Festival lights up our city

VIOLIN VIRTUOSO: Korean violinist Hahn Bin's performance wowed the Theatre Royal audience.
VIOLIN VIRTUOSO: Korean violinist Hahn Bin's performance wowed the Theatre Royal audience.

In a week when one of the most watched YouTube clips was Justin Beiber dancing and throwing up on stage, a man might seriously wonder if this is the end of culture as we know it.

While the online crowd "bahaha" and "LOL" themselves over Beiber's public misfortune, it is heartening that in the real world, closer to home, culture is alive and well.

The Nelson Arts Festival once again delivered a superb programme - eclectic, accessible, and still presenting events which were cutting-edge.

A quick survey among friends seems to bring out the same list of favourites: the Masked Parade, Carnival of Souls, Party with the Aunties, Hahn-Bin and Michael Angelo mentioned consistently in dispatches.

When I dropped in on Electric Wire Hustle, it was full house and full noise, with locals grooving high to dubbed-out, syncopated rhythms and heavy bass.

One of the highlights for me was seeing video artist Klaasz Breukel in his orange jumpsuit driving his van around town at night, projecting poetry on to buildings around the city. The Guerrilla Projection collaboration with students from Cliff Fell's NMIT Creative Writers programme was a wonderful collision of poetry and light.

Breukel's digital image installations are something to see. What he creates with digital light is inspirational. Lighting up the city's dark corners with colour and text was a joy to behold.

I was lucky to play two shows at the Granary, with MINT and The Sou'Westers, and I have to say that from a performer's point of view, it was a great experience - a room full of character, a fantastic sound system and a beautiful stage to play on. And a full house both nights.

The free Granary Festival cafe series was well attended throughout. I am a culture vulture.

It will be no surprise that I totally disagree with whingers who write to the newspapers moaning about taxpayers' money being "wasted on the arts".

But what price do you put on community-building and wellbeing?

I admire Sophie Kelly, Frances McEllhiney, and all festival directors and their teams who co-ordinate their vision and logistics to bring our city alive.

It is hard work and, no thanks to mean-spirited philistines, it is highly political.

American economist Richard Florida has conducted major studies on the value of the arts and creative industries in regional economies, and there is no doubt that artistic creativity and economic productivity are linked. In one study, he tracks and measures night-time light emissions from the world's major cities.

His thesis is simple: creative people sleep less and stay up longer burning the midnight oil.

Sure enough, it is New York, Beijing, Sydney and London where the night is alive with activity.

He even draws the link to the same centres of arts activity being the places where the most patents are registered.

From out in space, Nelson may not register on Florida's light emissions chart, but in the recent festival, helped in no small part by Klaasz Breukel's brilliant lights, Nelson shone.

The contents of Beiber's regurgitation have been debated at length on several online posts. I have to say it definitely looked like milk to me. LMAO!