Capturing the imagination of children and adults alike: interview with bOing Festival’s Ali Chambers

With the bOing! International Family Festival set to burst into life at the end of the month, I caught up with the newest member of the festival team, Ali Chambers, to find out what’s in store…


You’ve recently joined the Gulbenkian team; where have you come from, and what’s your background ?

I joined Gulbenkian at the end of June having worked for Canterbury Festival for five years doing logistics and education stuff! Events management is really my “thing” and I’ve done all sorts, from field festivals to international conferences but Festivals are my favourite. I love creating something from nothing; starting with an empty space and making something wonderful that disappears a few days later but creates lasting memories! Working with an artist to create the bOing map has been my favourite part of the job so far, you’ll see why when you see the map; a university campus reimagined!

What’s your role in bOing ?

Ali Chambers
Ali Chambers

bOing is approaching incredibly quickly and most of the planning has already been done so it’s just a case of pulling everything together and being a fresh pair of eyes. I’m creating an event management schedule so the team have a good overview of what’s going on and when, and a bit of an instruction manual to help them deal with particular events that could arise like lost parents (or children!)

As ever, the Festival couldn’t be done without the help of our bOing! volunteers and we’re still in need of a few helping hands, so perhaps anyone who is interested in volunteering could drop me a line.

Young people are at the heart of the Gulbenkian, and you’ve even got them involved in running events at bOing; what will that involve, and what’s the take-up / response been like ?

Gulbenkian has started a youth arts movement called ART31. We host a group of young people who are passionate about creating their own opportunities in the arts, so they’re running their own stage at bOing; programming it, performing, managing all the tech and also making the most of the opportunity to recruit new members of the movement so hopefully we’ll be very busy at the ART31 weekly meetings from now on! We’re realising that young people, teenagers in particular, are frustrated with not having anywhere to go or anything to do, so the take-up has been fantastic and you’ll definitely see some up-and-coming talent on the bOing ART31 stage.

I’ve heard rumours that you’re building a ‘small village’ for the festival; what on EARTH are we in for there ?!

It’s not just any old small village, Dan, it’s Wonderland! bOing! is all about capturing the imagination of children and adults alike, so anything could happen in Wonderland! Help to save the Lyma birds by finding his babies in the most imaginative game of hide-and-seek, join the improv orchestra, meet Long John Silver and have a go at parkour (you’ll definitely want to after watching The Urban Playground’s performance of STEAM!) Wonderland is full of free treats for all the family.

We’ve got hat-making and carnival mask workshops for anyone who feels the need to dress-up to join in the fun, and if it’s all a bit tiring you can chill-out in the storytelling tent  while the mini-ravers amongst us can party on at the Boogie Woogie Baby Disco!

If I wasn’t working at bOing I’d definitely be borrowing some children as an excuse to come along!

What’s bOing’s best-kept secret (if you can tell us!) ?

I’m most looking forward to Aracaladanza’s performance of Nubes. YouTube it if you’re not sure, I guarantee you’ll be buying tickets because it is simply beautiful! But there’s also going to be a teddy-bear launcher at bOing! called TedLeap for the bravest teddy-bears in Kent, and that’s something I’d definitely be bringing my teddy bear (Mr Bailey) to have a go at! I’ve also heard that The Forest is amazing – it’s for children aged 13+ with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities and it’s a multi-sensory trip into a dark and mysterious forest. Oh gosh there are too many – can I name drop Tiger Tale too? I’ll say no more, but look up page 10 of the brochure for a ballet about a tiger invasion! See you at bOing – I’ll be the one eating all the cupcakes from the cupcake decorating stall!

bOing_2015_logoFind out more about bOing! on Sat 29 and Sun 30 August here.

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