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> > > Review: Liberty Festival 2012

Liberty was 10 years old this year. Penny Pepper was there, on 1 September, soaking up the vibes along London's Southbank, outside the National Theatre and in the BFI.

Frantic busy springs to mind as I arrive on a Saturday complete with a half-hearted sun. Huge crowds of global tourists swarm amid the art, noise from the merry-go-round, weaves over the ripple of random cheers.

Outside the National Theatre at ‘Watch This Space,’ I catch some of Francesa Martinez’s sharp and confident compering then take in a snap-shot glimpse of Sputnik, from the ever reliable, always surprising Fittings Multimedia Arts. I love this installation for its mechanical beauty and the curiosity it provokes, sad I only had time to pass it by. Catch it where you can – good stuff on their website at

I was also dragging my PR machine around on a borrowed chair to publicise the release of my ebook ‘Desires Reborn’ (see my blog!) and this caused some logistical problems as I moved around.

The DJs on the Riverside Terraces kept the eating crowds happy, and I caught a little of Irresistible the collaboration between Jez Colborne and Mind the Gap. Having seen some of this before on film, I find it in turn beautiful, challenging and quite awe-inspiring. Another piece that holds up to repeated views.

While I can see it was appropriate to place Caglar Kimyoncu’s beautiful and arresting film Installation detailing 10 years of Liberty in the BFI, it was somehow set apart and this may have reduced the attention it received. A rich multiscreen montage of photos, images, snapshots of the festival’s history, I felt more could have been made in publicising this piece. And I loved what he did with hand written scrap of ‘Cripplegate Town’ from my journal! 

Ironically, I have never seen Bill Shannon, only heard about him from others. As the chill gathered in the air with sunset creeping closer, I was pleased to settle and see most of his set. His brash American persona and in your face charm won the crowd over quickly. Chanting “tricks, tricks, tricks”, he obliged by delivering stunts with his crutches and the skateboard that had many of the young audience members open mouthed.

I prefer the dance pieces which truly highlight his strength as a dancer, presenting some truly impressive athleticism and interpretation through use of his body. Kuljit Bhamra's ‘Bombay Gold’ was the last set of the evening for me, and a perfect conclusion of lush music in the gentle sun.

A plea for Liberty next year: some poetry, spoken word, readings, performed creatively please? There is the very marvellous Poetry Library after all.

I was fortunate to receive an invite to the Liberty reception on the Monday 3rd. Some great performances, especially Tom Doughty with masterful and unique playing of slide guitar, and The Fish Police provided much needed dance-up fun.

Many disability arts ‘oldies’ gathered with the suited and booted. No Boris Johnson (no comment) but at least the canapés were tasty - and the view over the glimmering Thames and illuminated Tower Bridge outshone everything.

I was pensive, wondering how many capital cities would hold such an event for its disabled artists. Maybe we are lucky, but it remains a hard fight to keep what we’ve got, and move forward with what we dream of in these grim times.

Nevertheless, what else can I say, but well done Liberty, well done to us all!