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Bringing the South Pacific to Glastonbury Festival

Bringing the South Pacific to Glastonbury Festival

An emotional return for VOU Fiji after its debut performances in the Theatre and Circus Fields at Glastonbury 2016

The record for the longest journey to perform at Glastonbury Festival may well be held by the young dancers of VOU Fiji, who arrived on site at 3am Wednesday morning after 48 hours of flights and airport transits from their South Pacific homeland.

VOU Fiji at the Pyramid stage | Image Credit: Mere Dobui. Eddie Soro, Vanessa Eden

It was an emotional return for the dance company after its debut performances in the Theatre and Circus fields in 2016. The company saw their return to Glastonbury Festival as a beacon of hope after a difficult few years.

When Fiji closed its borders to protect the country against COVID-19, it meant no visitors to the island nation and the company lost all its income. To make sure the dancers were still fed, VOU started a farm – planting many different types of vegetables and buying and caring for a large brood of chickens.

Fijian artists are like a family, a community that has been through so much over the last few years.

Fiji is a developing country and the government was not able to support anyone through the disastrous impacts of the pandemic. It, therefore, felt so extraordinary and emotional to be back with the Glastonbury family!

Dancer Petrina Vasu summed it up in an emotional interview clip, shown below, which was recorded just before the group left home, where she referred to the challenges of being a professional dancer in Fiji and shared how much it meant to them all to be bringing their new show Fiji Untold to Glastonbury.

The group, all under the age of 22 years of age, tell the story of a young girl’s journey of self-discovery when she is plunged into the dreamy Fijian underworld of legends and myths.

VOU’s first performance was on Thursday night and thanks to the patient and supportive tech from the Astrolabe crew it went off without a hitch. It was a full house with people squeezing in at the sides of the tent.

VOU Fiji at The Astrolabe | Image Credit: Mere Dobui. Eddie Soro, Vanessa Eden

The audience was spellbound with moments in the show when you could hear a pin drop. Their response at the end of the performance was astonishing and heartfelt with both audience and dancers crying and a standing ovation lasting several minutes and only stopping when the performers went off stage. What an inspiring, uplifting, and humbling way to start the festival! 

Friday’s performance was quieter but Saturday’s final performance was busy with the audience transfixed by the show and giving another standing ovation.

Some of the audience had already seen the performance but wanted to see it again: ‘…we came last night and loved it so much we had to come again today’ and ‘… we have planned our whole day around this performance to make sure we don’t miss it’.

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After VOU Fiji performed at Glastonbury in 2016, the company’s directors Sachiko and Eddie Soro were so inspired that they returned home with plans to have a mini-Glastonbury festival in Fiji. They bought a yellow and white striped tent similar but smaller to the Astrolabe tent and set up the first arts and culture performance hub in Nadi, Fiji.

VOU Fiji hub tent | Image Credit: Mere Dobui. Eddie Soro, Vanessa Eden

Unfortunately, there is little support for the arts in Fiji which means an arts centre like this where VOU and other artists are able to showcase Fijian arts and culture to visitors and locals is unique. Every week 100s of visitors visit the hub to learn about the distinctive and passionate arts and culture of Fiji.

VOU Fiji aims to share Fijian and Pacific Island traditional and contemporary arts and culture with new global audiences as well as explore new creative directions. Glastonbury Festival helps them to do this by reaching new audiences and through the cross-pollination and absorption of new ideas; it made me feel so emotional every time I saw how the VOU dancers responded to a performance or piece of art which they had never seen before.

Mick Andrew, the Astrolabe stage manager, said ‘..really great to have the VOU company from Fiji back at Glastonbury this year with their wonderful show ‘Fiji Untold’. A truly beautiful performance from this energetic young company, very colourful, moving and full of heritage and folklore from The Pacific. Look forward to more from them’.

And VOU looks forward to being at Glastonbury again soon! Until then…Vinaka!

VOU Fiji at the tents | Image Credit: Mere Dobui. Eddie Soro, Vanessa Eden
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