WE Wonder Festival at Wentworth Woodhouse

WE Wonder Festival at Wentworth Woodhouse

Project overview

WE Wonder Festival returned to the natural and built heritage site of Rotherham’s Wentworth Woodhouse estate on 28th August 2023. It was a feast of surprise and delight, inspired by Grayson Perry’s The Vanity of Small Differences exhibition, using art and music to celebrate local voices, stories and heritage.

Celebrating Rotherham’s richly diverse communities,the WE Wonder Festival saw visitors exploring, listening, creating, dancing, and sharing food together.

Amazing outdoor performances were on show, including ‘Mughal Miniatures’ from Sonia Sabri company – a vibrant outdoor performance event for all the family, which celebrates and takes inspiration from the exquisite traditional art of Indian and Persian miniature painting. Visitors were invited to step back in time and ‘dance as if no one is watching’ in the monsoon; to tame a cheeky peacock; to hunt in the forest; and to join in the procession of noble elephants.

Theatre Temoin’s ‘FLOOD’, an interactive outdoor spectacle using circus, music and acrobatics, took visitors on an epic adventure to understand how our coastline and communities have become ‘seasick’. Standing under their own personalised ‘sound umbrella’, FLOOD took visitors far beyond their own front door and into the eye of the storm as part of a watery acrobatic adventure that makes a splash (literally).

Showcasing the extraordinary talents of three majestic birds of prey guided by their expert handler Kevin Tickle, visitors belly laughed through the raucous ride that is ‘Falconry Dismay’ by Dizzy O Dare. They experienced the breath-taking flying displays of these majestic birds, showcasing their unique behaviours, personalities and flying techniques.

Rajasthani Brass Band brought a mix of Rajasthani folk songs, Bollywood hits, spiritual qawwali, Bhangra beats. sci-fi and intergalactic funk and even some well-loved pop songs! Hot Dinners roamed the festival cooking up a tasty selection of ska, calypso, reggae, and rock ‘n’ roll tunes whilst local dhol drummer Heera Singh and Sunrit Culture showcased Indian classical dances.

Six striking dancers collided in an uplifting dance riot accompanied by especially composed original music by Hannah Miller and Oli Austin of Moulettes. In the quirky dance piece, FROCK by Stopgap Dance visitors watched playful observations of the yesteryears explode into a ‘punkish’ celebration of individuality and difference.

The Balbir Singh Dance Company in Raastay helped visitors take time out in the festival to pause, reflect and connect to the beautiful surroundings of Wentworth’s gardens.

There were heaps of workshops and making opportunities for all the family from calligraphy to Pakistani Truck Art to nature inspired Kashmiri flower egg painting.

The festival also offered lots of opportunities to play games as a family- with giant chess, hula hooping and a cricket pitch perfect for dibbly dobbly bowlers, googlies and ducks!

The WE Wonder Festival was a collaboration between artists and global majority-led and disability-led community groups making textile pieces with artists from WILD Rumpus. The finished pieces adorned huge fabric obelisks to reference the original stone ones that once stood on the lawns of Wentworth Woodhouse and decorations to fill the site: a joyous backdrop to a mass picnic.

Other workshops prior to the event saw community groups co-creating signs and art installations for the WE Wonder Festival along with beautifully embroidered picnic blankets for the event.

‘As well as being a wonderful day out for the family with the very best of street theatre and dance that the UK has to offer, this event was very much about empowering global majority communities and D/deaf and disabled people to have a voice in local arts provision. We wanted people to challenge perceptions of where they think they belong and break down barriers, feeling as much at home in an English stately home as in their local bazaar or community hall.  We hope that visitors enjoyed their communal spaces as one community enriched by difference and inclusive to all.’

Sophie Akhbar, creative producer for We Wonder Festival 2023

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