could fit in, and so he agreed to do the talk twice. He instantly won us over when he interrupted co-host Alice Rawsthorn as she mentioned his short lived career at YSL to add that yes, he had been fired. What touched me was the story of how he found his purpose at Lanvin. He had heard from a friend in New York, who was going to see her ‘arsehole husband‘ to sign their divorce. She messaged him, ‘Alber, I’m wearing Lanvin and I feel so protected‘. The idea that he could create this feeling from something as fine as silk is what propels him today.

Dress by Claire Kearns

Dress by Claire Kearns

The cinema room showing interviews from the likes of David Lynch and John Berger were interesting, but I found it difficult to concentrate with people constantly coming and going. I enjoyed it much more in the main hall, sat at a table and engaged with the speakers. This was the playground to several dancers who were performing for both 8 hour days – the young girl in red, continuously twirling on a raised block became a point of conversation for visitors and speakers.

Peter Blake by Amelia Gregory

Peter Blake by Amelia Gregory

On Sunday I enjoyed a cosy afternoon with national treasures, artist Peter Blake, and newsreader Jon Snow. Peter studied at the RCA, and is best known for the album artwork for the Beatle’s Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Peter was genuinely lovely. I felt like I could listen to him and his stories for hours. He was honest to admit that his printed work has made him more financially secure in the last two years than he has ever been before.

Jon Snow and Mike Figgis by Amelia Gregory

Jon Snow and Mike Figgis by Amelia Gregory

Jon Snow was last on the bill. He brilliantly handled a question from the audience about the representation of Palestine in the news. He pondered whether the situation would be as bad as it is now if they had covered the story properly – probably not, he said honestly. He also spoke about the fall of print, and the rise of online media, ‘We’re travelling into the golden age of journalism…democratised information‘, he said after admitting that he frequently goes an entire day without touching a newspaper. He finished with an emotive speech, that highlighted how highly individual we have all become, and how we desperately need something that we have lost, a sense of community. He received a huge applause.

Red Dancer on Podium by Amelia Gregory

Red Dancer on Podium by Amelia Gregory

Only one word can describe the finale, and that is ‘spectacle’. Mike transformed from curator to director, of a sort of hotchpotch avant-garde orchestra. The People Band took one side of the stage, and the Opera House orchestra on the other. They were joined by saxophonist Peter King, Rosey Chan on the piano, the weird but wonderful Feral Choir, and the magnificent flamenco dancer Eva Yerbabuena. She crept on to the centre of the floor dressed all in black, and gave a stand out performance.

I felt like I’d been on an a funny sort of emotional rollercoaster with Mike Figgis this weekend – laughing with him, but quickly annoyed with his eye rolls and name calling. At the end, I saw someone congratulate and thank him. He was speechless, and it was at this point that I liked him best, and I thought, well done Mike, well done Deloitte. I’ll be back next year.

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