Charivari 2017: Community Participation Art by Strange Cargo

This past July, I enjoyed the privilege of capturing a truly unique and inspiring project in Charivari Day 2017. A crowning jewel in the works of arts charity Strange Cargo, Charivari underpins many of the values that drive its artists and volunteers to commit their time and talent year after year.

Brigitte Orasinski director of Strange Cargo
Meet Brigitte Orasinski, Artistic Director of Strange Cargo. I had the pleasure of spending time with Brigitte for the first time this past May when she contacted me about photographing this year’s Charivari festival. This photo from our initial meeting is about as telling as any I’ve taken. Brigitte’s gregarious and magnanimous manner is perhaps only overshadowed by her tireless work ethic and sense of commitment to the community.

After getting to know Brigitte and learning more about Strange Cargo and the world of participatory arts, one thing became evident. It was clear that this kind of community-based initiative could never receive enough publicity. As she detailed the remnants of some of their past projects, I was left with a sense that someone should take the time to highlight the amazing impact that these projects have on the local community. Hence, as part of our agreement, it is my pleasure to tell you all a bit more about Charivari and to show how much it means to the town of Folkestone and the greater Shepway area.

Behind the scenes, working with local students
Charivari Day is the result of countless hours of planning, coordination, and cooperation by event organisers, artists, teachers and students. Each year a different theme inspires the costumes, with 2017 partner the Folkestone Triennial, lending its theme double edge to this years preceding.

“The whole Charivari process is energised by the incredible enthusiasm of the community and school groups who, along with the talented Strange Cargo carnival artist team, will be making this year’s event a huge success. More than 700 fabulously extravagant costumed revelers will parade through the streets. The compelling music and rhythms in the procession will be provided by streetbands and musicians from across the UK.”  Strange Cargo wants people to be thrilled by the event and the music is a large part of the day.

Students preparing for Charivari Day
The work leading up to Charivari Day gives students an opportunity to create and share, to express ideas and vision, and perhaps, more importantly, it gives them the chance to work together to achieve those visions. The carnival workshop programme at Strange Cargo also teaches the students many new skills and all in a professional, creative environment.
Learning new skills
While Charivari Day is an amazing celebration that students and parents alike look forward to, it’s also many students’ first opportunity to participate in a large-scale community art project. The creative skills that the students learn are ones that they carry on through life and the experience seems to be as cherished as much as the celebration itself.

Strange Cargo is funded entirely through public donations and grants. Without such funding, these amazing community participatory arts projects would never happen. On Strange Cargo’s website, Brigitte sends a “huge thanks goes to Lewis Biggs, the curator of the 2017 Folkestone Triennial and all the generous funders whose support enables Strange Cargo to continue to offer this event free of charge to the participants. Funders include Arts Council England, Creative Foundation, 2017 Folkestone Triennial, Roger De Haan Charitable Trust, Shepway District Council, Kent County Council, Folkestone Town Council, Rotary Club of Folkestone Channel, Folkestone Rotary Club, Councillors Rodica Wheeler, Carol Sacre and Mary Lawes.”

Brigitte Orasinski and Lewis Biggs
Whilst out gathering footage to document a different project Brigitte and I fortuitously ran into Lewis Biggs, the curator of the 2017 Folkestone Triennial and one of the charity’s most dependable supporters and a major partner in this year’s Charivari Day.

Here’s a short video giving a brief overview of what Charivari stands for:

I met up with Brigitte and her team at The Bandstand on The Leas where they were making final preparations for the day. I was surprised how at ease everyone was, which I imagine was the result of proper preparation.

Brigitte Orasinski of Strange Cargo Arts
Brigitte and some of Strange Cargo’s event team out on The Leas making final preparations for the day.

From The Leas, I next met with the team as they were readying the big costumes held in store at The Glassworks. Here, I also met up with James Eldridge who was the primary photographer on the day (I was mostly focused on capturing video from the day, while James was tasked with the creating still images). This was the first occasion that I had to hire a second photographer for a project and James was at the top of a very short list. I’d been a fan of James’ work since relocating to Kent five years ago and I was thrilled over the opportunity to work with him.

Preparing the big costumes
James has always been one of my favourite photographers, bar none. I am extremely grateful that James was able to join us on this project and his talented eye, professionalism, and warm compassionate demeanor would be a huge compliment to any project.
With the people
James has a unique talent for capturing what’s natural and true in his subjects. His photos seem to always show a sensitive connection with his subjects as if they know each other well enough to simply be themselves.
A master of candids
Not only does James do amazing portraiture, but he is also a master of candids. I knew he would be the perfect compliment on this project and he truly exceeded my biggest hopes.

