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Tour de Moon: Interview with Dr Nelly Ben Hayoun

Image: Dr Nelly Ben Hayoun by Siqi Li for Financial Times

Tour de Moon, the spectacular celebration of nightlife and creativity, is about to roll into town this weekend from Friday 27th - Monday 30th May, promising a raft of interesting diversions including talks, music, art and much more.

It’s a groundbreaking nationwide public festival of immersive live events inspired by our ‘universal satellite’ – the Moon, seen as a character, a landscape and a prompt for radical imagination.

The event is curated by Dr. Nelly Ben Hayoun, an award-winning director and designer of wondrous experiences! Here, she tells us about her inspiration behind creating this unusual event.

In your own words, what is Tour de Moon?

Tour de Moon is a festival that celebrates nightlife and youth countercultures across the UK and beyond.

Tour de Moon is an invitation to take part into a collective experience that seeks to consider and test different modes of interactions between ourselves, our environment, the moon and the cosmos. At Tour de Moon, everything is transforming from a night to the other, there are no set scripts and we change actors, scripts and everything from one place to the other. We are always fluid and always moving, jamming as we go along.

Where did the idea come from?

We were looking for a character and a landscape to develop and inspire new conversations about our futures. The moon was the perfect universal landscape for us to prompt radical imagination. We than developed the various strands accordingly and in conversation with youths and our advisory board members.

The Moon acts as our blank canvas where anything is possible. It’s where things don’t just appear as they are, but also as they could be. 

Nightmares, hallucinations, visions or fantasies all make our experience of nightlife unique. Outside of the traditional confines of daylight hours, there is space to use radical imagination to forge new possibilities. 

The Moon centres all of us on this journey, acting as a confidante, but also facilitating true reflection and clarity. 

How excited are you to show people what you’ve been working on?

I am thrilled that members of the public are now able to experience the show. Of course, it is a live experience, so everything is changing and always different, it needs fine tuning and quick adaptation and that is what I love about the live element is that nothing is set in stone and we can gather feedback as we go along to fully exist in the unexpected.

I do not want to hear a member of the public say that it “reminds them of this or that”. I know we are onto something when they leave the space and they are like “what was this?” as they want to know more....and they are inspired to seek for more. Teasing people's curiosity is my greatest passion, that and working with youths who every day teach me new interactions with our worlds.

How long has it taken to put together? How many of you have been working on it?

More than 18 months now. All together with the bursaries we have about 1,000 people who have been involved with the project since the start, from suppliers to crew to advisory board members to youth reporters.

Image: Moon Convoy

What are you most looking forward to?

I am hoping that Tour de Moon will lead to reconsideration from policy makers to fund and support youth centres and nightclubs, further moving forwards and understand them as places of both culture and postcolonial education.


What made you choose Newcastle as one of your 3 cities?

From an initial 11 locations identified in project development, the Tour de Moon core team and advisory board pinpointed Southampton, Leicester and Newcastle as the optimum locations in terms of:

a) Audience access (18-25 year olds, nightlife artists and audiences)

b) Breadth of geographic distribution

c) Diversity of demographic profile

d) Number of nightlife locations

e) Accessibility to academic or industrial STEAM expertise

f) Deprivation indices

g) Level of Covid-19 relief funding for nightlife and cultural sector

What do you think Newcastle will bring to the event?

Its people! And its creative energy!

Will you be visiting Newcastle during the event?

I have! A few times and I will be there installing the show!

How would you describe Tour de Moon in 3 words?

Experimental, challenging and alien!

Find out even more about the activities taking place across Newcastle in our Everything You Need to Know About Tour de Moon article


Image: The Characters of Tour de Moon- renders by Ben Wheele- Graphics by Manana Kobakhidze- creative direction Nelly Ben Hayoun studios-copyright Tour de Moon

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