Tour De Moon is The Revolutionary Festival Using Outer Space to Deconstruct Social Injustices

'A festival committed to plurality, decolonial practices, social justice, solidarity and equity'. [@NellyBenHayoun]
by SOPHIA HILL Jun 1, 2022

Having worked alongside musical greats such as Kid Cudi, Bobby Womack, The Prodigy and Damon Albarn–born in france of an immigrant family from Algeria and Armenia, Dr Nelly Ben Hayoun-Stepanian–designer of phantasmagorical and sublime experiences, is taking our ever-shifting world of music to the realms of outer space.

NASA’s collaborator for the past decade Dr Nelly Ben Hayoun-Stepanian Dr Nelly Ben Hayoun-Stepanian is manufacturing the impossible. For the last decade, she has gone on to create spaces for members of the public to witness “a rocket lift-off in their own living room”. From the dark matter that can be found in your kitchen sink’ to the sonic boom that can be created in your bathtub. An pioneer in every sense of the word: a filmmaker; a creative director, founder of NASA’s International Space Orchestra and the tuition-free charity University of the Underground; Vice-Chair of the Technical Committee on the Cultural Utilisation of Space; a member of the IAF Space Education and Outreach Committee, and the International Academy of Astronautics and Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence committee. 

This year, she has been working alongside a team of over 90 individuals to bring us the Tour De Moon festival – all of whom are “working together to build a festival committed to plurality, decolonial practices, social and racial justice, solidarity and equity”. A festival curated through a deep-rooted passion for avoiding the mistakes of the past and putting this knowledge into practice, and conducted in such a way that can be the foundations for a platform which creates room for any form of imagination (aka radical imagination).

“A festival curated through a deep-rooted passion for avoiding the mistakes of the past and putting this knowledge into practice”

Move over Burning Man. This festival is designed to bring a whole new level to dismantling the status quo. Walking around this festival you might experience obscure music made by moths through white noise all the way from space and collected by telescopes. And if it wasn’t tricky enough to wrap your head around it all, the festival curators have also introduced the idea of Moon Bounce, where new artists have been sending music to the moon. Yes, you read that correctly. The moon. This music will then be sent back as radio waves which is used to DJ, for example.

This form of deconstructing norms within event curation and beyond allows room for young artists to design a novel system to support each other through inter-connectedness and conversation. All of which is entirely free to access. And according to Nelly, the baseline of any role within production is founded on the importance of having a beginning, middle and end to the event. That’s why this particular unorthodox event focuses on the acknowledgement of different values and ideas. All of which are built on the fundamental idea of transformation in a way that can be understood through the phases of the moon – a permanent state of flux and transformation. 

While the event is putting all of this into action – the core legacy is that it will allow those involved to carry on such contemporary perspectives and giving young people the means to bring their ideas into fruition. Redistributing a part of their funding back into grants so that they can support counterculture being the idea or way of life which opposes or reformats the prevailing social norms within a society. A step away from the short-term solutions which have carried on for generations and establishing foundations for a strong community that can snowball into something incredibly powerful and global in thought. 

“The core legacy of the festival is that it will allow those involved to carry on such contemporary perspectives and giving young people the means to bring their ideas into fruition”

The festival is in fact located specifically in areas that would benefit the most from such forms of artistic expression. Identifying three locations across the UK. “We identified that for us the focus on location was about deprivation, not just about where our audience could be, but where had experienced a lack of COVID recovery and recovery funding specifically from governments,” Nelly explains. As part of the Unboxed shortlist, Tour de Moon received funding from UK Government and redistributed more than one million pounds of its funding back into artist bursaries. “Part of the commitment we’ve made is that we want to acknowledge the past and so we recognise we come from a history of colonial heritage and therefore it’s essential for us to redistribute wealth,” she says. 

Over 800 bursaries were allocated to emerging artists aged between 18-25, as they identified young artist communities that were particularly impacted by COVID-19. “In all honesty, one million pounds of bursaries when you put it together with more than 800 recipients – it doesn’t add up to a huge amount. So it’s not like we’ve resolved the situation for creatives in these towns and cities,” she adds, “however it is a starting point to bring them to the front of national and international debates, and also to give them a platform.” 

The first take-over took place in Leicester in May and you can now expect to see the crew over in Newcastle starting from May 27 for a four-day take over before heading over to Southampton and finally coming to an end with a street party at the Pedro Youth Club in Hackney, East London, on June 16 2022. The festival itself will initiate events ranging from Moon Experiences, Moon Live and Moon Cinema to Moon Games, Moon Press and an AI-powered Moon Hotline. Anjali Prashar-Savoie , one of the former student from the University of the Underground, who also works on the Tour De Moon team and is in charge of the moon press also talked about her side of things. She has created a monthly zine which is released on every full moon, centring a plurality of voices from artists of any medium. Never stagnant, always changing.