19 – 22 May 2016
Alan Ewart wraps up the action away from the music stages at Cappadox festival as he discovered a true natural wonderland amidst a veritable cornucopia of artistic endeavour.
Cappadox festival is not what you expect. In the UK we generally equate “festival” with “music” but Cappadox has a wider cultural agenda, an agenda that tries to tap into the fabric of Cappadocian life at every level. In many ways the music provides the backdrop to an incredible cultural experience, it is but one piece of a varied and engaging whole.
As I have mentioned elsewhere, the main music stages are all in locations that give you a real insight into Cappadocia’s unique landscape. The truth is that Cappadox sets out to give you an understanding of the region. There are opportunities to explore the areas unique history, its gastronomy and its fine wines. There are activities designed through workshops and outdoor events that remind you of our relationship with mother earth. The contemporary art encourages us to think about things bigger than ourselves and challenges us to explore out relationship with the earth itself.
Practically Cappadox is centered in the hilltop village of Uchisar situated at the highest point of the region. The village square is set up as a hub, free shuttle buses run from here to all the major venues. In the square you can buy tickets for any of the events and sign up for walks, cycle rides, outdoor activities and workshops. Cappadox is perhaps unique in allowing you to pick and choose events on a pay-as-you go basis, though you can buy a couple of levels of “rover tickets” allowing access to the events that most appeal to you.
Opposite the village square are some gardens that for the duration of the festival are converted into a village of street food vendors and the food, traditionally turkish is wonderful. If you are attracted by the gastronomy of the region you can sign up for gourmet food evenings and wine tasting. The wines of the region are actually very good, complimenting the cheeses of the region quite beautifully.
The festival is centred around the three valleys close to the village. Each is spectacular and a walk amongst the spectacular rock formations in the “Red Valley” finished with an acoustic concert in a meadow where you were greeted with drinks and fresh fruit. Pranayama, yoga and meditation classes in beautiful locations encourage you to reconnect with the living earth and to simply celebrate life.
On my final morning we had a 5 A.M. start to witness the sunrise. A short “silent” walk takes you onto a plateau amidst the valleys and we were treated to a classic concert as the sun rose amidst hundreds of hot-air balloons rising into the morning light. It was breathtaking sight. The same evening saw us back at the same spot for a “full-moon” concert. It is quite amazing how the sound of a harp and a cello playing in those circumstances can be an utterly enchanting experience.
I can’t pretend to be a huge fan of contemporary art but it was interesting to see how the artists interpreted their brief to show how art and the natural environment co-exist. It was useful to chat with the artists to hear how they saw those connections and illustrated them. I did struggle to understand some of the pieces, perhaps that is a good thing, on the other hand perhaps I am just a Philistine.
Of course Turkey is a conservative country and the rural areas are particularly so. It was therefore very interesting to see female run eateries in Uchisar. This allows the women to get out of the home, to spend time together and focus on serving the traditional food of the area. This is much more than a restaurant, it is a challenge to orthodoxy and a cultural shift in many ways.
For me at least Cappadox was a hugely thought provoking experience. It had a subtle way of reminding you about what is really important in life. Every moment at Cappadox was a joy, I simply cannot imagine a more wonderful experience. Cappadox organisers, Pozitif Live, have ambitions to grow the festival into a cultural event of worldwide significance. It is hard to envisage a more perfect environment in which to make this happen.
Pozitif Live have a challenge. They will need to attract bigger name international acts without losing the spirit of the festival. This years festival doubled in size, from the inaugural year in 2015, and was a virtual sell-out. If it is to attract an influx of international visitors careful planning will be needed to ensure that rising visitor numbers do not adversely effect the essence of the event. The organisers have all these issues in mind and planning is underway for next years Cappadox. I have no doubt that the next version will eclipse the last.
No amount of words from me could fully describe the wonders of Cappadox. For that you will just have to go yourself.