My name is Iko-ei-Ojo Akoh. I am the founder and director of the UNVEILING Arts Festival.
I am also a singer-songwriter (Ikoustic), promoter (Up Close & Personal) and co-host of a Creatives Hub podcast (Reverb*). In previous years I volunteered at The Living Room (a cafe space in Soho managed by my church), promoting events and overseeing the overall creative programme.
1. What is UNVEILING?
The UNVEILING Arts Festival was conceived in The Living Room during the summer of 2014. It was on observing the emerging relationships of our performing artists with our vision and with each other that I began to seriously consider doing something radically different. It was a time when I felt that we should take our work to the next stage; to move from connecting with people through the arts to sharing/discussing our faith more directly, through the arts.
In short, UNVEILING is about ‘expressing the heart of God through the creative arts’. For the inaugural edition, I gathered a select group of artists and gave them a simple brief to meditate on and then produce artwork reflecting their revelations:
‘Light in the darkness’
2. What happened during the festival?
- Ikoustic presented songs / poetry exploring the concept of journeying with God, whether (back) to him or walking alongside.
- Zanna Evans performed some beautiful pieces, one particular little girl was so moved that she embraced Zanna warmly afterwards.
- BalivaMusic shared some songs from his IMPERFECT album, calling hearts to find hope, courage and joy.
- MrClottey skilfully spun a few mixes influenced by the music, poetry and themes presented that evening.
- EIC Dance Theatre brought a mesmerising, well-crafted series of compositions, entitled “Twists and Twirls”, speaking of the nature and importance of love.
- Joanne Clara continued her wonderful Lifted365 series of improvisations, drawing on “Twists and Twirls” for inspiration and unfurling brand new music before our eyes, ears and hearts.
- MariamMaz sang beautiful songs of and new, shining a light on Hope.
The singing and craft workshops were enjoyed by a hardy group of festival goers who enjoyed the experience and appreciated the opportunity to join in and express themselves creatively.
Emily Barroso wrote and directed a brand new play, “The Call”. It. Was. Superb! Sevda Levent and Jo Faith acted brilliantly, they brought a tangible authenticity to the piece.
Janssem Cardoso produced a set of photographs exploring loneliness, in all the forms that it takes, in London; also sharing his thoughts on how faith in God addresses this.
Christopher Joseph created some installation art somewhat inspired by his album “Glasswing.Fly“, exploring themes of freedom and identity. I noted some rather enthusiastic discussions with some our guests throughout the weekend.
Watch out for the UNVEILING 2015 DVD, which captures the essence of the first ever UNVEILING Arts Festival in a highlights package.
3. How you feel it went from your organiser’s point of view?
Overall the festival was a distinct success. We received consistent feedback praising the quality of the artwork presented and much gratitude for putting on the festival. Pierre’s culinary creations were also very popular!
However, there were a few things that could have been better. Broadly speaking these things can be categorised under two headings:
Public Engagement – We did not meet our fundraising target of £3,000. Furthermore, the ticket sales were less than my (admittedly ambitious) target.
Logistics – There were a few points where setup activity took more time than scheduled. We had particular difficulty before session 3.
I have taken some time to ponder the reasons for these shortcomings and record the lessons learned. A significant factor was a lack of sufficient manpower both during and before the festival. In retrospect, we needed at least another three or four volunteers. Also, had we additional support in the critical phase just before the festival then more could have been achieved in advance so certain things would have flowed more smoothly during the festival itself.
4. What are your plans for next year?
UNVEILING 2016 will focus on Easter, cutting through the noise to present the story to a new generation in a compelling and imaginative way. I intend to facilitate a chain of performances/exhibitions telling different parts of the Easter story using various creative mediums and cross-disciplinary collaborations. For instance, I would love to have a scene portrayed by a contemporary dancer, a performance poet and say, a harpist against an animated backdrop controlled by a VJ… nothing is off the table.