July 20 2019 marks 50 years since Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first landed on the moon. The anniversary might pass many people by, but not Livia Filotico, who has spent the last two years conceptualising Greenwich’s inaugural Moon Festival: a week-long programme of events ‘encouraging Londoners to get outside, meet one another and take time to appreciate the natural beauty of the moon’, writes Holly O’Mahony…

It’s been two years since Livia quit her job in arts marketing to become a full-time creative producer with plans to create a large scale interdisciplinary festival. It wasn’t long afterwards that she has her first meeting with local authorities to talk through her visions for a festival celebrating the moon.

“I’ve always been a fan of the moon because it is a free, simple pleasure that everyone can think about in a different way,” explains Livia. “I wanted the festival to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, which happened in 1969.”

Livia was given the go ahead, and next set about engaging with the local community, trying to understand what the moon meant to them – or whether they even thought about it at all. “The first thing I did after making the decision to run the festival was to ask people all around Greenwich whether they cared about the moon,” she recalls. “Where the answer was yes, I asked why. Where it was no, I asked how we can make it relevant to them.”

Together with Words of Colour Productions, Royal Borough of Greenwich and Better Libraries – and funded by Arts Council England – Livia visited libraries, squares, community centres, coffee shops and more, to collect people’s stories – gathering a total of 350 thoughts and tales relating to the moon.

Fast forward to July 2019 and the festival programme is complete, encompassing all sorts of things: panel discussions, storytelling evenings, a ‘vibe under the moon’ club night, a moon-themed quiz, and a moon-lit run and yoga class. The acclaimed novelist Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale, has even been brought on board as a guest speaker, delivering a keynote lecture on ‘The Moon and Magic’ as part of an evening of talks at Greenwich University.

“Different events will suit different folks,” muses Livia, when asked about the diversity and breadth of the festival programme. “Maverick Women and the Moon [at which Margaret Atwood is speaking] is for fierce women exploring alternative ways of relating to nature and culture. Sunday is for families: from the moon in poetry to the moon in science with Maggie Aderin Pocock, all the way to a moon-themed pub quiz,” she says.

“Late Night Moon Yoga is for wellbeing conscious Woolwichites, Nepalese Soul is for anyone who loves partying till the early hours of the morning and the Posh Club is for over 65s who fancy themselves a bit of a special night out.”

At the heart of the festival, Livia explains, is the moon as a symbol of human diversity. “We live in divisive times and I firmly believe in the human need to be connected to the places they live in and the people they share those places with,” she says. “Moon Festival is about getting people out of their house to celebrate something they all have in common, no matter how different they are.”
Thankfully, with so many elements of the festival to organise and coordinate, Livia has a large team of creatives and fellow moon enthusiasts working with her. What’s more, Moon Festival has provided both jobs and training opportunities. “Over the past 12 months, the platform has grown beyond our wildest expectations, allowing us to train 20 young creatives, consult with over 350 individuals, and work with over 20 partners and at least 50 artists,” she gushes.

Is there anything particular in the line up Livia is particularly excited about? “I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am to keep Woolwich up late on July 19,” she grins. “The offer is simple: come to a moon-themed street party and stay on for the first ever WoolwichLate, a programme of late night events all about celebrating the moon, culture and London nights the way we love them: diverse, inclusive and utterly eccentric.”

Equally thrilling, for Livia, is the panel discussion on humanity’s rights to the moon, where a politician, a lawyer and an artist are being brought together to discuss our legal, ethical, artistic and political rights on what is essentially a glowing rock in space. “And of course, I am beyond thrilled to welcome the icon that is Margaret Atwood to Greenwich University,” she beams.

For Livia, the desired outcome for those attending the first ever Moon Festival is simple. “I hope that before going to bed that night, they take a minute to look up,” she says. “If you think about it, nothing else in the world has ever generated as much culture as the moon. We’re living in strange times and a festival centred around something we all have in common can’t hurt.”

Moon Festival is taking place in locations across the borough of Greenwich. July 19 – 26. Admission: varies depending on event. www.moonfestival.co.uk/