Drum roll..... the PoliNations programme is here!
We're so excited to share our programme for PoliNations - a super garden of magical proportions taking over Birmingham’s city centre for 17 days this September!
Inspired by the fact that the majority of plants in our city gardens come from overseas, PoliNations will celebrate the cross-pollination that has shaped British culture. Across two spectacular long weekend festivals, a community planting weekend, and a daily programme of inspiring activity, PoliNations will present artist commissions, talks, workshops, garden tours, and performances spanning live music, spoken word, dance, and drag. All events will be free and open to everyone!
Taking place in Birmingham, one of the most multicultural, creative and green cities of the UK, which has ‘Tree City of the World’ status, PoliNations will highlight stories of migration shared by plants and humans alike. The epic programme will shine a light on our differences, similarities, roots and freedoms.
Angie Bual, Creative Director, Trigger, said:
“The idea behind PoliNations derived from the wave of Black Lives Matter protests that happened at the same time as the coronavirus lockdowns, when more and more people were reconnecting with nature. These phenomena made me think about my own identity and place in the UK, and at Trigger Collective we began exploring the relationship between plants, cultural identity and civic activism. We were surprised to find out that most of the plant life in our city gardens has travelled in from outside of the UK and wanted to use the vibrancy of plant life as a metaphor to understand why we're multi-cultural. Together we make the world more beautiful and interesting, and we've been doing this in the UK for thousands of years. Migration isn't a recent action - it's as old as the rose, apple and lavender are to our gardens. The PoliNations programme is the result of collaborations with members of many diverse communities and it's a true celebration of cultural diversity, individuality and self-expression.”
Martin Green, Chief Creative Officer at UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK and the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, said:
“PoliNations will be a joyous celebration of the incredible creativity and cultural diversity across the UK today. We’re thrilled to have commissioned the festival as a part of UNBOXED, and that it will also provide a spectacular free event for everyone in the final month of the Birmingham 2022 Festival. Audiences from the region and far and wide will be able to experience an event that embraces diverse forms of art, and myriad ways to tell captivating personal and collective stories that reflect the magnificent richness of our society.”
THE SUPER GARDEN
PoliNations was inspired by the surprising fact that over 80% of plants found in UK city-gardens originate from overseas.
Audiences will discover a super garden in Birmingham’s town centre, with giant architectural trees and thousands of colourful living plants beautifully arranged in zones ranging from meadow to forest. As part of a partnership with Birmingham City Council, plants from the PoliNations garden will go back out to re-green the city.
The visionary team behind the super garden, Trigger Collective, include experts in horticulture, arts, science and architecture, brought together by arts organisation Trigger. The Collective includes: Angie Bual (The Hatchling), Carl Robertshaw (Björk, Kylie Minogue, London 2012 Olympics Ceremonies), set and costume designer Bronia Housman (Bristol Old Vic, Take That, Sadler’s Wells), design and architecture studio THISS (The Bartlett, UCL, 2021 Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism), and award-winning horticultural designers Chris and Toby Marchant (RHS Chelsea Flower Show medal-winners, Hauser & Wirth Somerset).
ICONIC PLANT SCULPTURES AND WALKING WORKS OF ART
Beyond the super garden’s living plants, throughout Victoria Square and Chamberlain Square visitors will discover Iconic Plant Sculptures, inspired by the incredible diversity of plant-life in the UK and their equally colourful origins and uses ranging from protest to ritual and wellbeing. Designed by Carl Robertshaw, the sculptures will feature soundscapes created by local and international artists, in collaboration with Olivier Award-winning sound designer Tom Gibbons.
Throughout the finale weekend, Ballistic Seed Party (15-18 September), a cast of Walkabout Performers led by artist and performer Symoné (Guinness World Records) will personify the iconic garden plants. Dressed in Met-Gala worthy costumes designed by Clary Salandy (Mahogany Carnival Design) and Bourgeoise aka Joey A. Frenette (RuPaul’s Drag Race), these walking works of art will animate the super garden and conclude each day with a choreographed performance at Sunset. Among the cast is the celebrated performance artist aka ‘living sculpture’ Daniel Lismore.
The PoliNations programme will unfurl across two main stages including the Main Stage and Mother Tree Stage, as well as a workshop dome, Wondersphere. Highlights include two extraordinary weekend festivals, a daily programme of diverse and inspiring activities and a community Plant Up! project open to the public.
BALLISTIC SEED PARTY
Thursday 15 - Sunday 18 September, 2022
The Ballistic Seed Party will be a four-day weekend finale celebrating self-expression with queer, South Asian, African and Caribbean artists from the West Midlands and beyond leading the programme. Thursday offers a day of glitz and glam for all the family. Friday evening offers an Indian summer’s evening of dance and music curated in partnership with Sandwell & Birmingham Mela, the biggest Asian music festival in Europe. Saturday will host an all day - all night party in the spirit of Carnival, Holi, and Mardi Gras brought to life thanks to collaborations with ACE Dance and Music, the national touring company based in Birmingham, Sandwell & Birmingham Mela and Symoné’s cast of Walkabout Performers. On Saturday festival goers will also get to see the tree canopies bursting in a cloud of colour and confetti. Sunday will present local live music from Birmingham and the West Midlands, including Kofi Stone, TrueMendous, and Rosie Tee.
