"Madness and mayhem, smiles and giggles together with an atmosphere of wonder"
I arrived in JFK Airport as a first time visitor to New York on Thursday afternoon. I took a cab into Manhattan’s financial district to my hotel and half an hour later I started to walk. I headed across downtown and up the West Side, it was hot (well a lot hotter than Buxton, UK where I had left 12 hours earlier), but being next to the Hudson River refreshed the air and reminded me of seaside promenades.
First impressions; a clean city which towers above you, lines that cut through the buildings giving a sense of space and openness that other major cities often lack.
Walking (a lot) and wandering I eventually arrived at the launch event in East Village for David Koren’s book ”, “FIGMENT- What is this? Why is nothing for sale? Why is everyone smiling?” The book is a celebration of the first 10 years of the event, and its globalisation (now across the USA, Canada, Australia and later this year Europe, in Derby, UK). I was given a friendly welcome and met various producers, supporters and lovers of the FIGMENT thing!
The next day was my first visit to Governors Island, a short trip by ferry south of Manhattan.
It is a 172 acre island in the heart of New York Harbor, its green, calm and a change from the city that lies only 800 yards away. The island is a ramshackle of new and old buildings, there is grass, trees and open spaces that allow for calm reflection. Artists and organisers were setting up for FIGMENT NYC and creating exciting environments ready to open to the public the following day. A good introduction to the place and a chance to chat with the artists, and the team making the event happen. It’s obvious that everyone involved feels passionately about what they do and gets a lot from providing accessible and free activities for those with a keen interest in the arts.
The following day on the Island was a complete change, the ferry was full and more people were left waiting at the ferry port. There was contagious excitement as we journeyed across the water, the sun was out and it was Festival Time.
Madness and mayhem, smiles and giggles together with an atmosphere of wonder made for an exciting experience. A mass of people from a wide range of backgrounds were eager to discover the joy of this event. Family groups, wandering individuals, returning event lovers and newbies all dashing off the ferry and into the foray.
I joined in, event t shirt on and camera in hand.
The island was transformed and these dedicated artists brought it all to life. The friendly and approachable volunteers who make it happen, were ever helpful and happy to send you on an indirect route “so you see more!”
There were many wonderful things to see and experience but my highlights, mostly because they appeal to my childish sense of fun include Aqua Attack, The Blue Bus Project, Human Interaction Booth (The Hugs, High Fives and Handshakes Booth), Bouncy Bench, Tiny Box Theatre and Microscope Stories.
I have I learnt that Figment allows for anyone to have a platform to share their creative spirit. It makes people smile and feel good evoking their curiosity and wonder about the world they live in. A sense of community spirit on the Island is welcoming and heartwarming and everyone has an equal footing.
And how will it all impact on our event in Derby this August 20th? Well more than anything else I believe that it confirms what we thought, that it is all about sense of sharing and fun. It’s what we have been trying to bring to our audiences and how we have chosen to work since we started Babbling Vagabonds in 2000, it’s why I am volunteering for Figment Derby and it’s why it will happen in Derby and those who choose to join in will remember it with fond, lifelong memories. Its real participation on every level…. “Let the Festival Begin!”