dont walk triumphs

George Wilder finds a mould breaking night at dont walk's 2018 offering.

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I sometimes wonder if I will ever be an adult. At twenty-one people insist that I’ve left the peculiar world of childhood and adolescence behind. After all, I can join the army, get married, and can even quench my thirst in the United States with a Smirnoff Ice should the mood take me. Besides the prevalence of alcopops that all sounds fairly grown-up. And yet, as I sit, stirring up anger about the strikes so I can slip through another tutorial, I realise I still have a feeling of boyhood residing within me. At university we aspire to a future where we are told we can do anything, while also remaining at the beck and call of tutorials, deadlines and, most concerning of all, a growing meme library.

It is this that makes me so proud of the adults within our student population. Sure, they may still run through self-certifications faster than a Pablo down a parched first year’s throat; and there’ll almost certainly be more than one who proudly claims a Mario Kart world record on Rainbow Road. But, they are also innovators, and that is exactly what I came looking for last Saturday, as I stepped into dont walk, a world ‘unbound by rules’.

The venue immediately attracted the eye as I made my first impression. The show’s creative director had told me at interview previously how they were excited to make the most of the space afforded by the new venue on the pitches near town. Admittedly, the space did cause a bottleneck upon entry, but the effect only served to contribute to the ballooning area inside. As I strode towards the bar I noted the lit fabric of the tables, the strongly lit catwalk, and the towering corporate section, all breaking up the shape of the marquee to introduce a sense of intimacy to proceedings. Nodding slowly I moved through standard, collecting my first vodka red bull of the evening and taking a closer look at the stage itself. On first appearance I had some concerns, the lighting seemed too low, too intense, leaving little to the imagination. While I have been known to microwave almost anything the concept of a model being slow roasted on stage is certainly something outside my experience. Overall I worried that the whole effect, with its central DJ area and branching runway, might fight for attention and detract from the show itself.

I am however, glad to say that I got what I came for, a challenge. And that I am always happy to be proven wrong. As the show began I stepped into the VIP Section, as ever a little dubious at how the space warranted more money. These thoughts however, were left long forgotten a moment later, as an orchestra of effects began to play upon my senses. The percussion of sound, the strings of light, the conscious woodwind of atmosphere working within the crowd, all harmonised as the walks began. Throughout I found pieces of interest as, it seemed, did the crowd, who continued their own verbal chorus long after the start. Though guests circulated back to bars I found their conversations more based on discussion than distraction, as all came back, drinks in hand, to stand once again in awe of the show. The auction followed, and though well performed was kept short to ensure the audience didn’t lose interest. It was a good chance to take pleasure in the support of this year’s charities, FHI 360 and Comic Relief, which work to combat structural inequality. Later, as I struggled against my alcoholic epiphany that I in fact did need a three-hundred-pound handbag or makeup masterclass, the show happily started once again.

Amongst the regular walks, shows of choreographic licence started to show through, unified arm raises and turns that, in the intimacy of the space, provided an element of performance to the entire endeavour. The length of the show had been a concern for some; they needn’t have worried, as the conclusion saw yet another explosion of energy that had been building since the opening. By this point the VIP prices paid by many had been rendered redundant by the sheer number of standard guests who had managed to get through the bouncers at the entrance, either striding straight through or hurdling over the barrier. Regardless, I couldn’t help but laugh at yet another dress-clad guest trying to climb in as my thoughts moved to the afterparty.

I had my concerns about the afterparty, something that can be underwhelming at any event of this size. Luckily headliners AJ Tracey and Louis the Child both kept people at the venue, and quickly drew the afterparty ticket holders into the ecstasy of the event. Without further ado, I threw caution to my liver, and dived into the final hours.

Hours later I spooled through memories like blurred polaroids, laughing at some, cringing at others and, most importantly, enjoying every one of them. It is often that I find events wanting in one department or another, and although the 3am end time did drag out proceedings beyond their shelf life, with many leaving after the conclusion of the headliners, it did make for an interesting final glance across the marquee. Cups lay strewn across the floor like spent cartridges, while the alcoholic artillery of champagne bottles sat empty around the venue. Across this scarred battle-scape I ruminated on what I had seen here tonight, a campaign on soberness? Yes. But also a war on boredom, one that dont walk have certainly emerged from victorious.

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