This is a guest blog from Ruth Daniel, founder of Un-Convention, In Place of War and Agencia. All views are Ruth’s and may not reflect the views of Scape BV.
I stand for making positive social change and giving youth a voice through harnessing creativity.
You don’t remember the expected. You remember: the place where… the moment when… The band that did…
My first experience of this was when I was invited to a music industry conference in Helsinki and they took us on a boat to the middle of a lake and we ate dinner in a cave, while an amazing jazz band played. This really inspired me and informed everything I did with the organisation I founded, Un-Convention – a series of music events aimed specifically at the grass roots of the industry. I realised to be unconventional, means to be remembered. It allows more scope to create, to debate and to explore ideas that under a formal setting could not really be explored. We turned the idea of a music industry convention on it’s head – an event in a church, with no lanyards, no delegate bags – just really inspiring people. That was what we wanted people to remember.
Digital technology is a wonderful and welcome thing. It enables me to connect, share and consume in ways I would have never be able to before. I feel my life is richer because of this. However, experiences online are disposable, forgotten and infinite. So this means that a physical experience should be something so unique that it cannot be replicated online. Something you had to be there to understand.
When we plan live physical experiences, we want them to be unique, extraordinary. We made 65 editions of my event in 25 countries. But what happened then really shocked me. In trying to manufacture these unique experiences – events on boats, on the streets, in race course tracks, in churches… I discovered a moment. This moment was in Medellin in Columbia, where we held an event in 2010. In this event, we were invited to go to the ‘comunas’ where most people don’t go. However, it was my experience here – seeing real culture from real people, without any bullshit – being performed on the side of a football pitch, that made me understand – experiences have to be genuine. To be emotive, you have to fully connect – you are as in that moment as the performer. It moves you to tears, to look around and realise this moment will never happen again. It’s about keeping it authentic, genuine and meaningful to the audience – making unique and lasting experiences. The content isn’t secondary to the physical location, it’s as important. I like the idea of spectacle and surprise in public interventions. It’s about understanding space, the audience and having a creative vision.
The events that we have created that work the best are those that got people outside of their comfort zones to places where real people live and allowed them to share in the beauty of the culture that is created in these places – often to sites of conflict, to ghettos, townships, council estates.
There is an illusion, that to be in a palace or somewhere of grandeur is a privilege, but I believe that what actually excites people more is an experience to connect with another human being you don’t know in their ‘hood’ and share a moment, where it doesn’t matter that you come from different places – you have that emotional connection that transcends everything else.
When I think about the most impactful events we have made, none of them take place in snazzy venues. All of them take place inside communities – from Sao Paulo to Berlin.
I think we have a very unique opportunity to create some really innovative work happening around social change internationally, with one-off music collaborations, festivals and the making of really exciting cultural spaces. When I think about making a project I know it needs to be unique, genuine and with elements of risk.
For more information on Un-Convention see www.unconventionhub.org