A match made in Docklands. 18 April 2011

Was anyone else puzzled by the announcement of the collaboration between AEG (the entertainment company behind The O2) and Robert Redford’s Sundance institute, to stage an arts festival next year?


Redford’s not-for-profit rural film fest is teaming up with an organisation that does commercial and corporate so darn well it has turned a complete disaster like the Millennium Dome into a success of mammoth proportions.

Hell, The O2 has now taken to describing itself as ‘The world’s most popular entertainment venue’ (and they can probably prove it).

Planned for April 2012, the festival will be ‘curated’ by the Utah based Sundance Institute, but marketed in-house by the O2 team, which rings alarm bells about just how much of the Sundance philosophy will be preserved. But just as I was about to accuse it being one of those ‘only-in-name' collaborations, I noticed that Redford himself (pictured) attended the press conference.

Which means he knows what the O2 is like – a massive mall with so-called ‘boulevards’ lined with faceless franchise outlet after faceless franchise outlet, and a main space that always makes me wonder when the Christians and the Lions will appear (indeed, Ben Hur was staged at the O2 in 2009, so clearly I’m not the only one).

We already have events like Branchage, the London Film Festival (even if this, like most UK-based film industry events, is a bit Brit-biased), Birds Eye, and others that tick a lot of boxes for audience and industry alike, but my instinct when I heard about Sundance coming to the O2 was to laugh at the idea.

But, if the new venture’s programming upholds the brand proposition of Sundance (with a complementary music programme to add to the authentic Americana flavour), they could really be on to something.

In retrospect, if I wore a hat, I’d be tempted to take it off and salute the imagination of the people who sealed this deal. Good luck to them.

Now, all I need is to see Robert Redford arrive at the O2 on the back of a horse saying ‘One two three go!’ and I’ll be truly converted.

Clair Chamberlain, Director, The Corner Shop PR

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