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Gala held to mark culmination of Colombian memory festival in Bristol

By James Dowden, Co-Editor-in-Chief

The culmination of a week-long festival dedicated to Colombian memory took place on Friday 24 March 2023 at The Station - Creative Youth Network in the centre of Bristol.

The gala event, entitled ‘Bringing Memories in from the Margins’ was hosted as a collaboration between academics from the University of Bristol and the Universidad Nacional de Colombia as part of the MEMPAZ (MEMories and PAZ, meaning Peace in Spanish) project.

On the night there was a range of activities including music, photography, dance, theatre and poetry by Colombians who had travelled over to the UK for the festival.

The gala was attended by people from all walks of life, including members of the Colombian community in Bristol, academics, students and members of the general public.

Earlier in the week events had taken place at several venues around the city all with a Colombian theme hosted together with MEMPAZ.

The Station - Creative Youth Network in the centre of Bristol.

To kick off the festival on Monday, March 20, a screening of a web documentary and Q and A session hosted by producer Fabio López de la Roche alongside a number of the protagonists from the documentary, which focused on memory in Colombia, took place at the Watershed.

Then on Tuesday, March 21, two events were held. The first was a workshop held at The Station – Creative Network which focused on how the Colombian NGO MUMIDAVI has used different elements such as food, taste and music in their projects with people affected by armed conflict in Colombia.

The Colombian conflicts is an asymmetric war that began in Colombia in the 1960s between the government and various paramilitary groups.

Also on Tuesday, the UK premier of a photo exhibition by the Arhuaco Audio-Visual Collective was held at City Hall, showcasing how young people from the Arhuaco indigenous people from northern Colombia, have used photography to help preserve their memories.

At the Bristol Improv Theatre, a performance was then held on Wednesday 22 March which was the debut UK performance by women from the feminist and pacifist NGO Ruta Pacífica de las Mujeres.

A further two events were then held on Thursday 23 March before the closing gala on Friday.

An interactive session on transitional justice and truth was held at The Station – Creative Youth Network. Then in the evening, live Colombian music was played at the Old Market Assembly by the memory group, Centro de Memoria de Valledupar, as well as local Bristol-based musicians Luisa Santiago and the Latin Quarter.

Throughout all the bilingual events there was live simultaneous interpretation in both Spanish and English allowing even more people to enjoy the festival.

The Gala rounded off the week on Friday and professor Matthew Brown, from the University’s School of Modern Languages said that:

‘It was an amazing week. It was lovely to have 18 people from different Colombia grassroots organisations here in Bristol sharing their stories. There’s been an amazing amount of warmth shown by the local Bristol community, well beyond the university, doing amazing things which are now being recorded and passed on through the website and publications which is really lovely. It’s been a wonderful success.

‘I think it’s really important because Bristol is a very multicultural city and so events like this which are well beyond the university campus and to which people go, either from the Colombian diaspora or from well beyond, are amazingly important and it’s been great to have the support of parts of the university.

In terms of his favourite Brown finished off by saying ‘I think that the theatre performance by the women was the standout moment. It takes about four days to come through a war zone in order for them to get here to Bristol. It was incredibly moving and very emotional for them and for us.’