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Artistry and representation: Becoming a delegate in UK festivals

Cattski Espina and Mike Constantino Meeting with Peter Kedves
Cattski Espina and Mike Constantino Meeting with Peter Kedves of Hungary Music Export (Photo from Mike Constantino)

Cattski Espina, Mike Constantino, and Paul Jatayna shares their experiences and learnings as delegates of the British Council in the Philippines

In its 45 years in the Philippines, the British Council has connected hundreds of talented Filipinos to the UK, building invaluable linkages and imparting best practices through arts and culture. As the UK’s international cultural relations organisation, the British Council supports artists, creators, innovators, and visionaries through different programmes, collaborations, and grants.

In May 2023, the British Council sent off three brilliant Filipino artists: Paul Jatayna, Mike Constantino, and Cattski Espina, representing the Philippines to Liverpool Soundcity Conference and The Great Escape.

Delegation for The Great Escape and Soundcity Liverpool

Cattski Espina and Mike Constatino represented the Philippines for The Great Escape, a three-day festival in Brighton that showcases music from different genres and features a music conference attended by over 3,000 delegates worldwide.

Mike Constantino, an artist-entrepreneur, is a maven in the music, events and production industry. He is also the founder of Homonym, a sonic branding and music marketing agency. “Since 2016, we have exported dozens of artists and thought leaders to various music festivals and conferences in Spain, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, Australia, Canada, Italy, France, Japan, among several others. This 2023, we saw this grant as a good way to establish bilateral relations and explore opportunities for music exchanges with the UK,” he shares.

Like Mike, Cattski Espina is also a founder of a music marketing agency, 22 Tango Music based in Cebu City. Her motivation to join stems from her love of music festivals and conferences. As a musician, music producer, singer, and songwriter, being part of events such as The Great Escape is something that she truly values. “This may not be the first international music conference that I’ve attended, but it was indeed special since it was my first time to attend as a delegate by the British Council,” Cattski shares.

Attitude Is Everything Office
Attitude Is Everything Office (Photo from Mike Constantino)

On the other side of the UK, co-founder of independent queer drag and rave party organiser Elephant, Paul Jatayna, joins Sound City Conference in Liverpool. As UK’s leading festival and conference for Keychange, Sound City is committed to achieving gender balance across all levels of their lineup, and Paul gets to experience that as a guest speaker in the conference. He shares that he was inspired to be a delegate to promote their advocacy at Elephant. Paul explains, “Our independently run queer party needs funding for sustainability as it becomes more difficult for queer events to get sponsorships from like-minded corporations. This grant was the perfect opportunity to speak about queer-life experiences through the Elephant’s lens and onto a European platform, which later would acquire successful funding and partnerships from other queer cultural workers across the globe.”

Their experiences as delegates in the UK

Although driven by different goals and inspirations, the three artists commonly shared that their delegate experience was fun, memorable, and inspiring.

“I had to prepare myself mentally, emotionally, and physically for the Great Escape since I wanted to ensure that I was in the best shape to learn, observe, and participate in such a huge festival in a lively city like Brighton. It was the perfect location for a conference about music and a showcase for musical artists. The city was loaded with creative energy that you can feel it in the air. It was even more awe-inspiring because the delegates shared this energy and the possibility of creating something together,” says Cattski.

Apart from Brighton’s creative and lively vibe, Mike adds that he enjoyed the company of the delegates from other countries. “I really enjoyed hanging out with other British Council delegates from other nations. I also enjoyed meeting new music export folks from Hungary, Scotland, Germany, Luxembourg, Italy, France, and Australia among others. Lastly, the live performances were [also] very enjoyable.”

Paul Jatayna

Meanwhile at Liverpool, Paul’s experience as delegate and guest speaker on gender inclusivity in the music industry focused more on bringing light to how the nightlife can also be a place of belonging. “The main highlight of my experience was the opportunity to share the different queer stories of Filipinos that I’ve met on the Elephant dance floor. I also believe that the nightlife, like what we celebrate at Elephant, is a great venue of true inclusivity. We should engage and invite disabled artists and guests to these experiences while keeping a keen eye on their accessibility to these events,” he elaborates.

Their learnings and contribution to the Filipino community

More than the memorable experiences as delegates, Cattski, Mike, and Paul share that the experience has inspired them to create a lasting impact for their communities and for their fellow Filipinos.

According to Cattski, being a delegate gave her confidence as a creator and a contributor to the local culture. “With my new learnings, I want to organise public events and utilize social media platforms to spread information and insights that can help our artists and our communities. I also plan to conduct one-on-one coaching and workshops with artists and those who participate as back-end support of the local music industry,” she adds.

For Mike, his experience as a delegate pushed him to do more and aim higher. “I came home inspired by what I saw and who I met. We opted to move to a bigger office space because it became clear to us that we can do so much more.”

Mike also said that they plan to use their digital platforms and connections to create a wider reach. He adds, “we will share everything that we learned to the Philippine music industry through our Sonik Sessions: Music Export UK event in Cebu. We also hooked up local industry experts like FILSCAP (Filipino Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) and NLEC (National Live Events Coalition) with folks we met in Brighton and London. Lastly, we will be more conscious about inclusivity and accessibility for the initiatives we will put up moving forward.”

Speaking of inclusivity, Paul aims to use his experience and direct his energy into reaching out to more members of the LGBTQIA+ community and creating a safe space for all. “I’m a strong believer of directing energies to the direct community– which, in my case, is Elephant. I have three main points I want to effectuate: first is to have a more gender inclusive line-ups with women and the often untapped trans men and drag king artists, second is to invite queer artists and guests with disability provided with event location accessibility, and lastly, to continue our focus to decentralize queer experiences to reach queer lives outside Metro Manila,” he reiterates.

Cattski, Mike and Paul’s experiences at Brighton and Liverpool are just the beginning of their journey towards uplifting the Filipino talents and LGBTQIA+ community. Inspired by The Great Escape festival, Cattski and Mike is collaborating with the British Council to launch Sonik Sessions Cebu this 18 August 2023 at Cebu Making Space, 3F Mango Square Mall, Cebu City. The session will be the first Sonik event outside Metro Manila that aims to discuss industry trends and global practices. This will also serve as a venue for both experienced and up-and-coming musicians, artists, and creators (such film makers, multimedia creators/agencies) to share their different inspirations and innovations.

Meanwhile, Paul will collaborate with the British Council and Emerging Islands, a La Union-based group, to decentralize the queer nightlife and raise awareness about gender inclusivity. The event is set to happen in September.

For 45 strong years, the British Council strengthens UK-PH relations and creates opportunities for growth like Cattski, Mike, and Paul’s stories. To know more about the British Council and how you can participate in our programs, go to www.britishcouncil.ph/.

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We support peace and prosperity by building connections, understanding and trust between people in the UK and countries worldwide. We do this through our work in arts and culture, education and the English language. We work with people in over 200 countries and territories and are on the ground in more than 100 countries. In 2021–22 we reached 650 million people.

In 2023, the British Council in the Philippines is marking our 45th anniversary, celebrating our commitment to building connections between the UK and the Philippines through our work in education, arts, English, and exams. www.britishcouncil.org

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