Associate Artistic Director of Kakilang Theatre Company Si Rawlinson talks about this year’s Kakilang Festival

Formerly known as Chinese Arts Now, the newly named Kakilang theatre company return from the 21st February with their multi-art form festival. Kakilang – meaning ‘one of us’, the perfect term to encapsulate the work staged by artists of East and South East Asian heritage. Set to take over various London based venues – the Barbican, Two Temple Place, Yard Theatre, Rich Mix and Shoreditch Theatre, as well as outside of London at York Theatre Royal, Kakilang will continue on with its mission to showcase a host of exciting new work. Ahead of this year’s event, Associate Artistic Director Si Rawlinson tells us more about curating this year’s line up, receiving support from the Bagri Foundation and what audiences can expect!

Kakilang will be hosting Kakilang Festival 2023 from the 21st February to 22nd April at the Barbican, York Theatre Royal, Two Temple Place, The Yard, Rich Mix and Shoreditch Theatre. How are you feeling ahead of the festival?

We have been blown away by the response and anticipation to the festival with shows like HOME X quickly selling out at the Barbican and York Theatre Royal.  This is our most wild and ambitious festival to date, encompassing everything from dance, live music, a queer cabaret and DJ-ed party, to theatre, exhibition, and truly groundbreaking digital game-theatre.  The events span across some of the most exciting venues in London, and bring together in one festival some of the most exciting East and South East Asian artists in the UK, so naturally… we are very excited.

Kakilang Festival is a multi-artform festival celebrating the work of artists from across the wide spectrum of East and South East Asian heritages. How have you approached curating this year’s festival?

It’s been an interesting moment for contemporary culture in the UK, with Asian representation in some ways having more and more household recognition. And yet, there is still a misconception that there are not many East or South East Asian artists out there, and that the ones who are cannot attract audiences.  And that is what this festival is about: to shatter that misconception, and shine a light on some of the astonishing and exciting art being made right now, and to prove that there are audiences hungry for it.  We have curated a festival which includes artists we’ve been privileged to see develop for a long time, and we have also reached far and wide in the East and South East Asian artist community to find the most diverse voices possible.  We then went through the very challenging process of selecting a riotous variety of events and pieces which would connect with the wide audiences in the deepest and most inspiring ways.

This year’s festival is supported by the Bagri Foundation, renowned for supporting artists from a wide spectrum of the Southeast and East Asian diaspora. What does it mean to have their support?

It has been incredibly and crucially meaningful.  Not only in practical terms; without their funding, the scope and ambition of the festival would be much more modest. It also means sharing in the legacy of organisations supported by the foundation which champion art from diverse backgrounds, and which inspire community and cultural progress through art.

Formerly known as ‘Chinese Arts Now’, the theatre company’s name was recently changed to ‘Kakilang’, meaning ‘one of us’ which is widely used amongst East and South East Asian diasporic groups. How did you approach choosing the name?

This was a giant of a question, and a long process for us.  We wanted to honour our roots as a Chinese contemporary live arts organisation, and felt strongly about our past mission to deconstruct notions of what it means to be Chinese in a modern world of diaspora and change.  But we also know that anyone with East or South East Asian heritage has shared experiences and stories, and that it makes no sense to draw boundaries in these stories when our goal was always to bring people together. So the whole renaming process was finding a name that could encapsulate those feelings, and I believe Kakilang does that.

What have you learned/taken away from previous years of staging the festival and creating this year’s line up?

We decided that it was better to have slightly fewer events this year than in the past.  We used to really challenge ourselves to present work from as many different artists as we could, with some festivaks having nearly twice as many events as this year’s one.  And that sounds like a good thing but it meant we were spread thinner than we would have liked.  So this year we’re focusing on less events, but we are able to get the shows in front of bigger audiences, and build more excitement, and impact for the artists’ work.

What can audiences expect from the festival?

Riotous noise and colour, joy, inspiration, movement – and ultimately a wonderful time out.

About Si Rawlinson

Si Rawlinson is a Hong Kong born mix-race British Chinese choreographer and theatre maker. He is an Associate Artistic Director at Kakilang.

After developing his dance practice in the hip hop dance community and international competitions, he has worked with acclaimed artists like Gary Clarke, Requardt and Rosenberg, and Alesandra Seutin, as well as dancing in commercial and film like John Lewis and Marvel Disney.

He started company Wayward Thread in 2016, and his work has been performed at leading venues like Sadler’s Wells, The Place, and Royal Festival Hall, as well as internationally, and has been supported by organisations like Dance4 and the British Council. Rooted in break (breakdance), and mixing hip hop styles, contemporary dance, physical theatre, and spoken word, he explores compassion, identity, and our dissonant relationship with a changing world. Si Rawlinson is a Resident Artist at Curve Theatre in Leicester and a lecturer at De Montfort University.

Kakilang Festival will take place from Tuesday 21st February until Saturday 22nd April 2023. To find out more about the festival and events taking part, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop