Dazzle festival enriches Reading

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by Gary Collins

EAST Reading has been dazzled by an innovative 10-day Festival of community, imagination and ideas run by St John & St Stephen’s Church (StJ&StS) in Newtown.

Kate Raworth speaks on Doughnut Economics. Photo: Chris Jupp

Dazzle Festival was a collaboration with Reading’s Festival of the Dark. Through art, theatre, concerts, talks, film and meditations the community explored the complex yet affirming role of darkness when thinking about faith, environment, community, education and humanity. Kate Raworth inspired a large audience when she spoke on Doughnut Economics; a radical way to think about money, worth and the environment in a broken system.

The Revd Vincent Gardner, vicar of StJ&StS said: “This week has demonstrated that ‘mission’ is a misnomer; the Church must simply engage with the community by being human and at this time we urgently need to be “realistic” otherwise where’s the fun in it all?’’

On the final Saturday Dazzle Thinking invited an eclectic group of thinkers and activists. Highlights included Kester Brewin speaking on mutiny, risk and education, Alison Webster, the Diocese of Oxford’s social responsibility adviser, on transgression and shadows, Colin Heber-Percy on the philosophy of Dazzling Darkness Under the Skin, community gardener Dave Richards on the Digger’s Revolt and Prof Helen Bilton on Taking Education Outdoors.

New friendships and new conversations were started and will hopefully nurture energy to invigorate and inspire our local streets, schools and parks. A final Dan Flavin-inspired fluorescent meditation provided space to reflect on themes of darkness, light and disorientation.

Dazzle has begun to imagine something novel and realistic; both impolite and exciting. Through art, imagination, disorientating ideas, risk, hospitality and activism it has provided clues and signposts for a sustainable future and enriched community in East Reading.

The Revd Gary Collins, is the curate at StJ&StS.