Unboxed – formerly known as the Festival Of Brexit – began in Wales this week despite numerous objections.
Commissioned in 2018 by then-UK Prime Minister Theresa May, the event was described as a showcase for the nation’s “unique strengths in creativity and innovation” after leaving the EU – with comparisons being made to the 1951 Festival Of Britain.
While critics have consistently questioned the hefty estimated £120millon cost of the festival, planning took a step forward in 2020 when organisers called for “daring, new and popular” ideas that would unite the UK.
Last October, the Festival Of Brexit rebranded as Unboxed and outlined details of its 2022 inaugural edition.
As BBC News reports, the festival kicked off at Caernarfon Castle in Gwynedd, Wales yesterday (March 30). Its first event, ‘About Us’, saw live music being performed outside the castle while various artworks were projected onto its walls.
Sam Hunt, Unboxed’s programme director, said the event highlights the “ambition” of creative people from across the UK. Its official website describes the project as “a spectacular live show and multimedia installation”.
Many people are still opposed to Unboxed as it’s being hosted in an area that voted strongly against Brexit in the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum back in 2016.
One resident from the town, Sue, told BBC News that she would not be participating as she remains anti-Brexit. “Lots have sussed it’s a Brexit thing, and are like, no,” she told the outlet.
About Us starts tonight! Caernarfon Castle is the most beautiful canvas for a beautiful show. Check out these shots from our test run through last night to see what is in store for the shows running from tonight – 5 April from 8.45pm until 10.30pm. You won’t want to miss out 😍 pic.twitter.com/wI1lngmchz
— unboxed2022 (@unboxed2022) March 30, 2022
What an incredible opening show in #Caernarfon #Cymru for #AboutUs2022. The first of five UNBOXED commissions that are visiting Wales – we can’t wait to see what else in store. Make sure to get yourself down to Caernarfon Castle to see the show, running until 5 April pic.twitter.com/3D57OiODRT
— unboxed2022 (@unboxed2022) March 30, 2022
Come to Caernarfon! Because it’s going to look like this tonight (30 March) to 5 April – infused with new poetry and music! @PoetrySociety @Stemettes @59productions @unboxed2022 pic.twitter.com/42XLB1xJuZ
— Judith Palmer (@WasThatThunder) March 30, 2022
Caernarfon choir Côr Dre, however, has defended its decision to take part, claiming that the festival has “nothing to do with Brexit” or promoting the idea of “Britishness”.
“It’s about the universe, it’s about all of us,” said Côr Dre’s secretary Jamie Dawes-Hughes.
“We did have to consider if this is the right thing for the choir, but the choir is there to promote the language, and this is a new piece of music in Welsh, which fits right in with what Côr Dre does.”
Elsewhere, videos of local school children reading poems they have written have been displayed in Caernarfon town centre.
Responding to a new UK government report that said Unboxed was an “irresponsible use of public money”, Sam Hunt said it’s “unfair” these comments were made before plans for the festival were made public.
He also rejected the much-touted ‘Festival Of Brexit’ label, saying that the £120m cost had been “put aside to invest in creativity”.
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‘About Us’ will run in Caernarfon until next Tuesday (April 5), and serves as the first of five Unboxed events that are scheduled to take place in Wales. You can find more information here.
The festival will also include a sculpture trail of the solar system in Northern Ireland, an immersive 3D experience in south London, a decommissioned offshore platform from the North Sea in Weston-super-Mare and more.
Martin Green, Unboxed’s Chief Creative Director, said previously: “Unboxed represents an unprecedented and timely opportunity for people to come together across the UK and beyond and take part in awe-inspiring projects that speak to who we are and explore the ideas that will define our futures.”
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, meanwhile, promised “ten showstopper projects that will wow audiences in towns and cities right across the country, and show off the UK and its creative genius to the world”.