Feast of Furness

Company Name: Welfare State International

The Feast of Furness Festival in 1990 was the culmination of seven years of work in Barrow-in-Furness. A spectacular community celebration using plays, music, songs, images, stories, opera, cabaret and parades. These included a Christmas Panto at the Civic Hall, with a cast of many amateur dramatic groups and dancing schools in the area, ‘The Barracudas’ – a giant, colourful carnival of the sea, featuring a 150 piece street band and over eighty dancers, ‘Shadow’s Revenge’’ – a junior school opera, the Barrow Centerary Choir – a community choir led by Pete Moser, and ‘Rock the Boat’ – eight nights of ‘new variety’ in a local nightclub. Central to the celebration was  Shipyard Tales: Six pieces of new writing by local writers; five shows created by school children in previous Welfare State projects, and a large-scale outdoor carnival fireshow finale The Golden Submarine was watched by an audience of 8000.A 2 year programme of skills workshops had made all this possible- from stilt walking to poetry, from costume making to street theatre.

The resident team of six, included writer Kevin Fegan, performance director Rachel Ashton, artist Maddi Nicholson and musician Pete Moser.

Shipyard Tales and the Feast of Furness Festival were financially supported by:The Arts Council, Northern Arts and Barrow Borough Council, Cumbria County Council, The Gulbenkian Foundation, The Granada Foundation and British Telecom.

‘For twenty two years Welfare State International has explored forms of celebration which balance entertainment, content, accessibility and purpose.Within the genre of carnival, festivals and site-specific events we have created hundreds of image-based performances, and pioneered many practical, sculptural and musical techniques to make poetry visible. Over the years, written texts have had for us a relatively low priority. However, in our work in Barrow we have been able to encourage many local writers, and now present their work in Shipyard Tales. We  believe the whole event, with its relatively long gestation period is a unique model of celebration in the community.’

John Fox

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