Samplers

The multifarious content of a festival like Switch, varying from contemporary dance on the beach and poetry at The Barbara Hepworth museum to a ‘selfie booth’, freerunning and ‘lo-fi surf punk’, offers a sample of what's available, to engage young people who have a diversity of interests.

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This brilliant photograph was created by Sufea Mohamad Noor, long-standing Circulate member from Tate Liverpool, during the Tate St.Ives festival, Switch.

When I saw this photograph, it brought to mind the word ‘sample’ and this led me to think about how gallery festivals like Switch are like ‘samplers’.

When I was in my mid teens ‘samplers’ were an important source of new cultural experiences for me. I had very little money. What I did have, I had to earn and that was quite hard to do when you were under 15. My parents had grown up (with very little money) during the Second World War and, perhaps as a consequence of this, they thought that buying things like books or music was a waste of money. So I had to justify my spending very carefully. I soon realised that I could get away with buying ‘sampler records’ because I could defend spending 99p on an LP as ‘saving money’ rather than wasting it, because it was a way of buying lots of songs for what was then the cost of a single.

The sampler was a way for small independent record companies to promote all their bands at once. But it was always a gamble, you could end up with a batch of musical porridge, but on the other hand, imagine my delight when I bought a sampler from ‘Some Bizzare’ records and took this home: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Some_Bizzare_Album

Not only did this 99p open up my eyes to emergent electronic music, but it also introduced me to arts movements. For example, it led me to find out more about the bands on the label and this led me to be curious about the name Cabaret Voltaire and where it came from, which ultimately introduced me to Dada.

The amazing experiences offered up at well organised and professionally produced festivals like Switch give local people insight into the skills, commitment and potential of local young people.

The specificity of festivals like Switch, which took advantage of the local landscape and regional talent, give national audiences a taste of what the distinct geographic context for making is, for young people in that area.

But perhaps most significantly the multifarious content of a festival like Switch, with content varying from contemporary dance on the beach and poetry at The Barbara Hepworth museum to a ‘selfie booth’, freerunning and ‘lo-fi surf punk’, offers a way into engagement in arts activities for young people from a wide diversity of backgrounds.

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