ArtsEkta, the organisers of the Belfast Mela, commissioned us to create an epic, mass participatory outdoor arts production set against the dramatic backdrop of Belfast City Hall to celebrate the Indian festival of lights.
One of seven Creative Belfast Projects funded by Belfast City Council and the Arts Council for Northern Ireland through the Creative and Cultural Belfast Fund, Nine Nights was designed to bring epic, broad canvas storytelling to the people of Belfast for one amazing evening.
Having worked in Derry-Londonderry on their UK Capital Culture, our return to Northern Ireland for Nine Nights was another opportunity for us to apply our proven formula of participatory outdoor art as way of helping people from all walks of life collaborate on a shared, celebratory collective experience.
Outdoor arts applies a different alchemy to healing than the tried and tested formulas of politics and Nine Nights showed how creating drama and spectacle through Indian folklore, myths and legends could be given a contemporary relevance by addressing powerful themes such as discord and peace.
Critical to the success of the production was community participation, so the show commenced with a dramatic mass torchlight procession with over 600 local people and performers walking from Custom House Square to City Hall, weaving their way along Donegal Place. Featuring a compelling narrative, mass choreography, puppetry, dance, live music and lighting, the backdrop of City Hall was used to maximum dramatic effect to immerse the audience in a range of sensory story telling techniques.
Given the importance of light in such celebrations, a key element to our creative treatment was an expertly choreographed high level display of finale pyrotechnics that dwarfed the epic scale of the City Hall and matched the creative ambition of the production.
Nine Nights is a great example of our ongoing collaborations with black, Asian and ethnic minority arts organisations to create works that reflect a range of diverse communities and important celebratory moments in their cultures.
Capacity building and pre-event momentum was created with a strategic website aimed at attracting participants for roles in the procession, dance and event production.