By Tania Herbert

In a time when it can be difficult to even turn on the television without a sea of racist vitriol, what a blessing to be able to witness diversity in all it’s forms coming together in Outer Urban Project’s Melbourne Festival work Urban Chamber – Beyond.

Outer Urban Project - Beyond

Our thematic host for the evening, poet Komninos Zeros describes himself as a “submerging artist- submerged into a sea of emerging artists”, and we are introduced to two dozen very special (mostly young) people who hail from every continent of the globe.

There’s nothing like a confident, smiling young person telling you “you are all my family” to get a warm buzz to begin an evening, and although initially feeling a little like attending a school concert, the smooth transition of artistic piece after artistic piece soon convinced the audience that they are in the presence of a particularly unique and talented collaboration.

Based around the notion of ‘Home’ as a place and a feeling, Beyond uses a massive range of creative presentation to explore this issue, and explores concepts of age, culture, and diversity to remind us that we are all different, and we are all the same. Beat box, rap, stomp, contemporary dance, classical, poetry, lyrical – and a couple of other things that defy categorisation – were appreciated both together and separately, and the merging of people and genres was inspirational.

Were there flaws? Sure. We’re speaking about young people with varying degrees of training and professional experience. But was there an abundance of talent? Absolutely.

As a not-for-profit organisation, Outer Urban Projects includes amongst its values both respect and courage. I am not quite sure what these guys do to nurture such a warm, engaged, respectful and brave group of young people, but I certainly did appreciate the opportunity to be witness to the outcome.

Whilst it’s a short run of only two nights for the Festival, I would recommend keeping this mob on your radar, as if you are looking for an opportunity to really connect with your art or support a wonderful art-based social cause, this is a great place to start. It may not be one of the showiest pieces at Melbourne Festival, but Beyond really does encapsulate the spirit of the best of Melbourne – diverse, different, and truly welcoming.

Urban Chamber – Beyond ran at the Melbourne Recital Centre on the 25th and 26th of October (6pm and 8pm), and do visit the website for more info and check out your options for supporting this lovely initiative.