Street Art Performance Sparkles to Engage Melbourne Community

“This counts as my exercise for today.”
“What is that creature?”
“Where is that sound coming from?”
“How did the city manage to close the streets?
“Where will this show take us throughout the city?”

These were just a few interesting remarks I overheard last night while attending Les Tambour De Feu, presented as part of the Melbourne Festival.  This free street art event takes its audience on a musical and spectacle performance around a small parameter of Melbourne’s CBD.  The ensemble of 7 performers (six drummers and a ram mascot) leads the crowd (last night, I would guess there were 500 in attendance) through Melbourne’s streets performing stret art inspired by a Spanish folklore about a devil character visiting the earth for a day.  Their greatest niche is their use of pyrotechnic instruments illuminating the night and guiding the prcession. 

I found most valuable about the performance was the gift this troupe provided the community.

Many times, people present the benefits of the arts to argue why the arts should continue being funded by the community, either by the government or by private donors.  Most of the arguments list the following benefits:

  • The arts enhance a child’s scores in government regulated tests
  • The arts affect other industries, i.e. the food & beverage industry
  • The arts provide health benefits by offering a relief from stress.

However, why don’t we focus by simplifying the more relevant benefits from the arts?  For example, performances like Les Tambour De Feu, street art, offer the following benefits to their audiences:

  • Makes life fun! – How many of us go home from an 8-hour work-day to stay hibernated in our homes glued to the TV?  Performances like Les Tambour De Feu offer its audience an opportunity to change their routine.  Additionally, Les Tambour evoked a smile on many audience members’ face because it was visually appealing.  There was fire pyrotechnics, a large iron-clad creature leading the performance, who also chased audience members as it changed its walking path.  Best moment occurred when the performance began to walk down Flinders Street and people noticed a tram coming towards the procession. I began to wonder: will the tram stop for us?  What?!  It was undeniable that the audience had FUN experiencing art!
  • Brings community together – One of the main purposes for street art is to be accessible to all.  By not confining the audience behind four walls of a building, street art utilizes open spaces to encourage dedicated watchers and those passing by to watch with curiosity.  Suddenly, people find common ground, common interest.  I’d also like to note that, in my observation, I would guarantee that 90% of those who attended last night’s performance didn’t realize they were actually witnessing art. 
  • Peaks our curiosity – What I found REALLY exciting to observe as I followed Les Tambours around the Melbourne streets was seeing the reactions from individuals who were inside bars and restaurants along the performance route.  Many people stopped eating or drinking to investigate the source of the sound and why a crowd was parading behind this musical troupe.  It was exhilarating to see how art, in this format, allowed people to be curious and then investigate their curiosty.

I absolutely loved Les Tambours at the Melbourne Festival.  I am so grateful to have witnessed the power art has on the community, and being reassured that the arts is valued by the community.  I now challenge myself with the question: Does the arts reciprocate by valuing its community?  Or are we so focused on increasing ‘bums on seats” we’ve isolated ourselves from who really matters?  Stay tuned for my answer…

For more information on the Melbourne Festival, please visit www.festival.melbourne