Introducing... Ottilia Ördög

Posted on: 10th May 2017 at 00:00
Posted by: PANDA
Location: Greater Manchester
Discipline: Music

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Ottilia Ördög, PANDA member and organiser of Góbéfest, the UK's first Hungarian Transylvanian arts and culture festival, talks to us about diversity, the truth about Transylavania, and plans for international collaboration.


Who are you and what do you do?

I am Ottilia Ördög and I run Manchester-based music and arts organisation Beat Bazaar Projects.

From setting up and running music workshops for young people, working in artist development, growing the label Beat Bazaar Records and creating large scale festivals, everything we do is immersed in music, arts, diversity and community.


Can you give some background to Góbéfest?

Góbéfest is the UK’s first major Hungarian Transylvanian festival and it’s happening in Albert Square, Manchester this weekend (13/14 May).

I moved to Manchester from Transylvania when I was a child and people who I meet are always fascinated by my background. I think to a lot of people in the UK, Transylvania is a mythical place that may or may not actually exist! 

I always say to people that I will take them to my homeland one day, but after completing the Clore Leadership Programme last year, and consulting with the local Hungarian community, we decided the time was right to produce a festival. Together with a small team of volunteers from the local Hungarian community, who are all artists themselves, we set about making the connections needed to develop Góbéfest.  A team of volunteers and the local Hungarian weekend school ZSKCCS (who meet regularly at Z Arts) started to devise a series of dance and music workshops in preparation for the festival. There has been an incredible amount of support from so many people, organisations and partners in the UK, Hungary and Romania and I am truly grateful to everyone.

The festival is billed as ‘Hungarian Transylvanian’ and this is important. Transylvania is now considered to be part of Romania, although the majority of people living there are ethnic Hungarians. The largest group – amongst which I belong – are called the Székely. Góbé is a friendly Hungarian term meaning ‘crafty Székely’.


What can people expect at the festival?

The festival launches on Friday 12 May with a UK premiere at the Dancehouse. Háromszék Dance Ensemble's show The Band brings to the stage the energy, excitement and expectations of a rural Hungarian wedding. After the dance theatre performance, you are invited to take part in a táncház, a traditional folk dance, which draws on traditions from across Hungary and Transylvania.

From 11am-11pm on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 May Manchester’s Albert Square will be filled with the sights, sounds and smells of Transylvania as Góbéfest takes over. There will be bands and solo artists of every genre, folk dance, a family activities area and market traders selling street food, traditional drinks including Transylvanian craft beer from an ancient recipe, arts and crafts and other local produce.


Why is this type of work important?

I want to explore the deeper meanings of diversity: it’s a word often bandied about but unfortunately, often in a tokenistic way.

The UK is home to people from so many different cultures, and often we know very little about them. It is vital to explore and celebrate our different backgrounds.

So many of the stories we hear in the media do nothing to promote harmony and can serve to make us frightened of people from different cultures. Events like Góbéfest are really important to promote togetherness and to unite communities. I hope the legacy of the festival will be more celebrations of different cultures around the city.


What do you hope people will get out of Góbéfest?

Above all, I hope people will enjoy experiencing something new: hearing new sounds, seeing new dance steps, tasting new food and drink and speaking to and celebrating with new people.

I also hope that people will go home with a better understanding of Transylvania, beyond the storybook myths and legends that the place name tends to conjure up.

Transylvania is one of the world’s greatest forests, full of rare plant and animal life, and it needs protection. Increasing awareness of the real Transylvania is a starting point.


What’s next?

We have made some fantastic connections during the festival planning process and I would like to build on that with UK/Transylvania artists’ exchanges and residencies.   We are making a start this year with the GoBeArt Talks at Castlefield Gallery at which invited participants will contribute their ideas for a UK/ Transylvanian Hungarian exchange programme.  International collaboration is next.  

Aside from this, I am working on Capital XTRA's Music Potential project, for young people who are not working or studying. The aim of the project is to increase their employability skills and help them towards an accredited music industry qualification.


Why are the arts important?

We cannot breathe without expression. It is part of our nature to be creative and artistic. The arts are one of the most honest and effective ways to explore the human experience.


What’s your relationship with PANDA?

I am a PANDA member. PANDA supports Beat Bazaar and is an amazing help to us. I look to them for advice, information, developmental support, knowledge sharing and resources. Anne Marie is amazing and is an enormous support to me personally.