Emma Wollum, USA (AC 07-09)

If, by Saturday night, it really seemed like only a bite, then you didn’t really get it. Ultimately, it was more of a SoundAll-you-Can-Eat Buffet, or one of those weddings where you surreptitiously follow around the black t-shirt-clad waiters with their shiny trays of delicate little canapés until you’ve gorged yourself on the surprisingly delectable combination of Indian Classical Music with Meditation and Street Dance. Never before in one weekend have I shouted the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet from the upper branches of an ivy-covered tree, and then discovered that all that leaping around and boot scuffing makes any Hungarian traditional folk dancer a remarkably talented Ultimate Frisbee player. It’s worth waiting two years for the multifaceted gem which is the SoundBite festival, the only time of year when you might see a German rock band and the Mad Axe-Man of Irish Poetry sitting together on the long wooden tables in the dining hall experimenting with the suspicious texture of the lentil casserole. All around campus the enthusiasm was infectious, for more than just the half-hour extended sosh on Saturday night.

The Atlantic College SoundBite Festival, uniting an eclectic mix of talent in the arts and media professions for a weekend schedule packed with free student workshops, is a biannual tradition recently made possible by organisations such as the Mousetrap Fund and the Arts Council of Wales. Night concerts opened the Arts Centre to the general public as well as Atlantic College students, featuring a nearly theatrical poetry reading from Brendan Cleary, a *cough* unique electric-guitar interpretation of ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’ from the band  Hidden Sea, the launch of Horatio Clare’s new book A Single Swallow (which prompted a rare performance from erstwhile poet and radio producer Julian May), and an  energetic show from the  Nzinga African and Caribbean dance ensemble. Ex-students and members of the Atlantic College community were prominently involved in this year’s festival, such as Horatio Clare (last year’s Writer-In-Residence) and Delia Casadei (both expressing disapproval at the total campus-wide alcohol ban), though the AC Carnival presented by current students on Saturday night was also – despite and perhaps because of the fire hazards – a well-attended success.

Though it may have been due to certain members of the tour choir serenading away that catch-all “but…my alarm didn’t go off” excuse before 9 on the Friday morning, the level of student participation in the festival was very impressive. Students who on a normal Friday might not have woken up before lunch packed the Greek cynicism workshop at 10am. At the second Hungarian dance workshop, standing shoulder-to-shoulder was nearly impossible as the circle we formed inscribed the entire area of the Bradenstoke Hall. Though some may have succumbed (I know who you are…I told you that you should have come to the meditation workshop) to the usual weekend trap of flannel pyjamas and a season or two of Grey’s Anatomy, the general attitude was not one of elation for missing codes on a Friday but of passionate regret, for not being able to participate enough due to the crowded schedule of events. Even our favourite selection of pubs may have suffered that weekend, as students chose to sip Pimm’s from the Arts Centre bar while listening to poetry instead of downing shots on karaoke night (sorry, I believe that’s ‘nite’) at the Tudor Tavern. Munching popcorn at the carnival on Saturday night, most of us were just exhausted from dashing from venue to venue, still trying to get the pink clay out from underneath our fingernails from the animation workshop that morning and hoping our faces didn’t still look too red from the African dancing. This year’s SoundBite festival would get five stars in any legitimate Zagat Guide, if you too took the chance to sample every extraordinary dish on the menu.

– United World College Student Magazine –


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