31st of October – 3rd of November
19:00-1:00 (31st of October – 2nd of November)
10:00-13:00, 14:00-17:00, 19:00-1:00 (3rd of November)
Station Approach Road, London.
Underground: Waterloo (Northern, Bakerloo and Jubilee Line).
British Rail: Waterloo Station.
Parking: Pay & Display, Station Approach SE1 8SW / Upark, 2 Addlington Street, SE1 7RY
STATION APPROACH ROAD
From Waterloo Station: Leave Waterloo Station via Exit 1. Turn right onto Station Road Approach and keep on the right hand side of the road. Walk all the way to the bottom and The Old Vic Tunnels box office is on the right hand side just after the iron staircase.
From The Old Vic: With The Old Vic Theatre behind you, cross over the road and turn left. Immediately cross Waterloo Road in front of The Book Warehouse. With The Book Warehouse on the right, walk down onto LOWER MARSH. Pass Boots on the right and then The Camel and Artichoke Pub. After William Hill, turn right onto LEAKE STREET. Head up the ramp (on the right hand side) onto Station Approach Road. At the top of the ramp, cross the road. The Station Approach Road box office is on your right after the set of iron stairs and before the railway arch.
LEAKE STREET (GRAFFITI TUNNEL)
From Waterloo Station: Leave Waterloo Station via Exit 1. Turn right onto Station Road Approach and keep on the right hand side of the road. Walk all the way to the bottom of the road and go down the first set of stairs you come to and turn right at the bottom of the stairs. The Leake Street entrance to The Old Vic Tunnels can be found 30 metres down the graffiti tunnel on the left hand side.
From The Old Vic: With The Old Vic Theatre behind you, cross over the road and turn left. Immediately cross Waterloo Road in front of The Book Warehouse. With The Book Warehouse on the right, walk straight onto LOWER MARSH. Pass Boots and The Camel and Artichoke Pub on the right. After William Hill, turn right onto LEAKE STREET. Head down the ramp where LEAKE STREET continues into a Graffiti Tunnel. The entrance to the tunnels is halfway down on the left before the road widens.
Regular entry £50
Saturday 3rd of November 10:00-17:00 £5
Rodrigo y Gabriela the festival’s headline act have been playing guitar together for more than fifteen years. First as young thrash metal fans in their native Mexico City, then as street musicians in Dublin; to the globe straddling, film scoring, record breaking artists they are today. Having just released and toured their most ambitious album to date; Area 52, which was recorded in Havana with a thirteen piece Cuban orchestra. Rodrigo y Gabriela are getting ready to rewrite the script again. These new live performances will see them focus on the extraordinary interplay between Rod’s fiery lead lines and Gab’s phenomenal rhythmic battery.
Graciela Iturbide’s photographs that tell a visual story of a culture in constant transition though images of identity, sexuality, festivals, rituals, daily life, death and the role of women. At times we see the clash between urban and rural life, indigenous and modern life, as Iturbide effortlessly moves from community to community on her personal journey through her homeland. Graciela Iturbide has solidified her place as one of the most important contemporary Mexican photographers, whose images reveal her love of Mexico and its people. For the Day of the Dead Festival Iturbide will present a collection of images from the 1960’s and 1970’s exploring the theme of death, life and humor.
British artist Hew Locke will present a new large-scale installation specially commissioned for the Day of the Dead Festival referencing symbolism surrounding the journey into the afterlife. Locke delves deeply into the history behind the subject matters and objects involved in his works. Unifying this knowledge with his creative vision he creates pieces that stand on a crossroad of cultures, mediums and historic references, engaging with the embodiment of power, building amalgamations between different cultures and colonial histories.
Dr. Lakra is renowned for his work as both tattooist and contemporary visual artist. His influences embrace the rich history of illustration in Mexico, as well as comics, graphic novels, and pulp fiction. His irreverent works explore the tensions between social structures and innate desires, the group and the individual, sacred and secular. Juxtapositions of sex and death, old and new abound, as grotesque creatures encircle seductive women and society figures bear the symbols of fierce modern-day gangs. Even the artist’s pseudonym, inspired by his habit of carrying tattoo equipment in a black doctor’s bag, is a clash of opposites: lakra, a Spanish colloquialism meaning “delinquent”. He has shown work internationally in many exhibitions including Stolen Bikeat the Andrew Kreps Gallery in New York, Los Dos Amigos at MACO in Mexico, Pin Up at Tate Modern, and Pierced Hearts and True Love at The Drawing Center in New York.
