VAMOS! latin festival Newcastle 2015

 

Fantastic VAMOS! festival

The VAMOS festival in Newcastle really pulled out all the stops in this, its tenth year. A fantastic celebration of all things Mexican hit the city in a series of funky, fun events which ran over eleven days and two big weekends. I was very sorry to miss the Mexican wrestling but joined the party at the pop up restaurant Chocolate Noche event at Newcastle College’s Chef’s Academy. A delicious Mexican chocolate inspired three course menu whipped up by the catering students at the college was on offer.

Your starter for ten

It comprised of a sharing platter of black bean cakes, chilli choc pork skewers with avocado salsa and Gazpacho for starters, followed by cacao nib and fennel encrusted chicken breast with cactus and corn salad followed by a very rich chocolate chilli tarte with lime and tequila granite.  Not bad for a Wednesday night, plus there is a cracking view from the Lifestyle Academy out over the green Gateshead valley vista.

Ready to munch Mexican

On my right I met Joy and David who were frequent visitors to the College restaurant who happened to be celebrating their 58th wedding anniversary – no mean feat, and Joy had been tempted by the chocolate theme. On my left, Sophie, a young doctor who was about to go and work down under said she loved the Latin culture and was keen to try out more VAMOS events this year. Live music and few Day of the Dead outfits from the students completed the evening.

Mexican musical interlude

Friday saw us at an artists showcase Vida Cultura at the  Dynamix Skatepark in Gateshead – another venue I had never been to. The huge space usually used by skateboarders and BMX aficionados was transformed into an impressive performance platform. The evening started with a cheeky Margarita and a delicious cheese and red onion Quesillada. This was followed by an eclectic mix of street dance from the Evolution Dance Crew, high energy wall trampolining which catapults people around at speed up onto high wall edges, and some heart stopping aerial ribbon acrobatics.

Lively skeleton ladies

Later on there was great music in the Latino vein, but for me top of the bill was the French acrobatic comedy of tightrope walker Muriel Gleize. From the moment her diminutive form wiggled its way on to the stage to an accompanying trombone, Muriel had the audience eating out of her hand. Part natural clown, part acrobat, Muriel’s persona was so infectious and her ability to get the audience on her side so accomplished and entertaining, that you could not help but become engrossed in her street theatre style show.

Magnificent Muriel!

The most fun of the festival for me however, was Kid Creole and The Coconuts at the Summerhill Bowling Club – an intimate and rather charming venue in the West End of Newcastle which suited the friendly feel of this high octane dance music delight. Kid Creole is a great showman and still tours Europe and beyond (last seen at Nikki beach in Marbella) His witty banter, together with the visual effect of the energetic coconuts and their frequent outfit changes all added to the visual spectacle. Originally big in the early 80’s, Kid was very aware of his retro appeal. “You may have noticed,” he said in his American drawl ‘that these are NOT the original coconuts – but the CHILDREN of the original coconuts!” The coconuts (for those unfamiliar with the concept) were three very talented and glamorous dancers and singers from exotic locations like Finland, Amsterdam and Hawaii. “You must always love yourself! For if you do not love yourself, how can you go away from your home and love somebody else!” he exclaimed. Good advice indeed.

 

The Kid and his coconuts

The weather was British and a bit cold and mizzling but that did not dampen anyone’s spirits one bit, and with umbrellas aloft we danced the night away.
The beach party at Crusoe’s at Tynemouth was the last night celebration to round off the festival. With yet more delicious street food on offer and hip shaking salsa and samba beats, it brought  a bit of Latino glamour to our rather chilly North East coast. Eventually the sun came out on cue and the sea side scene looked stunning as the bongos took centre stage and one of the festival organisers Nik Barrera, DJ’d into the summer evening.

 

Night revellers

With all these different types of happenings,VAMOS! has had to be very creative in the venue department during the festival. Latest developments though, now mean that they have their own permanent home on the ground floor of Bamburgh House in central Newcastle, where a formerly unoccupied city building has been transformed into a multi cultural arts hub.  Although the building is scheduled for demolition in the future – there’s mileage to host pop up shops and vintage markets, film screenings, workshops, talks and to be a creative space for a good few months of Latin loveliness yet. Viva VAMOS!

The sun sets on VAMOS 2015

Thanks to Reed Ingram Weir for Kid Creole pics.