The friends of Flyover – That’s All Media speaks with individuals championing the hidden fight for free arts in forgotten spaces.
If you were to give the task of listing festival venues, it is most likely that this would bring the stereotypical Glastonbury setup to the mind of the average person. City festivals are a completely different kettle of fish and even more so is the likes of one particular all day event which takes place under Birmingham’s Hockley Flyover. This is a large but barren space, frequently used but not made use of. The festival challenges the flyover’s role by bringing in a large stage, food stalls and business stands, a catalyst for a diverse community of people to come together and enjoy quality entertainment in an unusual space for free.
This year’s festival (Flyover VIII) included a set from the soulful songstress Ayanna Witter-Johnson and all round involvement of Soweto Kinch, the festival’s main man. As an attendee, the most notable elements were the diversity in artists and festival-goers and the high quality of performances despite the absence of an entry fee. Musical styles ranged from jazz to hip-hop, grime to reggae, providing a listening palette for just about every taste, and even branched out into other art forms with street dance performances amongst the crowds.
Speaking to the Friends of Flyover
The event even attracted vloggers such as Ken McLean, who documents his travels on his youtube channel ‘Chronicles of a Rastaman’. He returns every year because ‘it always feels like home’ and not only sees Flyover as an opportunity to create quality content but as a chance to support his local community. However, it seems that attendees that return every year don’t always come for familiarity. Natalie Rogers (insta: @87_winks)brings her friends for a different kind of day out. She listed a number of reasons Flyover appealed to her including community feel, ‘really good music’, the unusual venue and diversity of people.
This diversity also spans across the age ranges. Saffron (age 8), Kameya (age 9) an Rihanna (age 11) had come for the afternoon with their parents. They told me that the music even appeals to them as youngsters and they couldn’t believe they get to come to an event like this for free. In a day and age when concerts can be expensive for young people, especially those who can’t attend unsupervised, something like Flyover can be a unique opportunity for them to experience live music. The only thing they said they would change about the event would be to provide ‘even more music’.
Artists Who Care
This demand seems to be echoed not only through the attendance of the show but from the musicians too. Handsworth based ‘Black Symbol’ described Flyover Show’s success as down to the diversity of the musical styles and that it was set to become ‘one of the biggest shows in Birmingham’. If the audience and artist enthusiasm is anything to go by it may be that is already the case. Musicians were not only on stage but also there to listen. Oneke Tebbs is London based but doesn’t see the travel to Birmingham as too much of an obstacle to enjoy ‘good music in an unusual venue’. We had a long chat about how valuable a free event with quality of music like this is in a time where live performances are becoming scarily more scarce.
The Value of Free Arts
This sentiment seemed to be one held by a lot of the musicians and festival-goers at Flyover, who were all keen to show support to something so valuable happening in a space which would ordinarily seem to have very little value itself. It means that a diverse range of people now have something in common, a need for good music and good company. As Flyover VIII has drawn to a close, it only brings optimism for what future events might bring to the table.
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