THE launch of ¡Vamos! Festival yesterday brought a welcome blast of Latin spirit to Newcastle.
Musicians and dancers gave fans a taste of what we can expect when the main event - the annual celebration of Spanish and Portuguese speaking cultures, now in its eighth year - gets under way this summer.
The month-long programme is the most diverse yet, featuring live contemporary and traditional Latin music, dance, film, visual art exhibitions, seminars and authentic Latin cuisine and picnics.
“I’m really excited about the breadth of the programme this year,” said festival co-director Nik Barrera at the festival launch at The Cluny 2, in the Ouseburn, where the full line-up was revealed.
To set the mood, taster performances came from the Burundanga band, mixing up everything from Afro-Caribbean rhythms through hip hop to rap, with a few whistles thrown in, and masked ladies - Hannabiell and Yillis - from Hannabiell’s Midnight Blue band with some fast and furious drumming, while the costumed Tyne Carnival troupe strutted their stuff.
Hannabiell Sanders - recent winner of the Performing Artist of the Year category at The Journal Culture Awards - also gave a blast of her trademark trombone and said: “It’s going to be an awesome festival this year - I’m really excited for it.”
¡Vamos! runs from June 14 to July 14, kicking off officially with a launch night in The Cluny 2 with hot Latino act Los Chinches, made up of Peruvian percussionists and London-bred guitarists who will be bringing us their own unique blend of Peruvian “Cumbia” music and urban ska.
The Tyne Carnival, with a backdrop of rumba, samba and salsa bands, will be seen in its full glory in Northumberland Street on June 29 when everyone is invited to join in with its theme of kings and queens. Burundanga will be out in force on the same day alongside street theatre group Worldbeaters.
The festival will play out at a range of venues including The Stand, Dance City and The Sage Gateshead and coming highlights will also see the return of Mexican wrestling which was a hit in 2010.
With the British Film Institute among its supporters, there is also a film strand and, thanks to Arts Council help, three artist commissions will feature street art - a UK premiere - by Brazilian artist Derlon in a so-far-secret outdoor location; photography by Colombian artist Juan Pablo Echeverri at Mima in Middlesbrough; and - another regional first - an eye-catching banner by Chilean artist Felipe Mujica for the front of the Theatre Royal.
Nik said: “Felipe is an artist now based in New York and he’ll be doing a large-scale artwork on the front of the Theatre Royal. Posters of it will then be distributed throughout the city for people to keep.”
The festival programme is bigger and more diverse than ever, he added, despite challenging financial times.
It always relies upon the goodwill and enthusiasm of volunteers but support from Newcastle University has this year led to a new strategic partnership and Nik is already planning ahead for the future, including a big Brazil-themed event to tie in with the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.