SO FESTIVAL: Annual arts and culture coming to coast, but not as we know it

Virtual Reality workshops, theatre skills sessions and monthly meetings of creative minds are on the bill this year, as the SO Festival team prepare to deliver their annual arts and culture offering, but not as you know it.

The SO Festival is returning to Lincolnshire but not as we know it.
The SO Festival is returning to Lincolnshire but not as we know it.

Since being established by East Lindsey District Council back in 2009, and run by Magna Vitae Trust for Leisure and Culture for the past seven years, SO Festival has built up a rich legacy as one of the region’s most exciting, annual, outdoor arts events.

It is well-renowned for delivering a vibrant programme of global acts to large audiences in market towns, villages and coastal destinations across East Lindsey.

Following on from their hugely successful online event, SOfa Fest, in 2020, the Lincolnshire-based team have once again faced the potential disruption of the ongoing pandemic head on, choosing not to deliver a large-scale outdoor festival this summer, but rather a programme of innovative, engaging and accessible activities across the district over the next nine months.

Virtual Reality workshops, theatre skills sessions and monthly meetings of creative minds are on the bill this year.

Magna Vitae’s Executive Director, James Brindle explained “Whilst these unprecedented times have undoubtedly presented us all with a number of challenges and difficult decisions, they have also offered us an invaluable opportunity to be brave, take a temporary step away from our traditional festival format and concentrate our efforts on delivering a suite of ambitious, cultural opportunities for our communities to enjoy, not just for one weekend, but throughout the year ahead.

"We hope this approach will allow us to reach new audiences, collaborate with different

sectors and trial contemporary new projects, all with one common goal: to unite, engage

and inspire our diverse communities through shared arts and culture experiences as we

emerge from the pandemic.”

A well-established project continuing this year is The SOcial: SO Festival’s series of free, monthly, creative networking sessions, aimed at uniting creative minds from across the county and providing them with a regular platform to ‘connect, collaborate and create!’

Since the project’s launch at SO Festival 2019, these popular SOcials have brought together over 200 arts professionals - ranging from theatre managers and festival coordinators, to puppeteers, lighting technicians and freelance actors – allowing them to share opportunities, learn new skills and stay connected throughout the lockdowns and beyond.

Another innovative scheme set to thrive and evolve along the East coast this Autumn is SO Festival’s community outreach project, which will see a talented, local artist delivering free, arts activity sessions in Mablethorpe and Skegness, encouraging participants to learn new creative skills and, eventually, play a crucial role in shaping SO Festival going forward.

As well as developing and adapting flourishing initiatives, the SO Festival team are preparing to launch an array of exciting, new, creative activities, all aimed at bringing high quality arts and culture to doorsteps across the district.

A fledgling project set to take flight over the next few months will see the Louth-based team working alongside award winning digital agency, Metro Boulot Dodo (MBD), to provide local, young people with invaluable digital arts experience.

MBD’s artistic team will be taking a trip from Leicester to Lincolnshire, to run a series of free workshops for 16-25 year olds in Greater Lincolnshire giving them a behind the scenes look at how the agency’s incredible artworks are made and a chance to use cutting edge technologies, such as Virtual and Augmented Reality creation and 3D design, in creative ways.

Thanks to a collaboration between SO Festival and Lincolnshire County Council, a second project ready to launch later this year will see experienced theatre practitioner, Elizabeth Atkin of Grubby Knees Theatre Ltd., facilitating cultural, performance-based activities for adults with learning disabilities and complex needs.

These tailored sessions will adapt to the participants’ needs and interests, encouraging them to try an array of artforms, develop new, performative skills and boost their confidence along the way.

Alongside running these projects, the passionate team will be using the next few months to further develop and embed both Environmental Sustainability and Diversity and Inclusion across their programme of work, with a number of eco-initiatives already in the pipeline for SO Festival 2022!

As summer edges closer and the team prepare to hit the ground running, Creative Producer Melissa Hommel, said “The past year has further emphasised the important role arts and culture plays in uniting communities, sparking imaginations and spreading positivity where it is most needed.

"As a charitable trust, our important work relies heavily on the kindness and shared vision of others.

"Thanks to the continued support of our main funders, Arts Council England and East

Lindsey District Council, and our other valued partners, our close-knit team have been busy working behind the scenes throughout the pandemic and can now look forward to planting our ideas and seeing them take root throughout Lincolnshire in the months ahead!”

Programme announcements, opportunities to get involved in this year’s activities and an

invitation to receive SO news hot off the press via their newsletter can all be found on the SO Festival website https://www.sofestival.org/