It’s 10:30 am on a Wednesday. The founder and CEO of the wildly successful GLOW BATTLE TOUR sits in McCarran International Airport awaiting his connecting flight towards San Francisco. He is also anxiously awaiting the next GLOW BATTLE event scheduled for December 16th in Pershing Square, and just so happens to coincide with the release of a small, art house sci-fi flick that’s currently drenched in hype and fan-boy drool. His phone rings. The interview with Kevin Bracken, creator of Glow Battle Tour begins.
What is this Glow Battle thing all about anyway?
KEVIN BRACKEN: First and foremost, Glow Battle Tour is about fun. The message of our events has always been: “We are reclaiming public space”.
At our very first lightsaber event, we gave out fifteen hundred cardboard tubes. The event was a disaster. Over four thousand people showed up! We didn’t have close to enough materials, and we felt that we let our fans down. You can’t have a glow battle without the Glow Sword! It occurred to us that we needed to get people to reserve swords online in advance. Despite that hiccup, there was an overwhelmingly positive response through social media, and our fans really showed they not only wanted more of this but wanted more of it in their towns and cities all across America. People loved it and said, “HEY WHEN IS THE NEXT EVENT”? I mean, we really “caught the bug”. We had completely underestimated the public’s demand for this kind of thing!
“reclaiming public space”
Can you talk some more about that?
KEVIN BRACKEN: I saw The Gates in Central Park and knew I had to make massive art project somehow. I knew I wanted to use outdoor space to make something. I am a huge fan of Christo and Jeanne-Claude and I think I just had to find a way to make the idea my own. Glow Battle really sprung up from that. Creating something that takes place in a public space, that is accessible to a large amount of people, that is free, and that encourages group participation was the goal. I thought to myself: “How can I put on these shows with no money”? I had a very intense sort of “ lightbulb” moment, this very real epiphany, and it was my mind saying: “Get thousands of people to be your art”. We started with “Capture the flag” in a financial district in Toronto. Then it was International Pillow Fight Day. That was really popular.
So, you were talking nostalgia? selling the experience of being a child to adults?
KEVIN BRACKEN: YES. You take a favorite childhood activity, remove it from its suburban setting, and place it in an urban setting. I mean really big urban squares or city centers. The Pershing Square people have been amazing. They’ve been so helpful with coordinating, planning. They have really gone above and beyond when setting up the events. All the folks over at Washington Square in Greenwich Village, New York, have been some of the most accommodating, and resourceful humans I’ve encountered on my journey with Glow Battle up to this point. They’ve been instrumental in my quest to turn public parks into “big urban living rooms”.
HOW DID THE OFFICIAL STAR WARS franchise FEEL ABOUT YOUR IDEA?
KEVIN BRACKEN: I started Glow Battle Tour originally as “Lightsaber Battles” way, way back in 2007. I was one hundred percent inspired by what kids do for fun. So, what do kids do? Kids play in fields of grass and seem to be getting the most of life while investing very little financially because, well, children just don’t generally have money. Kids fight with cardboard tubes. Tubes become swords, then to lightsabexrs. STAR WARS’ official twitter was very active in promoting the events whenever they popped up. Well, they were in support back in 2011, anyway. Earlier this year, we got a “cease and desist” letter from LUCASFILM LTD. They had an issue with the name, and so, we changed name from ‘Lightsaber Battle LA’ to ‘LIGHT BATTLE TOUR’, and that wasn’t good enough so we had to negotiate with LUCASFILM LTD in order to find a solution, and we came up with Glow Battle Tour.
You’re obviously a huge Star Wars fan, did it hurt when they turned to…the dark side?
KEVIN BRACKEN: YES! And honestly, I thought they (LUCASFILM LTD) were going to crush my baby that I had worked so hard to build. I’m still super excited for ‘Rogue One’ next month! All the court proceedings have made me and our team sort of feel like the rebels to Disney’s empire. I hope that this summer will be more ‘Return of The Jedi’.
You live in Canada. What’s different about Canada then the US?
KEVIN BRACKEN: I’m actually originally from New York. I ended up moving to Canada right around the time Iraq war started. AFTER 9/11, there were military police all over Manhattan. I felt like I was living in an occupied territory. I think America responded very poorly to terrorism, whereas in a place like England, they took an approach that said; well, we aren’t going to change our whole fundamental way of life, but we are going to be smarter. America didn’t exactly follow their model.
The timing of my move simply couldn’t have been better. Toronto is roughly forty-nine percent foreign born, meaning nearly half of all residents are people born in different countries. Toronto is larger than Chicago with one-sixth the homicide rate. People try to explain away the differences in crime rates with things that shift the blame towards the victims of the crime itself. The hard truth is that is that only investing in the community will cause crime to go down.
What does the future of GlowBattle look like?
KEVIN BRACKEN: Over time with glow battle and pillow fights, we are shifting towards a more charitable end. We partnered with ‘Sleepy’s’ earlier this year (mattress company) in order to raise money for basic supplies for homeless kids in NYC transitional housing facilities. We have a message, and we are still making art, but we are geared towards charity in 2017. We’ve also recently partnered with the Make-a-Wish-foundation as well as Dare2B, which is a youth homelessness relief organization. Proceeds from this battle will benefit the families of the Oakland warehouse fire victims.
If you weren’t building real life adult playgrounds, what would you be doing?
KEVIN BRACKEN: I can’t imagine doing anything else, and now that I have transcended the “why”, I’m on to the “how”. Just like everyone else, I am trying to fulfill my purpose. This is why I moved to California. If I’m here on earth for a reason, it is to do event planning.
Glow Battle Tour is headed to DTLA’s Pershing Square…Reserve your Glow Battle Sword on www.glowbattletour.com