I HAVE ATTENDED many art festivals. These have included the biennales at Cochin and Venice, and the trienniale at Folkestone. At each of these, the visitor is made to feel that the event is planned to encourage his or her interest in artistic endeavours.
This December (2022) we happened to be in Panjim, Goa, during the Serendipity Arts Festival (‘SAF’).
At the SAF, each event is swarming with volunteers wearing orange jackets. Attendees are required to complete an online registration in addition to registering for many of the various events in the programme. The poorly trained, often ill-informed, volunteers are obsessed with checking visitors’ registration passes (on mobile phones). Yet, we discovered that many of the visitors to the exhibits and shows have neither bothered to register nor been stopped from entering the SAF venues.
Yesterday, having made an online booking for seats on what promised to be a pleasant musical cruise on the Mandovi River, we turned up at the embarkation point well in advance of the departure Time, only to discover that the bookings were irrelevant and it was ‘first come, first served’. Furthermore, despite the boat being full to capacity, so-called VIPs and the ubiquitous volunteers were permitted to come on board. By force of personality, we managed to board the crowded vessel. I am not sure that after the struggle to get on board that I derived much, if any, enjoyment from the cruise.
It appears to me that unlike what we have experienced at Cochin, Folkestone, and Venice, the arts festival at Panjim seems to be mainly for the benefit of the organisers and the numerous volunteers, rather than for the members of the public who have travelled all the way to Goa to experience it.
However, I wish to conclude this on a positive note. We were fortunate to have been shown around one of the exhibitions by its curator, who seemed very pleased that we had come to see her show.