Well, it has been a long week and we are still recovering! JaK Wave had the pleasure of going to the inaugural FestivalAsia in London and considering that we didn’t know what to expect, boy did we enjoy it! See what we thought below!
The 15th– 17th May had introduced us to the very first FestivalAsia event held at Tobacco Dock in East London. It’s premise was for it to be the biggest cultural event celebrating all aspects of Asian culture in the UK. But did it succeed?
The first thing that we at JaK observed was that for the first time, it wasn’t just one aspect of Asian culture that was being featured or celebrated- alongside Japan and Korea, other represented countries included Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, India, China and many more. Tobacco Dock is actually a great location for an event such as this- the venue had several cordoned off rooms where different activities would take place within it. Turn to the left and you could stumble into a Yoga workshop. Walk further on and you could put your name down for a Calligraphy lesson or sidestep to the left and you could have a taster session on a language taught at SOAS. There were several stages available, one being dedicated to a variety of Martial Arts and a performance stage were singers, dancers and people who had talents pertaining to the country that they were representing.
Personally, I enjoyed the food that was on show the most (that is not particularly telling of my personality, I promise you! Wandering back outside I was hit by the smells of all the wonderful treats that several nations had to offer and I lacked the restraint to try out a couple of the things that were to hand. Many stalls were handing out samples too which did nothing for my wallet but everything to my taste buds and I took bits and pieces here and there. In the end, I plumped for a Chicken Katsu Curry as my main meal with a wonderful Taiwanese fruit Bubble Tea to wash it down with. Even thinking about it now, my stomach rumbles!
What was great about the event was the audience. This was a place to celebrate different aspects of Asian culture and the audience reflected this- it was an older demographic who were willing to try out different things. They may have come for one particular culture but then they stayed to see others- to play games, to see shows, to try out different types of food and to just mingle. Ages were varied and it was a nice mix of cultures. You could tell this was something that London was missing out on!
As this was the very first event, the turnout was rather small for the amount of space that they had. But all events have to start off somewhere, don’t they? I strongly believe that FestivalAsia has the potential to be one of the greats and to grow into something spectacular. I look forward to the next event!
The sun shone on FestivalAsia over the weekend of the show, and echoed the mood of the entire event – spirits were high, and culture was being absorbed through every pore. I was pleased to see some of the more underrepresented nations featured here at the event, as we are normally highly exposed to Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cultures in the UK – the variety and colour was certainly refreshing and enlightening!
I toured the various rooms in the halls – partaking in exotic dishes of Indonesia; enjoying the scents and sights of the incense and silks in the India hall; watching with awe at those learning calligraphy and Mandarin in the Chinese rooms; stood itching to join in with the Tae Kwon Do from Korea; soaked in the arts and paintings of Mongolia; watched the beauty of the ladies dressed in Thai costume; and took a class in Japanese Taiko Drumming.
There were plenty of educational stalls as well as advertising around the event, including Tourist information, cultural and spiritual lessons, and language tutoring (of which I wish I had partaken!). You could even try Yoga, or Tai Chi on site as well, for those of you who enjoy the more serene pursuits. Plenty of vendors had lots of interesting merchandise for attendees to purchase, and I was glad to see a stronger variety of stalls in contrast to other events I have attended in the past – only one or two tables were the typical ‘cute’ and ‘fluffy’ types with the usual toys and hats etc; other stalls had traditional jewellery; snacks, coffees, teas, cooking ingredients and sauces; lucky charms, cultural home décor and ornaments; teapots, fans, and decorative swords; and beautiful silken clothing of the different regions.
The foods on offer were just SO enticing – I could barely resist turning my head on passing the Vietnamese stall, and the Thai stand had FAR more than I could ever try in one day! I was sorely tempted by the colours and savoury aromas of the Indonesian pitch; the samples of barbequed chicken and lamb were so succulent and tender! But, in the end, I opted for one of my favourite staples from the Korean stand – kimchi fried rice topped off with beef bulgogi and a side-salad. Delish! I managed to keep myself from buying up all the Taiwanese BubbleTea in the place, as that is one thing I have an enormous soft spot for!! (Though I gave in to the Japanese ice cream – Golden Chestnut; who could resist that?!)
There were more performances split between the two stages than I could manage to fit in, even over the two days I was there. I had managed to see the Bollywood dancers, during which I could not stop myself from smiling – such life! The Belly Dancers were another I saw – full of colour and vibrancy, their motions graceful and poised. Of the Martial Arts demonstrations, I caught up with some familiar faces while attending the Shorinji Kempo demo by the City University BSKF Dojo, and I was blown away by the Indonesian Pencak Silat group; their control and synchronicity were on point to the nanosecond! I had not seen such intensity in a long time!
Activities were laid on throughout, as well. Two of which I enjoyed in particular were the Asian board game of ‘GO’ – black and white pebbles placed on a wooden gridded board in a game of strategy and conquest; and the Japanese Taiko Drumming Workshop by Taiko West – a discipline of which, it’s safe to say, I have caught the ‘bug’ for!
There was more going on in one weekend at Tobacco Dock than I can put down into my small write-up here, so I will round up saying that I will most definitely be attending again, and strongly recommend you, or anyone else you know who is into Asian cultures (or would like to learn more about this hugely diverse area of the planet) go along next time it’s held. You won’t regret it!