The director of Festival 2022, dubbed the ‘Brexit Festival’, has challenged the cynicism directed towards the event.
Martin Green, formerly in charge of the Olympic ceremonies and Hull’s year as UK City of Culture, told The Independent that the event aims to bring the nation together, showcase British creativity, and on a basic level bring some “joy, hope and happiness”.
The £120m nationwide celebration, planned for 2022, was announced by Theresa May in May 2018 and given the go-ahead by Boris Johnson last year.
“There is obviously a big narrative going on around healing and coming together,” he said. “There is no doubt that money has been made available because this country is exiting the European Union, there is no getting away from that.
“There is also no doubt that we have been through a particularly divisive time in the discourse of our daily lives, and as we go forward, let’s see how the great creativity and ingenuity of the UK can help refind that common ground.
“On a very basic level, we are probably due a bit of joy and hope and happiness, and art is really good at that.”
He went on to challenge the naysayers. “It is absolutely expected that there is a degree of cynicism at the start of every major project … I’m lucky in that I’ve got form in this.”
“What you do is you embrace it [the cynicism]. You don’t have an attitude to it, because it is a completely natural response. But people come round when they start seeing things for themselves.
Green said he hoped that his track record would dispel fears that it will be a festival of patriotism. “We are in charge of the curation of the festival. We will sign off the decisions, working with the devolved nations.”
“You have to start thinking about other places where creativity exists. Instantly you think digitally, but it’s not just that. It’s durational things, it’s things that travel, it’s things of scale, it’s about going where people are.
Speaking about the form of the event, Green was noncommittal. “I’ve no answers at the moment, but certainly the ‘form’ of it is one that brings a smile to my face because it is a challenge. Of course, I’m not the one who is going to answer the question – the great creatives of this country will.”
However, he cited Steve McQueen’s Year 3 project with Tate as something that captured the public imagination and reached a huge number of people.
Green expects to announce a programme by the end of 2021 and anticipates that it will involve “a small amount of very large acts … There will still be tons going on, but when there is special money on the table, you do want to do things which are not normal business.”
The festival will take place in a busy year for Britain. It will be the Queen’s platinum (70th) jubilee and the BBC’s centenary, and the Edinburgh international festival will be 75. There will also be the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, for which Green is chief creative officer.