—Arshia Simkin, The Underline
At FlushFest 2023, which takes place on June 3 in Hillsborough, you might find people taking selfies with toilets. This is because FlushFest—a “funky, homemade music festival,” organized by local independent filmmaker and poet Grace Beeler, is all about the importance of promoting global sewage solutions.
FlushFest first debuted six years ago, in 2017, when Beeler wanted to bring awareness to an innovative sewage system in Brazil. At the time, Beeler was pursuing her Masters in International Studies at NC State with a focus on water and sanitation and she wanted to highlight Brazil’s “Condominial sewerage” system that was serving urban slums a lower cost and with more efficacy than traditional sewage systems.
The festival came about serendipitously: after shooting the footage for the documentary, Beeler needed funds to finish editing and producing it. Her neighbor, Peter, Beeler explained, said, “I’ll throw you a music festival. He is a piano player and piano technician and works on restoring antique pianos and he knows a lot of musicians.” With that first successful FlushFest, which was held in her neighbor’s backyard, and which employed donation-based admission, they raised enough money to finish the film. “It’s been going to festivals and they show it at conferences and its being used as a MOOC at UNC,” Beeler said.
Beeler was inspired to continue spreading the word about the efficacy of Condominial sewerage and does so through a non-profit she founded called After the Rain, and through the non-profit’s keystone project, the “Appropriate Sanitation Institution.” Addressing global sanitation, Beeler explained, is especially important because with improvements to sewage solutions come improvements in health outcomes, such as reduced diarrhea in children. “When you solve the global sanitation problem…it really can improve a lot of lives at once,” Beeler said.
FlushFest takes place from noon until 11 p.m. and this year, the festival will have three stages and four food trucks, including Jamaican cuisine, pierogis, tacos, and barbeque. “There’s going to be some amazing music happening. We’ve got music from around the world and from North Carolina too,” Beeler said. Performances will range from “Brazilian Sambasoul” to “Bollywood Funk,” from “Congolese Marimba” to “Swamp Jazz.” The highlight, Beeler said, “is silent film with live piano. And we don’t just do Charlie Chaplin. We’ll have a Buster Keaton this time and then some old films you’ve never heard of.” It is Beeler’s neighbor, Peter, who first proposed the festival, who plays the grand piano as accompaniment.
There will also be many activities for kids, including face-painting, balloons, bubbles, and tie-dying. “It’s super homemade,” Beeler said. In the past, Beeler said, she has made a “toilet shaped piñata” and “last year, the box fort was a hit.” “It’s super low-tech,” Beeler said, but that’s where the charm is for her. “For me, FlushFest is a really fun, community-building day…and it’s an opportunity to help people around the world.”
- Follow FlushFest on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Flushfest2022
- Follow FlushFest on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/flushfest23/