London's about to get some major global cultural kudos in 2012. Hip hop, Maori and sign language aren't really things one would automatically expect to be a part of the upcoming Globe to Globe festival (which is a part of the city's World Shakespeare Festival and "Cultural Olympiad" for next year's Olympics), but times are evidently changing.
People the world over already travel to the UK for this Shakespearean experience but this time much more attendees will be able to personally participate because the focus isn't on the mere beauty of Shakespeare's works, the city of London or even the UK itself. Instead of glorifying the mere local setting of the event, this time the artistic direction encompasses a very international sensibility (quite fitting for London).
From Chicago-based hip hop acting group Q Brothers (you might recognize them from a recent Lollapalooza tour) performing their urban take on Othello, to a special theater group from the newly independent South Sudan performing Cymbeline (the group actually sent a 20-page document requesting to participate in the festival!) the world of Shakespeare will be interpreted by different cultural perspectives that are uniquely un-British.
An impressive aspect of this daily 6-week event is how each Shakespearean work will be performed in so many different languages other than English. In order to maximize the viewership/participation, official Globe "ambassadors" will venture out to various local communities (the South Korean community in Kingston-upon-Thames; Brazilians in Stockwell, etc.) to encourage ex-pats to experience these plays in their own languages. To my knowledge, this hasn't ever been done before.
Most festivals or exhibitions of this scale just use the same boring templates done by so many before them, and expect the masses to simply come. The public "ambassador" effort to attract new communities strikes me as thoughtful, effective and progressive -- characteristics that too-often get lost in the shuffle of large-scale events.
The biggest social profit of the festival's inclusion of so many foreign communities? The agency of large-scale cultural experience vis-a-vis the realities of today's globalized world. Art in general is much less relevant without this context now, though this might be news to many art world characters even in 2011.
The notion that the US and UK are both currently riding a downward spiral of cultural cogency is something I've heard rather often lately, mainly in casual but robust conversations about globalization and the unavoidable balancing game that occurs with this idea. I think such an assertion is definitely premature right now, but I see where this claim comes from. It isn't too hard to notice that the leaders of the Western-dominated 20th century have a very different status in the international arena today. But come next April, London is probably going to be quite an exciting and dynamic place to be.
Lots more information here!