The people of Billingham continued to show their support for a Festival that has entertained thousands of people across five-decades.
The 52nd Billingham International Folklore Festival of World Dance kicked off in style with the traditional “Parade of Nations” which worked its way through the town centre to the Festival Arena that will be the focus of dance action until 20th August.
Hundreds of people applauded the parading dancers as Billingham Town Centre was bathed in sunshine – some young spectators had to sit on their father’s shoulders to grab a good view.
The Folklore Festival worked its usual magic by attracting generation-upon-generation of families to welcome the dance groups, who’ve travelled thousands of miles to perform in Billingham.
In total over 350 performers from seven different countries are involved in BIFF 2016 including Chile; Martinique; Mexico; North Cyprus; Russia; South Korea; and UK.
The Festival was opened by the Deputy Mayor of Stockton-on- Tees Councillor Maurice Perry and the Deputy Mayoress Mrs Laraine Perry along with the Chief Executive Officer for Catalyst Stockton, Steve Rose.
Billingham International Folklore Festival of World Dance is made possible by support from Stockton Borough Council and Arts Council England – from its ‘Grants For the Arts’ fund.
The opening day was a massive success with ‘Synchronised’ by Balbir Singh Dance Company being a complete sell-out at the Billingham Forum swimming pool.
‘Synchronised’ is a dance, synchronised swimming and live music spectacular. The one-off event pays homage to Busby Berkeley’s legendary Hollywood ‘water musicals’ of the 1940s and 50s with an influence of traditional North Indian Kathak dance; and was originally commissioned for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Joe Maloney, Festival Director of Billingham International Folklore Festival of World Dance, said: “It never fails to amaze me how after fifty years, people still have an affiliation for the Folklore Festival with familiar faces being joined by new audiences. This is down to the town’s heritage and the way it has continued to be supported on an annual basis. People coming out to wave and cheer dancers who’ve left their own families to entertain people on the other side of the world is moving to see. The empathy from our International counterparts is heartening and encouraging as the feedback we receive about our dance festival is one of respect and notoriety.
“The arena is deliberately at the heart of the town centre as we have always thought of our dance gathering as being at the centre of the community. We can’t do this without the audiences’ support and we hope to see as many people as possible over the coming days; and for us to have a sell-out show on the opening weekend is superb news.”
There is so many different ways to engage with BIFF 2016 whether it’s watching a Gala performance at the Festival Arena or young people attending one of the exciting educational workshops.
A few daily highlights to look forward to:
Monday 15th August:
International Concert, Festival Arena, 2.30pm, All seats £6 / Children under 12 £1 Feat. Chile, South Korea, Martinique, Mexico (Hidalgo)
Dance Gateway, Festival Arena, 8pm, All seats £5 / Feat. Macmillan Academy, Bellamy School of Ballet, Eliot Smith Company, Yuvel Soria, Chile, Mexico (Jalisco)
Tuesday 16th August:
International Concert, Festival Arena, 2.30pm, All seats £6 / Children under 12 £1 Feat. Mexico (Jalisco), Martinique, Chile and Bashkortostan (Russia)
Viva Mexico! Festival Arena, 8pm, All seats £5 / Companies from Mexican States of Hidalgo & Jalisco
Wednesday 17th August:
International Concert, Festival Arena, 2.30pm, All seats £6 / Children under 12 £1 Feat. South Korea, Chile and Mexico (Hidalgo)
International Concert, Festival Arena, All seats £5 / Martinique and Bashkortostan (Russia)
Thursday 18th August:
International Concert, Festival Arena, 2.30pm, All seats £6 / Children under 12 £1 Feat. Mexico (Hidalgo), Martinique, N. Cyprus and Bashkortostan (Russia)
Edmond Beaumont Memorial World Dance Gala Concert, Middlesbrough Theatre, 7.30pm, All seats £15 / dance companies Chile, Martinique, Mexico, North Cyprus, Russia, South Korea and UK
Friday 19th August:
International Concert, Festival Arena, 2.30pm, All seats £6 / Children under 12 £1 Feat. Mexico (Hidalgo), South Korea, North Cyprus & Bashkortostan (Russia)
Painting of the Indian Gods / Billingham Forum (atrium), Billingham / 5.30pm, free A unique display of arts and dance by Balbir Singh Dance Company
World Dance Gala Concert, Billingham Forum Theatre, 7.30pm, All seats £18 Feat. all International dance companies inc. Chile, Martinique, Mexico, North Cyprus, Russia, South Korea and UK plus the premiere of ‘Interrupted Souls’ solo by Eliot Smith Company
Saturday 20th August:
Farewell Gala Concert, Festival Arena, 2.30pm, All seats £8 / Children under 12 £2 Dance companies inc. Chile, Martinique, Mexico, North Cyprus, Russia, South Korea and UK
Mini Gala Concert, Festival Arena, 7.30pm, £5 / Children under 12 £1 Dance companies inc. Chile, Martinique, Mexico, North Cyprus, Russia, South Korea and UK. Followed by the closing ceremony at 9pm.
Councillor Norma Wilburn, Stockton-on- Tees Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Arts, Leisure and Culture, said: “It’s great to see the Festival get off to such a colourful start and there’s so much more to look forward to over the coming week.
“The Festival is always a big hit with the people of Billingham and beyond, bringing the local community together while also attracting visitors and performers from all over the world.
“It’s a long established favourite in the Borough’s events calendar and when you look at the vast array of acts and cultural influences, it isn’t hard to see why. I’d encourage anyone to come along and see it.”
Jane Tarr, Director North, Arts Council England said: “I’m delighted support from Arts Council England is allowing BIFF to present new, contemporary work with diverse roots from some of the North’s most exciting dance artists, alongside the festival’s traditional programme of performances by visiting international folk dance companies. I hope people in Billingham and Stockton will support the festival and maybe go and try some of the new performances, as well as the festival favourites.”
Voices from the Crowd: Caitlin Hutchinson, aged 5, of Billingham took part in the ‘Parade of Nations’ for the first time. She paraded with the local Tapshoes & Tutus dance company; and was brought by her mother Kirsty. Caitlin said: “The parade was brilliant and very, very good! I loved the pretty costumes and the cheerful music.”
Kirsty, aged 37, works at a GP Practice in the area, said: “Having my daughter taking part in the Folklore Festival has made me a very proud parent especially being Billingham born and bred. I’ve been brought up with the festival and its traditions since an early age. I used to attend the International Children’s Dance Club; and it’s wonderful how it’s now gone full circle with Caitlin experiencing her very first Festival. It’s nice to see the Town come out in force to support the event.”
Debbie and Gordon Waugh of Norton, aged 53 and 65 respectively have lived in the area for 18-years. Debbie is a counsellor and Gordon a teacher. Debbie said: “We stood in the crowd and were surprised with how the Folklore Festival still has a big draw after fifty years, as I remember watching the dancing on the television with my dad back in the seventies. The parade was beautiful and very colourful. The event still has the kudos as it attracts countries from all over the world bringing in visitors to Billingham. The town centre comes alive and looks great as a backdrop for the festival.”
If you want to learn more about BIFF 2016 please visit www.billinghamfestival.co.uk or on social media via Facebook facebook.com/billinghamworlddancefestival and on Twitter @BillFest.
The website also includes a box office section, where people can buy tickets online at www.billinghamfestival.co.uk/store or by calling 01642 553 220.