Le Gun is an art collective and magazine established by graduates from London’s Royal College of Arts department of communication art and design, they will present a new installation specially commissioned for the Day of the Dead Festival consisting of several large-scale, three dimensional works referencing the fantastical and macabre world of the Mexican Alebrije’s. Since the 2004 inception of Le Gun, the groups’ core team has produced four issues of the vibrant, over-sized publication, not to mention countless installation projects internationally that have garnered the collective with a substantial cult following.
American-born Nancy Fouts has in lived London most of her life. With a keen sense of observation she uses and reconfigures found objects with an ironical and often-surreal conceptual twist. With a penchant for exploring the themes of nature and religion she transforms ordinary objects into extraordinary works of art. Nancy will present a collection of new three-dimensional works for the Day of the Dead Festival that poke fun at the contemporary western concept of death.
The Old Vic Tunnel’s cinema will be screening the Alejandro Jodorowsky classic film ‘Santa Sangre’ throughout the festival with a specially commissioned new live score and nightly performance from the Cabinet of Living Cinema. The Cabinet of Living Cinema believe in foregrounding the semi-improvised liveness that was an integral feature of early cinema through performing scores and foley in front of an audience. Other stages in the tunnels will play host to more music and performance including a set from London based bands ‘Vado in Messico’ and ‘Keston Cobblers Club’ and a show from visual artists Frida Alvinzi and Raisa Veikkola’s ‘Theatre of Dolls’, an other-worldly visual experience using 4-dimensional art pieces, puppets as storytellers and their own bodies as sculptural landscapes in the performance.
The Embassy of Mexico in the United Kingdom is delighted in bringing to London the celebration of one of Mexico’s most magical traditions: the Day of the Dead. Often misunderstood by those unfamiliar with this ancestral custom -which is the product of Mexico’s Prehispanic and Spanish cultural heritage- the day of the dead is the time of the year when families gather to remember the lives of their ancestors.
From the 31st of October to the 3rd of November, the Old Vic’s Tunnels will be home to a series of jam-packed cultural events, featuring highly acclaimed artists from Mexico and the UK.
Performing each night, on the first leg of their European tour will be Rodrigo y Gabriela with their unique instrumental blend of metal, jazz and world music. Since food plays such an important part in this tradition, the tunnels will be transformed, with Wahaca’s very own temporary street kitchen and Mezcalaria bar, where bartenders will be serving cocktails made from award-winning Tequila, Olmeca Altos, along with an exhibition of work by highly acclaimed Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide, work by the eminent Mexican artist Dr. Lakra and newly commissioned installations of visual arts by the London based Le Gun collective, British artist Hew Locke, and Nancy Fouts.
In addition to the night time shows, during the daytime hours of Saturday 3rd November, families are invited to attend an array of traditional Day of the Dead children’s workshops. Children will be invited to have their faces painted and choose from workshops in painting sugar skulls, making paper masks, storytelling, decorating cardboard coffins and skeleton figures. Daytime entrance on Saturday 3rd November, from 10am – 1pm and 2pm - 5pm offers access to traditional Day of the Dead children’s activities run by Javier Calderon and Antony Ward, tickets are £5 or complimentary for children under 8 years old.
Saturday daytime entrance also offers an opportunity to view the exciting visual art on show while afternoon ticket holders can enjoy a performance of a new live score by the Cabinet of Living Cinema to accompany a screening of the Alejandro Jodorowsky classic film Santa Sangre. Wahaca’s Temporary Street Kitchen will be serving food throughout.
Evening entrance from 7pm offers access to the visual arts show and the headline music concert Rodrigo y Gabriela, screening of Santa Sangre with performance of a new live score by the Cabinet of Living Cinema, a Mezcalería experience and more music, performance and late night revelry with Communion DJs. Evening tickets priced at £50 include food from Wahaca’s Street Kitchen and two Olmeca Altos cocktails. On Thursday 1st of November, Rodrigo and Gabriela will be playing alongside Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera.
