It was in the middle of September, when the air finally started to cool off once the sun was gone, that we were lucky enough to participate in the preparation and carrying out of the Stay Human Festival to celebrate diversity. It was the first project of this kind that we, the volunteers of Vicolocorto Associazione, were given as a result of the cooperation with the association Stay Human. For me it was also the first project of this kind that I had ever tried to be a helping hand for. At the same time it was a festival the deeply interested me as there are barely any better ways to show diversity to people than by a celebration with interactive parts, short-movies and live performances.
Before we were able to get to the fun part—enjoying the performances and talking to a lot of different people—we had to make the place of the festival a little bit more cozy than it was when we arrived. The festival took place inside and outside of a building—and old part of the train station here in Pesaro— where there is an art studio, a radio station, a popcorn machine, a fridge for beer, and who knows what else inside the numerous shelves.
In front and behind the building was where the magic was happening on the 11th and 12th September, though. A stage was built in the back. We helped setting up the festival and before that could happen, we had to clean the place. Rid it of all trash, and the occasional snail that was hiding in the pots where you could hardly imagine flowers blooming any time before.
The rest of the preparation work was mainly to make sure the place looked nice: we painted some walls in rainbow colors, wrapped some kind of carpet around a banister so it could serve as an art gallery for photography projects and other art pieces. Hanging up some lights, hand-printing shirts and bags for the staff and visitors (which I enjoyed very much), putting up a cardboard entrance with hand-sanitizer and a caricature reminding you to keep your masks on, and the festival was ready for take-off.
So on Friday we were there, wearing our staff shirts that we had helped to print, ready to welcome every single visitor and kindly ask them to keep distance to other people—COVID-19 of course didn’t take two days off for a celebration of diversity.
The program for Friday was more focused on education than the one of the following day. It started off with a performance from a talented puppeteer whose show, if I’m being honest, amazed me more than it amazed the kids who were present. He had self-made puppets; a skeleton, a for Western cultures exotic-looking dancer inspired by his sister, and—my personal favorite—a tiger.
Then it was time to move the chairs in front of the stage so the visitors could sit comfortably while being confronted with the uncomfortable truth that there was racism happening in their city; in their schools. If you want to celebrate diversity, you also have to acknowledge and shed light on the challenges and hate that still comes with “being different from the norm” in whatever way.
On Saturday there was live music, and even though there were some small mishaps like a broken guitar string, the second and final day of the festival was even more fun for me than the first. It was amazing to experience music among the organizers of the festival who had made the past days an incredible experience by sharing and caring, the other volunteers who of course showed up, and every single other visitor.
As a small gimmick there was even a small cocktail workshop where a bartender showed the interested crowd the basics of drink mixing with a focus on herbs and what other tastes they go best with.
When the last song of the DJ faded away and announced the end of the festival, I was sad to watch the people leave. I can only speak for myself and from my own point of view, but for me the festival has been a success. People were entertained and educated, often at the same time; there were youngsters, adults, and families present which proves the program was appealing to a vast variety of people; and many took home a shirt or bag with a bold statement against racism. While the festival most certainly had not single-handedly eliminated discrimination, it had made an effort to educate, and that is what is a tremendous part of the fight against discrimination.
That Saturday night was the perfect end to the festival—although for us it wasn’t quite the end yet. We returned the next day and helped tidying up the place, said our temporary good-byes to the people at Stay Human and then fell back into our beds to recharge after an exhausting but fun week end—at least that’s what I did.