The Spider’S Lair: Arcadia Talks

Touching down in London town we talk about the world behind the spider.

The Spider’S Lair: Arcadia Talks

Touching down in London town we talk about the world behind the spider.

Fast approaching 10 years of arachnid mayhem the Arcadia Festival will be scuttling its way to London in May. From the scrapheap to spectacular shows, Arcadia has always attracted revellers in search of something different. Yet there is so much more to Arcadia than ear-slaying tunes. In fact, it is steeped with history, humanity and heart. From innovating the recycling game, to showcasing global traditions, Cyrus Bozorgmehr tells us the story of how one giant spider brought us all together.

Back in 2007 Arcadia founders Pip Rush and Bert Cole debuted the Afterburner at Glastonbury and subsequently built on its success until the Spider was born. Crafting its look from recycled metal and military equipment, the Arcadia set fast became one of Glasto’s iconic performance pieces. Considered trailblazing for the time Cyrus, Head of Communications for Arcadia for the festival, remarks that “one of the first game changers was designing our very first installation, the Afterburner as a sort of sculptural chill-out space where people could gather and chat. Next thing you knew, a cable had been run to a nearby sound system, a makeshift sound field came together, Eat Static took to the decks and suddenly 5000 people were going nuts all over this supposed chill-out space...That was brilliant because it was so organic and inspired us for the next 10 years.”

Inspired they were and continued innovating weird and wacky creations made from recovered materials which “opened up all kinds of questions about the relationship between technology and human intent. And it made a point about resourcefulness – about just what we chuck away as a society and just what can be done with what is so often seen as ‘waste’.”

Diversifying into industrial-styled sets, landscapes and performances Pip and Bert’s creations made the closing ceremony of 2012’s Paralympics. Then in 2014 the show broke new ground with its first overseas performance in Thailand. “By the time we did our first international show in Bangkok, it felt like Arcadia had grown into something that resonated in all these different cultures. And that opened up a new frontier of city centre shows which gave us the opportunity to reach a far wider spectrum of people – some of whom came for the dancefloor and some of whom came for the show and the fact that a massive fire breathing Spider had landed in the middle of their town.”

From then on the festival hit the road and toured the globe from the States to Asia and down under to Australia. It was here that something struck a chord with the festival. “Our first international missions and one of the most profound of all was our collaboration with the Whadjuk Noongar, an Aborignal tribe on the performance of an ancient spider song.  It was so special that we’ve invited them to London – so watch this space.” 

Which leads us to 5-6th May when crowds will pack into the Olympic Stadium to witness jaw-dropping performances under flame-licked skies. “It was a homecoming for us after so much time spent touring and we really wanted to bring that city centre experience to both the UK’s capital and the world’s cultural capital – a hugely diverse melting pot of peoples, styles, vibes and cultures. If there was ever a city that we could gather people from all the communities we’ve visited around the world, people who connect with all kinds of different elements of what we do, and have a massive, unifying party on home soil, including all the people that might not go to a camping festival – London was the place.”

As for partying, the Reactor is a new immersive dancefloor experience that has never been showcased before now. Set indoors and in complete darkness, Cyrus describes it as an opportunity to experiment with “all kinds of elements that we can’t use outdoors.” Then of course the famous Metamorphosis show will be a highlight drawing crowds around the biofuel-chugging-fire-breathing Spider. If fireballs, lights, lasers, a mangle of limbs and creatures dropping from the sky are your thing then you won’t be disappointed. The Whadjuk Noongar tribe will also be on the ground performing their ancient ritual right here in the heart of the capital. 

Bert Cole once said the Arcadia team get a real kick from taking machines of destruction and negativity and transforming them into machines that create unity and joy. This is the story Arcadia should be remembered for, and perhaps this is the real magic of the Spider. A metamorphosis in the truest sense of the word; aspiring to change how humans interact with their environments and inspiring how we relate to each other. Maybe in our crazy modern world a 50 tonne spider can, even for a brief weekend, bring harmony between us all. 


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