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Here’s a little tit-bit about the inspiration for these amazing creations: all of this year’s costumes were inspired by sponsors Folkestone Triennials’ theme double edge, with the students and artists taking the idea of bringing two different things together to make a hybrid creature, or a carnival ‘build’ based on wordplay, such as Rat-race, or other costumes such as the Dog and Bone, drawn from  cockney rhyming slang.

And as everyone finished getting clipped into their costumes, it was time to make our way towards The Stade where the festival was to commence.

Pure gold
Pure gold, courtesy of James Eldridge.

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Down by The Stade, Batala Portsmouth was in full swing and preparing to lead the festival through the streets of Folkestone.

Batala Portsmouth, UK
The UK based Batala Portsmouth are a samba band playing authentic Afro Brazilian Samba Reggae music.

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Here’s a quick video to give you an idea of just how big Charivari is and just how much it means to Folkestone and the local community.

And here are some highlights from the truly spectacular Charivari 2017: double edge.

The weight of inspiration
Here you can see Brigitte Orasinski, presumably weighted down by the generosity of Folkestone’s residents giving liberally to ensure that Charivari Day lives on.
A sea of excitement and creativity
A sea of excitement and creativity

As the parade makes its way beyond The Stade, gathering in energy and preparing to ascended The Old High Street, you get a sense of just how massive the festival is and just how much it means to the local community with schools from right across the Shepway district.

The energy of Charivari
The energy of Charivari Day was both invigorating and inspiring. It was my first opportunity to take part in a town celebrating its own sense of community and it was an experience that I won’t soon forget.
All welcome
Moving up the Old High Street, one thing that I noticed was how inclusive the celebrations were. The day was to belong to all Folkestonians from students to local businesses like Big Boys Fine Burger Co.

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Brilliance
A really brilliant image by James Eldridge, really encapsulating the spirit of Charivari Day.
The general vibe
The spirit of Charivari Day

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A powerful image
Another powerful image by James.
I had my wide angle lens
I couldn’t let James capture all of the action though. You can see him to the left of the image after I’d chased him off so’s I could grab this wide angle view!

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Massive Charivari Day 2017
The crowd collecting near at the finale site and the brilliantly energetic costume wearers, who danced the whole way from the fish market to The Leas Bandstand, finally able to shed their loads.

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Councillor Mrs Ann Berry looking on just like the rest of us, in admiration of Brigitte Orasinski.
Deputy Mayor of Folkestone, Councillor Mrs. Ann Berry sharing a moment of appreciation overlooking the wonderful sight of Folkestone celebrating as a community.

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Councillor Mrs Ann Berry addressing her constituents.
Deputy Mayor of Folkestone, Councillor Mrs. Ann Berry addressing the crowd from The Bandstand.
Thanks James
One of my favourite photos from the day, this capture really shows the respect, admiration, and compassion that I have for Brigitte and Strange Cargo. I’m not sure that I’ve ever looked so far up to someone, whilst simultaneously towering over them, lol!

Just a reminder of the scale of Charivari Day and the impact that it has on the local community.

One big day
Charivari Day means so much to so many people in the Shepway area and its become a local tradition with lots more people from outside the area coming along for the day to enjoy this free, family friendly day out. It’s a hugely positive event that brings people together in celebration of themselves.

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Bringing together generations

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“Strange Cargo employs a small, experienced core team (including artistic and administrative personnel) under the leadership of Brigitte Orasinski, and draws on a versatile pool of talented and committed artists. Working in collaboration with communities, participants and funding partners Strange Cargo has delivered some extraordinary and distinctive projects.

You can commission us, work with us, learn with us, support us or take part in one of our projects.”

At the heart of it
At the heart of Charivari Day are its artists and volunteers.

Without public donations and grants, Strange Cargo wouldn’t be able to put on such amazing community arts projects like Charivari Day. If you would like more information on organizing a participatory arts projects in your local community through Strange Cargo, click >here<.

If you appreciate how much events like Charivari Day bring to the Shepway Community then please head over to donate in any way available to you by clicking >here<.

I’m a commercial photographer, based in Kent and I specialise in creating dynamic, eye-catching images for my clients. My images are created to add value to every message conveyed across the spectrum of digital and offline platforms alike, including websites, brochures, blogs, social media channels, case studies and any other medium as required. My clients range from BAFTA award winners, multi-national building firms, television personalities and heads of state to local businesses, respected artists and ambitious entrepreneurs. I was born and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas (U.S.A.), and after a stint as a lab technician followed by time out to travel, I began a career as a production rigger, working primarily in television and film. This experience allowed me to become accustomed to pressurised working environments and a demanding clientele! In 2011, I began studying at the London Film Academy, which eventually led to me devoting my time and training to becoming a commercial photographer. Whether you have a specific project in mind or you’re looking for a complete brand identity overhaul, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at kevan@smithstudios.co.uk or give me a call on +44 77 6666 1253.

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