Across this four-day festival, unmissable events celebrating self-expression and queer culture at the Main Stage include The Catwalk Extravaganza hosted by the formidable performer, writer and director Rikki Beadle Blair, which will present queer collectives and individual performers for stunning fashion, lip-sync, make-up and dance battles produced in partnership with Darren Pritchard. Meanwhile the Family Catwalk Extravaganza - part theatre, part competition - ensures all the family can join in. Yshee’s Drag Party hosted by Drag artist Yshee Black will also unite an extraordinary group of talent for a showcase of drag, dance and cabaret to reflect on the theme of ‘growth.’ At the Mother Tree Stage, Drag Queen Storytime, a children’s story hour capturing the imagination and play of the gender fluidity in childhood, will give kids unabashedly queer role models. While at Chamberlain Square, visitors can attend free costume-making workshops at the WonderSphere with esteemed designers Clary Salandy and Bourgeoisie aka Joey A. Frenette in preparation for the final party on Saturday.
Elsewhere in the Ballistic Seed Party, music will feature renowned disco collective Horse Meat Disco, playing alongside the UK’s most exciting new talent including rapper and hip hop artist Kofi Stone and leading Afro fusion collective Balimaya Project, world music group The Turbans, and many more. Visitors will discover vibrant Rangoli street art by Ranbir Kaur unfolding across Chamberlain Square and Victoria Square and will be able to have their hands decorated by henna artists.
Poetry & Performance Festival in partnership with BBC Contains Strong Language
Friday 9 - Sunday 11 September, 2022
The Poetry & Performance Festival in partnership with BBC’s Contains Strong Language festival will highlight 22 poets from across the Commonwealth including both regional and UK poetry talents. Special performances will include ‘White Juju’ a live musical performance written in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, Black British History and lockdown by saxophonist and rapper Soweto Kinch (Mercury Prize Nominated). Jasmine Gardosi (Birmingham Poet Laureate Finalist) will present ‘Dancing to Music You Hate’ a genre-defying performance by the poet, slam champion and beatboxer whose poems explore sex education, LGBTQ+ issues and mental health. Further programming includes screenings of animated films created as part of BBC Words First, Contains Strong Language Radio Club workshop sessions with local schoolchildren and more artists to be announced.
Friday 2 - Sunday 4 September
During the opening weekend of PoliNations, the public are invited to attend the Plant Up! which will see diverse local community groups and schools planting flowers in the super garden accompanied by Head Gardeners from The Birmingham Botanical Gardens.
In preparation for the Plant Up! weekend, over 1000 local people have been growing marigolds around Birmingham. The groups involved in the city-wide growing project reflect the diversity of Birmingham’s communities, ranging from youth to elderly groups, from expert gardeners to total beginners, including refugee groups, women’s groups, and disability action groups.
Wellbeing & Relaxation
Unfolding beneath the giant and otherworldly tree installations, daily events to relax the body and mind will span the PoliNations site. Each day begins the Awakening, a soundscape (by internationally renowned composer Max Perryment and co-created by Tom Gibbons, PoliNations’ award-winning Sound Designer) and closes with the Sunset Shift, a light and soundscape (created by Lighting Designer Matt Daw, Sound Designer Tom Gibbons and Composer Max Perryment, in partnership with Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, part of Birmingham City University) inspired by the sound of the bullroarer and transitioning the super garden from day to night time.
Daytime offerings also include Yoga, Pilates and Tai-Chi provided by local groups, Into the Garden: horticultural tours led by experts from The Birmingham Botanical Gardens.
ICONIC LUNCHTIME TALKS
A series of Iconic Lunchtime Talks hosted by drag artist Yshee Black will delve into topics including freedom of expression, protest, decolonisation, sustainability and wellbeing, including a special series curated by organic food grower and author Claire Ratinon with artist and educator Sam Ayre. Talks include: ‘Horticultural Appropriation’ by Claire Ratinon and Sam Ayre, Sui Searle and Dr. Ros Gray on ‘Decolonising the garden’, Jon Drori on ‘the histories and roles of plants in our lives,’ and Sue Stuart Smith and Chris Marchant on ‘The Well Gardened Mind.’
SEE, TASTE, TOUCH
Tea Tuk Tuk Chai Wallah in partnership with Dishoom Restaurants will be a place to enjoy a cup of tea every day, whilst exploring the history of the beverage and its journey to the UK. From Soil to Sip will invite participants to discover fragrant seeds and plants and brew the perfect mix of herbs and spices. This sensory experience is presented by performance company, Spectra, who hold neurodiversity at the heart of their work. At the TukTuk visitors will also encounter dance performances led by renowned dancemaker, choreographer and cultural producer Jaivant Patel Dance, and performers dressed in specially designed costumes as part of a partnership with British Council - Pakistan/UK: New Perspectives 2022, PoliNations.
Touch Tours of the super garden will also be offered across on selected days for the site for those who are blind, partially sighted or would benefit from a tour of the site exploring textures and sounds.
VIRTUAL SUPER GARDEN
For those who cannot access the festival, as well as those who can, the PoliNations app launching in July, will invite audiences to step into a virtual super garden, create flowers and watch them come to life in augmented reality.
Don't forget, all of our events are free and open to everyone!
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