The Day of the Dead Festival is presented by the Embassy of Mexico in the United Kingdom and Wahaca and is co-produced by the Embassy and Nomad.
An integral part of the day of the dead consists in the living offering to their loved ones both the things they enjoyed the most and symbols that best represent their time whilst alive, thus raising the point that even though the excuse for this occasion might be death, it is in fact a celebration of life.
In order to understand and make sense out of “Día de Muertos”, the day of the dead, it is necessary to firstly take into consideration the origins of how Mexico came to be as it is today. The key word in this inquiry is that of “syncretism”.
Once the dust had settled after the Spanish conquest of the indigenous civilizations that inhabited what is now Mexico, a distinct personality emerged which bore a transformed version of symbols, beliefs and traditions that originated on separate sides of the Atlantic. What began as a collision of two very different worlds was resolved through a metamorphosis that created a new one. However, it is crucial to note that this was enabled by the fact that there were underlying coincidences and correspondences between them.
The date of the day of the dead is quite telling of this characteristic. Catholics celebrate their Saints and departed on the first two days of November, the same month that Preshipanic cultures dedicated to welcoming the temporary return of those who were no longer among the living.
Prehispanic cultures believed that according to the type of death one had, followed a journey that would lead to different resting sites. Today this is echoed by the fact that the 1st of November is dedicated to children who passed away, while the 2nd is for those who died in their adulthood or old age. The most common of these afterlife sites was Mictlan, were those who died of natural causes would arrive after crossing nine stages of the somber underworld (the same number of celestial spheres that Dante surpassed to reach Beatrice).
The offerings that play such a central role in altars for the dead up till this day are another essential feature of preshipanic cultures. They believed that the creation of mankind was possible thanks to an act of self sacrifice by their main god, Quetzlacoatl (the feathered snake), which in turn had to be reciprocated. The idea that the foundational value behind our existence was utmost generosity, resulted in the fact that offerings and tokens of gratitude were part and parcel of everyday life.
It was no coincidence that these cultures commemorated their dead on the month that marked the end of the harvesting season of their main source of sustenance, i.e. maize. Since this ceremony celebrated the long journey the dead had to embark on to visit the living, it was only fair that they should be the first to enjoy the crops of the year, which were served as an offering of welcome and gratitude.
In the case of día de muertos, this gesture evolved in such a way that the living offer to their loved one both the things she enjoyed the most and symbols that best represent her time while alive, thus raising the point that even though the excuse for this occasion might be death, it is in fact an affirmation of life.
Finally, even though it is obvious that the idea of an afterlife was one shared belief between the Spanish Conquistadors and Prehispanic peoples, the prominently familiar character of día de muertos, allows this belief to be interpreted in a form that speaks to all: that by remembering the life of those we love, not only do we nurture the bond we have with them, but we allow them to shine with a renewed flame.
Even though each community has its own specific take on the altar, it normally has a series of arch like structures that reminisce the structure of the underworld in prehispanic cosmology. Also there are a series of generic objects that every altar must have:
1. Candles- these help to illuminate the dark path that the deceased must walk from the underworld to earth and back.
2. Beverages and traditional Mexican dishes- it is reasonable to infer that such a journey must be long and tiring, hence, the loved ones of the dead welcome them, first with a glass of water and then with some of the finest earthly delights such as tequila mole –a Mexican dish made out of chicken or pork covered in a chocolate, tomato and chile sauce.
3. Marigolds- cempasuchitl, the nahuatl word for these bright yellow flowers, means literally “the flower of the dead”. Not only does their scent guide help to guide the dead to the altar, but they also symbolize fire and are the same colour as the last river the dead must cross before reaching the final chamber of Mictlan.
4. Earth and seeds- these serve as a reminder to the living that “from dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return”.
5. Sugar skulls and pan de muerto (bread of the dead)- these normally bear the names of the person for whom the altar is made, but can also be given to the living as a treat. The bread normally has allegorical shapes allusive to skeletons, which is how Aztecs represented Mictlantecuhtli, Lord of Mictlan.