Leading Artists and Thinkers Gather in Charles Darwin's Home Town to Celebrate his Lasting Legacy

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Leading Artists and Thinkers Gather in Charles Darwin's Home Town to Celebrate his Lasting Legacy
Theo Jansen and Umerus. ©Steve Green 2009.

SHREWSBURY.- In the year of the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species – and 200 years since the great man’s birth – Darwin’s home town is hosting a 10-day celebration of the lasting legacy of his ground-breaking work. The Shift Time festival brings together over 30 artists and performers, who have all been inspired by Darwin’s theories to create new commissions ranging from large-scale sculptures to street theatre performances; and from dance displays to interactive exhibitions. Sparking debate and questioning the very roots of human existence, Shift Time directs us through art, performance and spoken word to find an answer for that age-old question – what is it to be human?

Dutch engineer and kinetic sculptor Theo Jansen’s 13-metre long Animaris Umerus sculpture will be unveiled for the first time in the beautiful setting of Shrewsbury’s Quarry Park to launch the festival before taking pride of place within the stunning interior of St Mary’s Church for the duration of the festival. A highlight of the festival’s final weekend, visitors are invited to a rare audience with Jansen himself, who will be talking about how the principles of Darwinian evolution continue to inform and influence his own work on Saturday 11th July at St Mary’s Church.

As part of The Weather Man - an Opera North and Shrewsbury Darwin Bicentenary triple-bill evening on 11th July - In Praise of Darwin’s Mistakes will see award-winning biologist and media theorist Arjen Mulder’s provocative challenge to Darwin’s theory of evolution delivered on the Theatre Severn stage in what looks set to be a highlyexplosive performance. Marcus Coates’ new film Follow the Voice will then draw parallels between man-made sounds and animal cries and calls for an evocative exploration of Darwin’s world view. Closing the evening programme, Opera North’s chamber opera The Weather Man imagines what really happened on Darwin’s historic Beagle voyage in new commission and world premiere for the festival. Co-commissioned and produced by Film and Video Umbrella, Coates’ compelling film will be screened in Shrewsbury’s Unitarian Church until August, allowing visitors a rare chance to see the very church where Darwin worshipped as a child; offering the perfect setting to contemplate the enormity of the earth-shattering discoveries he went on to make.

With a Creepy Crawly Weekend offering an introduction to the magical world of bugs through animation, interaction with light-reactive, insect-like electronic life forms and a Shift Time Bug Trail; the festival will engage children in the fundamentally important issues surrounding Darwin’s discoveries. Meanwhile for adults Darwin Blast Off will encourage lively and robust debate from leading thinkers Kevin Warwick and James Le Fanu.

Anna Douglas, Shift Time Programme Director says: “This has been a once in a lifetime opportunity for the town of Shrewsbury to work in partnership with a few of Britain's most innovative arts companies to commission some of the world's most experimental, provocative and challenging artists across all the art forms. It truly is a world-class event".

Charles Darwin | Beagle | Kevin Warwick | James Le Fanu | Theo Jansen |

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