Ryan Barrell reviews Arts on the Move: A Performing Arts Experience @ Poltimore House, 24/3/12
The setting couldn't be more perfect. One of the first days of the year to feel truly summery, and we spent the afternoon in the grounds of this astonishing 16th Century house.
For centuries the estate housed the Bampfylde family, but throughout the 20th century it has been a college, an NHS hospital, and a squat.
Having fallen into disrepair, the house was brought to national attention by a BBC television series in 2003. 9 years on, a group of Exeter University students are attempting to contribute to its restoration.
The festival was mind-blowing. Walking under the scaffolding, you find yourself in an exquisite entrance hall, filled with the work of local artists.
Meandering through the maze of corridors, it is difficult to guess what might pop up next. A group of performers had devised a series of pieces highlighting the history of the building, and turning a corner you could be met by an overworked housemaid preparing for Sir Bampfylde's dinner party, or a war-time schoolboy looking to trade cigarettes for lollipops.
In the courtyard, a semi-circle of chairs surrounded a small enclosure where a former squatter at the site told his story of freedom and pneumonia.
A small room filled with table-saws, scaffolding and ladders was used as a makeshift cinema, showcasing short films from Exeter's finest film-makers.
Ducking and diving through hallways and over plywood, we come to the chapel, where the Exeter University Pole Dancing Society were putting on an immense show of skill to the sound of 3 different musical acts throughout the evening.
Venturing outside once again, the smell of fire and the sound of drums filled the air. Circus performers juggling fire next to a group of African drummers sitting in a field of daffodils.
If that wasn't enough, there was also a recurring performance in the saloon, and a selection of ales and ciders from local breweries.
It's hard to fit everything there is to say about Arts on the Move into one article – it was spectacular. A truly great atmosphere with so much to do.
Some festival-goers took their own instruments, which led to free-jamming in some of the rooms. The house was so beautiful, even in its derelict state.
The lonely performers were innovative and extraordinarily talented. The musicians were well chosen, the ales were flowing.
The only fault I can find with this is it seems not enough people knew about it. It was truly a wonderful experience, and I'm certainly hoping that Arts on the Move will continue to churn out such wonderful events.
To learn more about the house, you can visit www.poltimore.org