A cultural festival is coming to Dubai next month.
Running on Friday, November 6 at the Rove Downtown hotel, Breakout DXB will be the largest live event to take place in the UAE since the pandemic halted the entertainment industry in March.
Spread across indoors and outdoor sections of the hotel, the festival will be home to musical performances, film screenings, art installations and cultural panel discussions.
With authorities mandating a limited capacity, the 12-hour ticketed event will host up to 800 people with extensive safety measures developed in consultation with Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism).
In an exclusive interview with The National, Lobito Brigante, who along seasoned events organiser Dan Bolton co-founded the festival, explains the event is more than an ambitious undertaking, but an essential step in kick-starting UAE's vibrant cultural scene.
“We have to get moving again as the pandemic has absolutely decimated the industry. It is easy to forget that there are many creatives who depend on this industry for their and family’s livelihood,” Brigante says.
“And also, if we are being totally frank here, this is a virus that, for the moment, we have to live with and that doesn’t mean that we can’t continue to be inspired by culture. We want to show that such events can be done safely by following the guidelines.”
This meant both Brigante and Bolton had to be creatively agile. With safety measures changing in line with health authorities' evolving knowledge of the virus, Breakout DXB underwent numerous iterations before receiving official approval to run.
"It was like working on a Rubik's Cube because of the many moving parts," Brigante says. "We have had the idea for this, essentially, since April and initially it was going to run on a hybrid model with a small number of physical attendees. But as we all managed to learn about the situation we managed to find a way to create a fully physical event."
What’s on the programme?
On the music front, Breakout DXB is set to be a fine showcase of the UAE’s independent music scene, with Emirati soulman Hamdan Al Abri leading a bill that includes singer-songwriter Layla Kardan and deep house producer Charl Chaka. More names will be announced soon.
The performances will be split across two stages. The minor stage is located inside Rove Downtown’s TGI Friday's and will host sets during the day. While the main stage, placed outside in the car park, will be home to evening performances.
The hotel’s in-house movie theatre will screen a number of short films by regional and international filmmakers, in addition to hosting a video-game competition.
Art lovers will have a lot to see in the hotel’s spacious lobby. The stylish work desks and colourful couches will make way for a number of art installations by UAE artists. A small stage will also be set to host panel discussions organised by Emirates Music Summit with topics focusing on how local creatives can bounce back amid the pandemic.
The exterior of Rove Downtown, both the entryways and car park, will be home to an eclectic range of food and markets stalls.
Brigante says the extensive programme is the result of wide discussions with all facets of the entertainment industry. “This is not a top down approach,” he says. “It is important to say that this is was conceived with a lot of input from fellow artists and creatives. I mean, look, we are not saying that this event will solve all their challenges but it is a platform to show the talent available here.”
How will this be done?
While the intention is admirable, we are still amid the pandemic. Isn’t a festival, in its very nature, the antithesis of social distancing?
Not necessarily, Brigante says.
“If you create a good and interesting programme that will create a vibe of its own,” he states. “And even if you are seated with your loved ones and potentially your family – and with no one sitting right beside you – people are still there. There is still that energy. We may not meet new people the way you normally do at festivals, but this is the time that we are living in now.”
And in this period, running a festival requires a new way of doing things. To ensure the festival meets the stringent safety measures mandated by authorities, Breakout DXB hired safety consultants to ensure all the boxes were ticked.
With limited capacity mandated by the authorities for all entertainment events across the UAE, each area of the festival can hold a specific number of patrons.
The cinema will welcome up to 20 people at any given time, with pairs of seats spread throughout the room. The lobby will accommodate 50 people while the main outdoor stage can accept up to 600.
All venues have numerous entry and exit points with extra security officials in place to monitor the one-way flow of people traffic and to avoid bottlenecks.
Brigante is confident the festival will be on top of things throughout the event. A lot of this is down to the ticketing system in place, which he feels will be an essential feature for all major events in the near future. So say goodbye to just showing up with expectations of entry.
“If you're going to do a festival which has multiple zones of entertainment, you have to have capacity control. You have to be able to live monitor the situation and get constant updates on how many people are in the venue at a certain time. And then you have to have contingencies to change the flow of people, to move them from one area to the other,” he says.
“The only way to do that safely and smoothly is through a ticketing system. We also have a tracking system which is updated live digitally, which with the tickets, allows us to know what is exactly going everywhere.”
But when it comes to the pandemic, no high-tech wizardry is able to match the power of common sense.
‘We are in this together’ is not a mere slogan, Brigante says, but a message central to the revival of the UAE entertainment industry.
“We are trying our best to make things as unobtrusive as possible but it is up to all of us to follow the guidelines to keep everyone safe,” he says. “Personal responsibility is very important here and we all have a stake in getting the scene back on its feet.”
Breakout DXB takes place on Friday, November 6 from 11am to 11pm. Tickets begin from Dh249 per person, inclusive of a food voucher redeemable at any outlet at the event, and are available from Wednesday, October 7 on Platinumlist