Enchanted Parks 2015 – a memorable feast

This is a funny old time of year – for some of you, you may be lost in a haze of Christmas cheer, cheese eating, seeing family and others, like me are back at work for a day or say, before off again and then boom – it’s 2016!

My job in Gateshead Culture team (and outside of) means I work on back to back projects and back to back events – hence I can almost steam roller through the entire year without really thinking about what I’ve been a part of. Also, I think with working in events and culture is that you’re always planning a head. And for you guys, attending cultural things – there is SO much going on, that it’s impossible to see everything, so blogs like this can be a great way to recap on what you’ve missed.

This festive period I’ve been spending the afternoons, scrolling through my IPhone, looking at the amazing things I’ve been a part of and attended and I think my favourite, might be Enchanted Parks! This year, Enchanted Parks was part of our Sculpture 30 festival with our December Sculpture 30 artist of the month, Steve Newby exhibiting possibly one of my favourite sculptures of all time, but Enchanted has a long history before that.

The seeds were sown for Enchanted Parks in 2006 when artists NVA delivered NewcastleGateshead’s first international festival of light Glow across NewcastleGateshead; establishing Saltwell Park as an outdoor after dark venue for contemporary art which has blossomed into a much loved, sold out and anticipated installation trail.

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Over the past nine years of Enchanted Parks, (Enchanted is 10years old this year – Happy Birthday!) we have commissioned and presented 78 professional pieces of site-specific outdoor artwork in Saltwell Park, the vast majority commissioned especially for the event. We have engaged with schools and community groups in the development of many of the artworks as well as directly commissioning a further 27 pieces of artwork from students; opportunities for students on this scale are few and far between, so we are lucky to have Enchanted Parks in that respect.

A huge network of people, artists and organisations make Enchanted possible every year, including Gateshead Culture Team. We specifically support the development of Enchanted Parks directly through NewcastleGateshead Initiative support and officer involvement in the commissioning process and site planning. We also support the community engagement aspects of some of the commissioned artworks.

This year Enchanted Parks, ran from 9th December – 13th December and was based around the story of Alice in Wonderland but with a twist; Alice – now all grown up and 20 years old (although, as you can imagine, in her topsy turvy world it’s taken her 150 years to do so) – is visiting the Wailes family at Saltwell Towers. When I say with a twist; she ends up in “Alice’s Night Club” at the end – so the story was certainly a modern day fairytale!

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Me at Enchanted Parks 2015

This blog post is for those who saw Enchanted Parks this year and want to look at the pieces again and for those who didn’t manage to go and even for those, who are yet to discover the after hour’s sculptural magic!

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Fire Garden by pa-BOOM

As you can see from the above photo, this year Enchanted was made all the better with festive snow – it really added to the atmosphere.

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Fire Garden by pa-BOOM

On both nights I attended, it was raining, so The Garden of Fire piece, made an almost hypnotising hissing sound, as every rain drop hit the fire.

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The Cardsmen by Cocoloco

All around this year’s trail were the storytellers, who were dressed up covered in cards, guiding attendees on their way.

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Tick Tock – WildStrawberry

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Tick Tock – WildStrawberry

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Tick Tock – WildStrawberry

The appearance of so many clock installations reminded me of the rabbits “I’m late, I’m late!” in the original story by Lewis Carroll. Each clock piece was set back and constantly changing; they looked beautiful on the night but ever so difficult to capture a good photo of them.

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The Watcher May Enter by Chantal Powell

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The Watcher May Enter by Chantal Powell

The above installation I believe represented entering into a new and strange world for Alice, as everything from this point, got very other worldly. This installation was very atmospheric!

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Alice Through The Letterbox by Stuff and Things

This was the first of many talking letterboxes; you had to press the mushroom on the top for it to spring into action. Each story and monologue was in Alice’s voice (well the ones I listened to were anyway) and they complimented the surroundings and the story.

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Ask Alice by Richard Broderick, Gilly Rogers and Carol Alevroyianni

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Ask Alice by Richard Broderick, Gilly Rogers and Carol Alevroyianni

The Ask Alice piece felt like walking into a circus and being unsure of what was behind the entrance. Once through the doors, I found magical mirrors that made me look tall, short, fat, thin and everything in between. The mirrors went down a treat with the little kids and adults alike with giggling filling the air.

There was also video installations of a family 21st birthday, which i’m assuming was Alice’s!

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Sweetie Beautiful – costume designed by Gilly Rogers

Still part of the Ask Alice piece, walking through the party, I bumped into this beautiful lady cupcake, an eccentric friend of Alice; her official name was Sweetie Beautiful and she was played by actor Jacqueline Philips! I was very jealous of the outfit – good enough to eat; she seemed delighted to have her photo taken when asked!

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Saltwell Towers

This year Saltwell Towers installation was a lot more understated in comparison to 2014, but it was equally magical and it was about at this point, I decided to venture inside and join the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party for some delicious treats.

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Inside Saltwell Towers

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My Smile by Aether & Hemera

Walking around the Park, there were lots of hidden Cheshire cat smiles in the trees and bushes.

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Queen of Hearts by Stephen Newby

This piece, by Stephen Newby, our December Sculpture 30 artist of the month was absolutely spectacular visually. To describe it crudely, would be to say it was a giant disco ball in the shape of a heart, rotating. It was mesmerising.

The giant heart reflected light across the rose garden and there was a loud beating heart sound to accompany. As a regular festival goer, I think a piece like this, would be fantastic at Bestival, where Sculptural art work is a common part of the festival experience.

Stephen Newby on 9th December, met a troop of school children, from St Joseph’s Primary School in Gateshead and talked about his sculpture practice, his inspiration for the piece and Enchanted Parks as a whole. This is a crucial part of Enchanted, to engage with children in their early years, capture their imagination and demonstrate the importance of visual creativity as part of their learning.

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Journey Through the Tunnel by SDNA

The above piece represented a magical journey and there was lots of visual representation of nature.

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Chess Board by Stuff and Things

Once emerging from the tunnel, we stumbled upon this chess piece and another talking letterbox….

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Clock of Hearts by Tweddle and Gumbley

This floating sculpture, in the lake showed, the clock striking 13 creating a sense of urgency, as Alice is rushing around the lake.

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Veils by Lola Muance (from France)

We were then brought to a very abstract sculpture, representative of the different portals Alice could go through into different worlds and parallel universes…

The next major piece was the interactive Alice for iTernity by Katja Heitmann (from Netherlands). Participants were invited to hold up white boards, to move and find Alice, who was being visually projected and continuously moving.

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Alice’s Nightclub by Mick Stephenson & Stu Langley

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Alice’s Nightclub by Mick Stephenson & Stu Langley

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Alice’s Nightclub by Mick Stephenson & Stu Langley

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Alice’s Nightclub by Mick Stephenson & Stu Langley

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Alice’s Nightclub by Mick Stephenson & Stu Langley

The final big pieces, were called Alice’s Nightclub. Very similar to approaching a real night club, approaching the piece, the familiar music echo could be heard. The piece was lively, although static and yes, I did have a quick disco, it felt appropriate.

The whole piece was made from reclaimed plastic bottles and lighting. It was fantastic. We then moved on to inside the club, with wooden sculptures, that weren’t a million miles away from Sculpture Day creations. Visually very impressive.

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As our journey ended and Alice’s too, there were a final few clocks, that reminded us that in this world time has no meaning!

So that’s Enchanted over for another year and I have to say – it was a fantastic year. If you’d like to read up about the story or find out more about particular artists, visit here!

Over and out!

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