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  • Miles Hedley

COLAB 2021 online at Trinity Laban

Updated: May 2, 2021

Lockdown has scuppered the sheer visceral excitement that artists and audiences share in any live performance, forcing creatives to look at other ways to generate a sense of community, engagement, immersion and mutual reward. And for an object lesson in how best to do this, you should look no further than CoLab.

The annual Trinity Laban festival of experimentation, innovation, improvisation, contrasts and collaboration is usually able to rely on a heady mix of fabulous artistry, eclectic programming and thrilling performances to make it a cultural high point of any year.

But lockdown meant no live audiences and thus posed an entirely new question for artists: How do you connect with a public who will only be able to watch you remotely?

TL’s roster of talent largely solved the problem by combining their formidable technical prowess with a visual skill that saw them produce dozens of compelling and often leftfield performance films that came close to capturing the wonder of the live experience and absolutely nailed the diversity of artists, themes and vision for which the conservatoire is justly renowned.

There are currently almost 50 short films available on the YouTube channel CoLab TV featuring musical styles that range from the Baroque to the 21st century via romanticism, folk, grand opera, jazz, flamenco, Afrobeat and heavy metal as well as political invectives featuring sexual and gender issues, the climate emergency, Covid-19, mental health, isolation and the horrors of Trump. I can’t recommend them highly enough.

If you don’t have time to watch them all, here – in no particular order - are my ten favourites:

Olá Akíndípè’s exuberantly joyful Yorùbá Groove, the almost-as-funky piano and splendid pale blue socks of Feet, some beautiful Duke Ellington-inspired harp in Sheet Music: Overrated. Virtually, the brilliant crockery percussion of Kitchen, the laughter, dancing hands and melodica of Soundpainting, the Broadway-style love story at the heart of Coronavirus: The Musical (which also features a terrific Boris send-up), a taste of Black Sabbath and some dazzling rhythmic talking in Our Art Of Fugue, a challenging but fascinating display of contemporary classical by the Asynchronous Music Ensemble, a glorious medley of traditional songs such as Randy Dandy O with Folk Lab (pictured above on the TL channel) and the quite simply gorgeous strains of Blackbird.

The other three dozen film are also marvellous. And although they may never replace the all-encompassing pleasures of live theatre, they a pretty fine substitute. You can watch all or any of them for the next few weeks on YouTube at

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