LETTER FROM ROTOTOM
by PETER GITTINS – Co-Director, Reggae Film Festival
ROTOTOM WENT VERY WELL
The Rototom festival went very well, better than the organizers had expected. The numbers of people really exceeded all their expectations. They never expected so many people would turn up as reggae isn’t usually known as being big in Spain, but the event drew people from all over Europe, many came from the UK, Germany, France etc. I even spotted many Jamaicans there! Africans, people of all nations had come to the event.
Some of the headlining acts where Alpha Blondy, Pablo Moses, Fantan Mojah, Marcia Griffiths, Mighty Diamonds, Abyssinians, Albarosie, Busy Signal, Linval Thompson, some well known sound systems form the UK attended, Jah Shaka and Dave Rodidgan.
There was also a European dancehall contest running for days where bands from each country would perform in competition and judges would vote on the best. The festival had a dub area, ska, main stage, lion stage, House of Rastafari tent which was showing some Rasta films and had a Rasta art exhibition.
The festival really livened up at night after midnight when usually most festivals are closing down about this time Rototom was gearing up for the influx of festival goers who had been sleeping during the day and keeping out of the sun. The problem for most was the heat as that week the TV had been reporting about a heat wave that was coming from Africa which spread across spain, by the Friday it had got as high as 45 degrees, this was causing people many problems especially those who where camping, so many people spent the days on the beach and near the sea where some of the Rototom music events took place in the day.
REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL
The film screenings where only a part of the music festival, so we had lots of people passing by the tent and popping in because the festival was full of tents doing all kinds of stuff but we had a good position in the Reggae University tent which was the Conference Centre by day and RFF by night. Each night we started showing films at 12 midnight; each night was approx. 3hrs long, give or take 20-30mins and we also put some films on loop in the evening before the festival started and this got in a small crowd. We mainly played ‘Roots Time’ on loop and everyone enjoyed it.
I had 2 people help with speaking, mainly Nicole Hewitt and also she recruited an English guy to talk on day 2+3 so this was a great help. I prepared speeches for them which was basically a synopsis on each film and a small bit about the 24 hr film competition, when we showed the 2 short films. We stuck to the program apart from a couple of things we missed out and jiggled it about but all went well and not one complaint. Everyone knew that you had probs getting here so we had some probs with the films. This was announced and explained why some films weren’t in the right place on the program.
Day one was a full house (well 90% full) so was really good, very impressed with the turn out.
To be honest I didn’t get much chance to see the festival side of things as i was busy every day Wed-Fri with the films, getting them ready on time. I did this Wed-Fri, from 7pm each night till abour 3:30am.
The people who deserve some real thanks in all of this are Nicole Hewitt who really helped us and an Italian guy named Mauro who was the head of IT. He went out of his way to get us internet connection and burn off any downloads I made, etc. He was a great help as was the projectionist guy who was from Modena in Italy. He runs his own sound system. These guys were great and they loved to see the RFF in Rototom.
STALL FROM TRENCH TOWN
It was very nice to see that they had a stall there from Trench Town. It was the “Trenchtown Reading Centre” which I visited with Bernard Collins of the Abyssinians. He lives in Trench Town, so was keen to speak with the stall owners about their work. The lady who was running the stall had never actually been to Jamaica ,but had heard about the project on the internet 3 yrs earlier. She really warmed to what the Reading Centre was about and started working for them as a volunteer 3yrs ago, so she contacted Rototom and they allowed her to setup a stall which was great.
The stall was full of pictures of the Centre in Trench Town and all the kids with books etc. I think the idea was to get books to the children there and they were appealing for support so they could build a school etc., so was very nice to see this at Rototom. They hope to get one of the other Trench Town groups involved for next year — I think she said it was “Culture Yard” they wanted to get involved, who where already based in Trench Town doing good work.
The festival was full of food stalls from all over the world, Cuban, Mexican, Italian, Jamaican, Indian, Chinese, Guinea-Bissau(East Africa), so plenty of great food to choose from, also many clothing and trinket stalls packed with the red/gold+green colours.
DREADLOCKED WHITE PEOPLE!
What amazed me personally was the huge number of dreadlocked white people, mainly Spanish and European but a huge percentage of those at the event had dreads! Was very interesting. I have to say for me this is the biggest reggae event I have ever seen or heard about, to see so many stages and acts all in one place at the same time was amazing. Just a shame that this wasn’t happening in Jamaica but what a tribute to Jamaican culture that all these Europeans are embracing the culture.
Hope this helps give you an idea of what it was like. Congrats especially to Sabrina and Gina who did so much to get this all together and to get us there. They must be exhausted! We missed you, but there’s always next year!
ONE LOVE – Pete