Speed is the theme of Also, a new outdoor festival with ideas taking place at Park Farm in south Warwickshire.
Talks range from the Speed of the Universe by David Tong, Professor of Theoretical Physics at Cambridge University, to The Speed of Life at Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes, the niece of the series writer Julian Fellowes.
But Also is not only about intellectual discussion.
There is rounders, an origami masterclass, a pop-up lake-side Basque restaurant and a 35-mile bike ride.
Dubbed as an intimate festival for 500, Also takes place on Saturday and Sunday in 30 acres at Park Farm, Compton Verney, near Stratford-upon-Avon. It is the brainchild of Warwickshire screenwriter Helen Bagnall and Juliet Russell, a singer and vocal coach on BBC1’s The Voice.
The pair have been running Salon London, sell-out themed live events focusing on art, science and psychology, since 2008. The concept expanded with Salon North three years ago, and has proven a hit with audiences across Britain.
Juliet, who is leading a festival choir, says: “We do a lot of the festival content for Latitude and Festival No. 6 in Portmeirion. We thought it would be new to explore these ideas for a whole weekend in an outside space that is really beautiful.
“There’s lots to see and do. We have a great network now. What we really love is passionate experts who are leaders in their field. We want it to be useful for people – something you can take home with you.
“Some of the food is going to be fantastic. Salon Edesia is going to be recreating an Impressionistic painting as a summer picnic and we have a Spanish themed night on the Friday. London’s Donostia Social Club do Northern Spanish food. If people want to bring their records they can play a DJ set in our Dusted Vinyl sessions.
“It would be lovely to get local people involved. We have day tickets or people can come to an individual event.”
With diverse topics such as Jane Austen’s Life in Cakes to Acid House: Britain’s Last Youth Culture Revolution, the festival also features screenings by Sundance award-winning film director Havana Marking, an Ottoman banquet, rave yoga, mindfulness, sunrise meditation, and a Sunday dance music in the sunshine session with house music legend Justin Robertson.
Sociologist and Guardian journalist Anne Karpf will also be speaking at the event, when she will be discussing ageing. She says: “I think Also is a terrific idea. There is an incredible interest. It’s funny when so much is written online there seems to be a craving to go to things in person. Because Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are so instant there seems to be a desire for something in-depth. I am part of this culture and I share all the anxieties of everyone else about ageing. I look in the mirror and think ‘oh my God, look at those wrinkles’. “The other day my husband found these photos of me when I was 20. I was far more pretty than I remembered.
“My 18-year-old daughter said: ‘you look great’, but I was miserable inside. I am so much happier now.
“My life is far better than I imagined it would be. We are freer when we are older, freer to live the way we want.
“I am a classic late developer. I was 39 when I had my first child, and 45 when I had my second.”
Anne, who works at London Metropolitan University, would like to see an end to the “age-apartheid” that currently exists.
She adds: “Anxieties about ageing are setting in younger and younger. I interviewed one 26-year-old woman. She was the only one of her friends who had not had Botox. I thought that was so shocking. I hope I am speaking to a young audience about the realities and pleasures of ageing.
“We have to embrace ageing or the alternative is to die young. We have an age-apartheid. I hope what my book and my speaking will do is to encourage more inter-generational friendships and projects so we can connect and learn to see ourselves in the life cycle. It’s a privilege to grow old.” Closing the Also Festival is journalist, broadcaster and author of three Downton Abbey books Jessica Fellowes, on the Speed of Life at Downton.
Jessica, who lives in Oxfordshire with husband Simon and their three-year-old son George, said: “What’s so nice is that Also is an extension of Salon London. I have spoken at that a number of times in London and Harrogate. There’s nothing like it. There are lots of literary salons, but these are specifically about ideas. They take a theme and take it laterally. Helen and Juliet have some extraordinary speakers. It’s very unpretentious, very easy, relaxed and very funny. The bigger the internet has become, the more everyone seems to be going to live events and festivals.
“Also is something very all-encompassing, outside with a bit of camping in a beautiful setting. I have just finished A Year in the Life of Downton Abbey. This will be a nice preview of the book. I have looked at life in Downton over a year, as well as what it would have been like in a real house in 1924. It was a period of change. When the series opened in 1912 it looks light years away. It’s very similar to what’s happening to us with technology, a lot of social networks have changed at high speed.” Her uncle Julian is currently reading the book. Jessica said they enjoyed working together: “My parents were young parents and Julian was a young uncle. He did not get married until he was 40. When I was 16 I was like his surrogate daughter. We used to go on holiday and we shared an interest in Edwardian history. It seemed only natural he should write Downton Abbey.”
* Tickets for The Also Festival start at £45 for a day pass up to £190 for families of two adults and up to four children, including camping. To book visit: www.also-festival.com .
The art of digital technology
A two-week arts event in Birmingham will see digital devices beating like hearts, dancers working with holograms and secret network devices hidden across the city.
All of the projects form part of Interactivos? Birmingham – a programme which aims to bring together artists and new digital technology.
Based at mac in Cannon Hill Park, the event, which began this week, features a seminar, workshops and seven projects with artists and digital experts creating new work. And members of the public are invited to join in the experience.
Created by Spanish arts and digital technology centre Medialab Prado, it is the first time the programme has come to the UK. In Birmingham it brings together the expertise of Birmingham City University, Sampad South Asian Arts, mac Birmingham and BBC Birmingham.
It was Sampad’s operations manager Clayton Shaw who was keen to introduce Interactivos? to the city after he attended a Medialab Prado workshop and recognised its potential. “Birmingham has such a strong industrial heritage and has always been at the forefront of technology,” he said. “We’re now in a new era of industrialisation and it’s good that Birmingham is still at the forefront.
“Interactivos? is really about looking at skills development for artists and finding new models to develop artistic practice with digital technology.
“One of the UK artists, Divya Kasturi is a South Asian dance artist and she is a really good example of someone who might be able to look at how she can blend her experience of Kathak and Bharatanatyam and digital systems. One of the aspects she will be looking at in her piece Forgot Your Password? is gesture recognition and how we could use holographic technology in dance.”
An open call has gone out for collaborators who will then be partnered with the artists and experts to develop each piece at mac. “We want to engage people to come along and talk to the different people involved in the projects,” added Clayton.