Diversity Festival 2023

On-stage in a multicultural extravaganza

Wellington Batucada on-stage at the Diversity Festival 2023 - photo by Diversity Network

In 2023, for the first time, Wellington Batucada were invited to take part in the Diversity Festival. As we’re such a large, loud band, we don’t get to do proper indoor stage performances on a proper indoor stage that often, so it was great to get the opportunity to do our thing at Victoria University’s Memorial Theatre, which was the venue for the event. Various members of the band were also featured in other performances throughout the night, which was great, as we were able to watch each other as well as perform!

The Diversity Festival organised by the Diversity Network serves as a powerful force in bringing our communities together and creating a sense of unity and belonging. The festival provides a platform for communities and individuals from various cultural backgrounds to showcase their traditions, art, music, and cuisine, fostering a deep appreciation, and understanding of cultural differences within the community.

The Diversity Festival allows us to break down barriers, challenge stereotypes, and celebrate the beauty and diversity that makes Wellington such a vibrant city. The festival includes a shared dinner where communities could try each other’s traditional foods, followed by a night of cultural performances on a professional stage where communities could cheer each other on and feel support across the diverse groups.

Press Release: Diversity Network – 15 July 2023

Cubatana on-stage at the Diversity Festival 2023 - photo by Diversity Network

Members of Wellington Batucada perform with Cubatana and the Moringa Dancers – photo by Diversity Network

One of the things I find really interesting about this festival is that it really is all about the participants. The whole point of it is to foster arts-based connections between multicultural community groups. So the vast majority of the audience was made up of the other performers in the show together with their friends and family, rather than an external audience that we were performing for. At the time, I didn’t really realise this, and felt a bit sad that so few audience members appeared to have come from outside – but now I understand that’s how it was meant to be – it all seems quite magical.

Wellington Batucada team photo at the Diversity Festival 2023 - photo by AliG

It was such a diverse mixture of groups – from Scottish bagpipers to African drummers; Eastern European, Asian, South American, Indian and Pacific Island performers; young dancers, old dancers and mothers dancing with their babies on their backs. I felt lucky to be a part of it.

Wellington Batucada drummers and dancers perform an extended version of Rocinha samba at the Diversity Festival 2023
Video by Therese Grobler

As a performer you arrive in good time for your bit – in fact you’d probably arrive a good couple of hours before you went on-stage, particularly if you’d enjoyed the communal meal beforehand. Then, once ready to perform, you’d quietly creep from the green room across the backstage area and down to where the audience is sitting.

Initially you’d gather at the back of the stalls, watching whoever was on-stage – and then after a while, once you’d got your bearings in the dark, you’d creep down to a spare seat in the auditorium, joining all the other performers checking each other out before it’s their turn.

You’d stay for a while, keeping an eye on the timetable and the time, and then as your spot approached, you’d leave your seat and venture backstage once again, ready to go on. It was wonderful – a constant hum of performers coming and going, watching each other for a bit, appreciating each other’s art, and then taking their turn on-stage.

Anri and Solène dancing Samba no Pé at the Diversity Festival 2023 - photo by Diversity Network

Anri and Solène dancing Samba no Pé at the Diversity Festival 2023 – photo by Diversity Network

Our lovely dancers Anri and Solène were scheduled to perform their Samba no Pé show just before us, which meant we got to watch them in their Rio Samba style feathers and finery – and then they joined us on-stage again for the Batucada performance. Our surdo player Yin is a community police officer – and happened to be the man in charge for this event. He joined us on-stage in his police uniform – having already stashed his surdo and knee-pads backstage earlier – which I don’t think we’ve ever had happen before. So cool!

We were the last band to play, and were joined for a bit of a community finale by many members of the audience who had already performed earlier in the evening. It was a great big multicultural melting-pot of dance styles and costumes, all getting on down to our Brazilian beats. We couldn’t have asked for a better ending to a really lovely evening.

Wellington Batucada drummers and dancers perform Sambanui samba reggae as the finale of the Diversity Festival 2023
Video by Therese Grobler

Wellington Batucada (and friends) on-stage at the Diversity Festival 2023 - photo by WB


Photo gallery

Photos by Alison Green, Carolina PratoCasanova, Diversity Network, Gina King and Wellington Batucada. Click on any thumbnail to see the larger version:

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