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Around The World Festival 2024 - Sutton's Best Celebration of Cultural Diversity

It's been just over a week since our two incredible shows and we are all still running high on the emotions and energy generated on 27th May in Cryer Arts Theatre in Carshalton.

You can't describe the feeling you get when you are a part of such a diverse, cheerful and creative celebration of culture. You have to experience it!

But for those of you who didn't get the chance, this humble author will try her best to report the highlights of the day. Starting with Show 1.

ATW Festival 2024 - Creative Heritage, Show 1

Show One

The Creative Heritage team, along with a handful of irreplaceable volunteers, arrived at the venue at 11.30am ready for action. All stations quickly got busy with dozens of hands handling different tasks and activities. Costumes in place, hair styles in progress, tech set up - check, paperwork and registration sheets - all under control. Soon performers began arriving and everything was running smoothly but very, very fast!

None of us realised how the clock moved to 15 minutes to 1 and the doors were now open. Eager spectators joined the auditorium and quietly took their seats. The tension backstage was growing, but it wasn't a feeling of worry or anxiousness. It was a most exhilarating anticipation of taking on a journey we've all been waiting for since last year.

3,2,1... Hosts on stage. "Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen! I am so pleased to welcome you to the second edition of the Around the World Festival!"

After a couple of important housekeeping announcements, the first act of the day was introduced. Not without the hosts involving the audience with a trivia guessing game, of course! We travelled straight to "where it all began" - the beautiful, the giant - Mother Africa. The 11-year-old Botswanian gem Tiana Ndome took the stage on her own, giving us near 3-minutes of energy rising modernised African dance, proudly repping her country of birth Botswana.

Then, we swiftly changed the continent and ended up in Seoul, South Korea. Suyoung Park treated us to a new fusion of dancing and playing a traditional instrument on stage. It is called seouljanggu. She began by playing the drum and getting the audience support the rhythm with claps. Next, a k-pop song began playing and the performance took a whole new life on stage.

Ah, there they are again - the hosts, smiling ear to ear. "Where are we going next" - asked L. "The other side of the world" - responded M, leaving the audience and L somehow dissatisfied with this not very detailed answer. Eventually, we all got to understand our next destination was no other, but New York and the Broadway theatre in particular. Ava Harris - this young girl with such a magnificent talent got on stage and completely owned it for the entire duration of her performance. She began with "If I only had a brain", the scarecrow song from one of the most popular musicals of all time - the Wizard of Oz. Then, as soon as that ended, she moved straight to an elaborate dance under the sounds of Ease on Down the Road from the same musical.

Our audience was surely having a really good time and it was evident on their faces and reactions. But we had more countries and cultures to explore.

Moving back to Asia, this time we landed in South India in the Tamil Nadu state. Dance Dreamers walked us through various traditional dance styles and rituals connected to agriculture in this part of India. We will never forget the brilliant, colourful and inventive outfits and great use of props in this 8-minute performance.

Still in India, we took an imaginary flight to the northern part of the country where Kashmir is situated. The Jubilant group had prepared for us an ingenious performance combining different Indian cultures and dance styles. Their group also featured performers from various age groups and the music mix was a true delight for the ears.

"One last stop before it's time for a break", the hosts announced. And from New Delhi, we flew over the Caspian Sea, landing into the beautiful city of Kyiv, Ukraine. Eight children from the Ukrainian School in Sutton sang for us a traditional Ukrainian song, all dressed up in their ethnic clothing and shining smiles. The cutest way to end the first part of show 1.

Needless to say no one from the team took a single relaxing breath during the 30-minute interval, trying to resolve some newly surfaced technical issues. However, a little birdie told us, many of the audience members had a good time in the bar downstairs and engaged in cheerful conversations about how good the first half was.

Everyone back at their seats, but now there's a shock - M and L are gone! No one knows where they are and Kam, our Indian community coordinator, kindly steps in to cover for them. While she's on stage, she announces one of the two very special Creative Heritage productions this year - Peace Please. This is a short mix of one of the most popular traditional Jewish songs, Hava Nagila and an emblematic Arab song - Sidi Mansour. The performance incorporates a dance with moves traditional to both cultures with the single aim to unite people and promote peace. The audience is quiet while the announcement goes on, but as soon as the music starts playing, the singer sings and the dancers take their first steps, the cheers erupt! Yes, we made it! We showed people that art is love and through art and love, unity is possible!

By the way, another shock! Two of the dancers on stage look awfully familiar! Oh my! Here you have them - our hosts - the make-believe extrovert M and make-believe introvert L (their roles are switched in real life!). Who knew they could dance too! The performance is over and M & L are trying their best to take a breath after that dynamic dance, proudly announcing the next destination and act. And that's not just one country but a whole region of Europe - The Balkans. Two dancers from the local Dance Club Pagane set the stage on fire with their incredible legwork under the sounds of Bulgarian, Romanian and Greek traditional music.

"Time to cool down", suggested M. But she also noted the excitement level is about to go up. We were now landing home, here in England. And how very fortunate we are to have local rising stars performing on our stage! Anush and Anya Hydros played all the strings of our hearts with their beautiful take on You Are The Reason, representing Modern Britain. Really, there was nothing else to say after this performance, except for #ProudToBeBritish.

It's almost over... Show 1 is about to wrap it up, but there is one more performance to be brought before the eyes of our most esteemed guests. The second special Creative Heritage production this year, aiming to represent one of the most beautiful eras of British history, showcase the talent of local children from diverse backgrounds and capture the hearts of everyone who is in attendance. Ladies and gentlemen, this author presents to you the first ever adapted play - Bridgerton Junior!

What a most splendid, opulent, and exquisitely fashionable manner in which to conclude the prime series of performances! (Despite the tech issues again)

Yet, there's a little more to come. It's time for the audience to take action and pronounce their favourite act of the day. That happens in a live voting process with a QR code displayed on the big screen. While everyone is voting, the hosts announce the winners in the other 7 categories of special awards. They were decided by the voting of jury members, formed of all performing group leaders and adult solo performers, after the dress rehearsal.

And that's how it all went down:

  • Most Heartfelt Performance - Suyoung Park - South Korea

  • Most Educational Performance - Bridgerton Junior Cast - Regency Britain

  • Most Entertaining Performance - Ava Harris - The USA

  • Most Technical Performance - Anush & Anya Hydros - Modern Britain

  • Most Visually Stunning Performance - Dance Dreamers - India

  • Most Authentic Performance - Dance Dreamers - India

  • Most Creative Performance - Bridgerton Junior Cast - Regency Britain

  • Audience's Favourite Performance - The Jubilant Group - India

A culturally diverse festival would not end well without inviting all performers on stage for one last celebration under the sounds of Move Your Feet/ D.A.N.C.E from the movie Trolls. Everyone received a certificate of participation, a branded biscuit and a water bottle to remind them of this beautiful and most exciting day.

The talk of the ton is, as guests were leaving the auditorium, they shared comments of admiration, satisfaction and pleasant surprise of surpassing expectations. For what is worth, this author, relies not only on gossip, but true statistical facts derived from primary market research and genuine feedback.

Hungry to know more about Show 2? Dear reader, you will have to wait until this author's fingers type the next story on these digital papers of record.

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