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There’s a free arts festival at the Barbican this weekend. Here's what you need to see...

By Things To Do Editors
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What does it mean to be British? The Barbican asked 50 artists to figure it all out at a free one-day festival of dance, film and photography exploring identity. Here, we pick the five best things to do at Barbican OpenFest: Art 50 

See a group of rebel dancers

They say dance is the hidden language of the soul and the body, and that’s definitely the case in Boy Blue’s new dance and film production, ‘Rebel’. This performance captures voices of the younger generation, exploring cultural identity in the UK. Using music, choreography and spoken word, the dancers bring an emotional energy to fierce movement that’ll knock your winter socks off. Booking required

Dougie Wallace

Discover new photography

OpenFest has more visual art to see than you can pack into 24 hours, but make some time for the work of London-based photographer Rio Blake, whose series ‘We Are British’ features portraits of young British people of mixed heritage. And look out for Glaswegian snapper Dougie Wallace’s funny, expressive images of dogs with their owners. If there’s time, follow the herd to ‘Shepherding the Uplands’, a small exhibition about sheep-farming communities in rural Wales.

Learn about Britishness from a robot

‘Britbot, on a scale of one to ten how British am I?’ Don’t worry, this isn’t some dodgy Alexa knock-off. Britbot is an online voice- and text-activated AI chatbot that audiences can interact with to add their voices to the exhibition it’s part of. The installation, by Libby Heaney, learns from willing subjects via algorithms, and gets smarter with each person’s response. The whole thing is meant to explore the concept of what ‘Britishness’ means today. Bloody ’ell!

‘The Brink’

Grab a seat in the pop-up cinema

Watch a group of stop-motion hounds (voiced by UK-dwellers) discuss the notion of identity in ‘Mad Dogs’, a short by Gadzooks Animation, at a makeshift cinema in the Barbican’s Fountain Room. Also screening is short film ‘The Brink’ in which poet Simon Armitage takes in the sights and sounds of several European cities through the medium of an old Bakelite radio. 

Hear an orchestral response to Brexit

If Brexit was a song, how would it sound? Maybe like John Cage’s ‘4'33''’, or a CD of the ‘50 Best Driving Anthems Ever’. Find out with the help of composer Nitin Sawhney, who will attempt to channel it into music at ‘Brexit: A Rational Anthem for a National Tantrum’. With the help of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, Sawhney will use findings from his tour of UK towns and cities to reflect the state of the nation. Booking required, more tickets will be released on Saturday February 23, with limited availability on the door

Barbican OpenFest: Art 50 will take place at the Barbican Centre on Saturday February 23. All events are free, but some require advance booking 

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