Stuart Langley; an artist lighting up the world one installation at time…

So I’ve had a full weekend of Culture Vulturing – I’ve been all over the place to galleries previews, to live painting, to workshops, to Christmas markets, to the theatre, to Lumiere Durham and I can tell you, that it has given me a total Monday spring in my step.

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Giant Slinky – End Over End at Lumiere Durham

It has filled my soul with such lushness and all feels great in the world of the Culture Vulture, today on this glorious Monday. Lumiere Durham was of course, a total highlight…. I mean…. WOW! I LOVE Durham at the best of times, but with light installations, sculpture and projections around every corner, I fell in love with it more. So after Lumiere Durham, catching up with Stellar Projects ahead of Nightfall AND hitting up Light Up North’s residency launch at The Biscuit Factory on Friday eve – my world is presently #lit with my love for light installations so it just feels like the perfect time to share this interview with one of my hands down fave light artists, Stuart Langley.

Stuart Langley is one of many artists creating a BRAND new light installation art work for Nightfall 2019 (last few tickets still available for this lush outdoor event in Teesside) and he is someone I’ve fangirled from a far for ages. I’ve had the absolute pleasure of championing his work, programming his work, I’ve even got slightly drunk at a Curious Arts auction and purchased his work and across 2019, I’ve worked with him multiple times. It’s funny in the freelance world – folks like Stuart, whilst I’ve only met a couple of times in *real* life, due to ongoing projects, I speak to him more currently than some of my mates.

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Stuart Langley

Stuart is a graphic designer, maker, installation creator and neon rule breaker…. His light installation pieces are just amazing. I knew from the moment, he created a toilet with a neon rainbow coming out of it, that he’d cemented his place on my top fave artist list. AND he’s a local lad from Hartlepool, big up the North creating work on a National (and International) field.

I’m BEYOND excited to see his new piece at Nightfall – I’ve seen the mock up drawing of and I know where it is going to go – it’s epic, it’s brilliant, it’s colourful, it’s ambitious….it’s VERY Stuart Langley.

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So without further ado…. Let’s hear from Stuart!

Hi Stuart, we’ve had this interview on the cards for ages…. So let’s get down to it for my readers; who are you and what’s your practice?

I’m Stuart Langley and I design, create and imagine things with lights and that.

Standard Culture Vulture question…… tell us about your journey into the creative arts?

I’ve always created – from making model rollercoasters and stop motion animation as a kid to being able to create big installations nowadays. I didn’t do a degree in the arts (I ended up doing Japanese and French), not even a GCSE, because I was always told being creative could only ever translate into a hobby. I ended up doing a foundation degree in graphic design and worked (and still do) as a graphic designer which gave me the confidence to imagine on a big scale.

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Amusements – Stuart Langley

It’s so bizarre that folks don’t believe that there is a career possible in the creative industries and that message is still being communicated….Your pieces are really interesting, some have a ‘Langley flare’ and others are completely different in style…. Where do you get the inspiration from for your pieces?

Anywhere and everywhere but anything that holds my interest for longer than a day or so is always worth developing.

Tell me about your involvement with Nightfall 2019?

For Nightfall, the plan is to create a piece that is going to reanimate the iconic aviary space which is very exciting but kinda intimidating as it’s a space I’ve wanted to do something in for ages. I’m just one of a number of commissioned artists that are going to be turning Preston Park into a magical moon themed escape for two nights in December.

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Hartlepool Art Gallery – Stuart Langley Solo Exhibition

Tell us a little more about your piece? What was the inspiration?

So the iconic Aviary is going to be filled with about 3,000 floating iridescent butterflies that should look a little like magic. The work is inspired by a moment: at the end of July this year I looked out of the window and saw hundreds of butterflies everywhere – I was having a shit day and it made me smile.

Apparently, painted lady butterflies make an annual 7,500 mile trip from Africa to the Arctic Circle every year and 2019 just so happened to feature a major pit stop on the Teesside coastline. So, thinking about extraordinary journeys in the sense of 2019 being the anniversary of the first moon landing, the aim is to create a piece which celebrates a magical journey of the natural world.

Why should folks get tickets for Nightfall 2019 and see your piece?

First off, for a one-of-a-kind and memorable trip out on a cold December evening, it’s a bargain. Plus, there is so much going on in the programme, there is bound to be something for everyone to enjoy – not forgetting the appearance of the iconic ‘Museum of the Moon’ by Luke Jerram which is surely reason enough to get tickets.

There feels a real buzz around culture and events in Teesside at the moment – do you feel that too?

Yes – Teesside and its people, have so much resilience, humour and creativity. It’s good to be the underdog and so many organisations (the Auxiliary, Pineapple Black, Platform A, Navigator North, Creative Factory etc etc) are proper flying the flag for creativity in the North East. There’s a ridiculous myth that art happens down South and although there is a higher concentration of cultural activity down there I think Teesside is able to put a completely different spin on things.

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Neon and That – Stuart Langley

I couldn’t agree more and In Teesside you see that real unique partnership work of Indie galleries and orgs working together with the more “traditional sector players”….you don’t often see that. Back to your work, you often create outdoor art pieces that require real technical knowledge to survive the elements – do you enjoy the creative challenge that creates?

To say that I create things is a bit of a fib. I’m fortunate to work with so many other people with so many different skills and knowledge and the success of a piece is always reliant on the quality of the collaboration. It’s essential to collaborate when you’re coming up with ideas for outdoor pieces as there are so many different factors to consider.

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Over – Stuart Langley

Tell us about your involvement with Curious Arts (who will also be popping up at Nightfall!)?

Being a gay lord myself, I think it’s important to support work that champions the outsider and increases visibility of LGBTQ+ comrades. Curious Arts are doing some really ground-breaking work in terms of making the arts part of a wider drive for equality and I’m always happy to play a small part in that.

(The Culture Vulture adds – Following the success of Start’s installation ‘over’, featured as part of Curious Festival 2016, Curious Arts reconnected with him to reimagine the World AIDS Day ribbon. Curious Arts challenged Stuart to create an artwork inspired by the World AIDS Day charity ribbon to reinstate its distinctiveness in ensuring visibility for the 36.7 million people globally who are living with HIV & AIDS.

36point7 saw the creation of 36.7 of Stuart’s neon light box, available for a minimum donation of £360.70 each. Curious Arts’ ambition is that each limited edition piece will be displayed in a visible public area for a minimum of two weeks annually – National HIV testing week and the week of World AIDS Day (1st December). In addition, a large touring piece is in development which will be accompanied by a programme of workshops and talks delivered in partnership with local HIV & AIDS affected communities. I purchased one of the smaller Light boxes for £360.70 to support the project)

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Do you have a fave piece that you’ve created? If I had a gun to your head and you had to pick one?

I’ve never had a gun to my head, a few other choice implements but never a gun – so that’s quite difficult. I am never happy with the work I put out – it’s a feeling a lot of other creatives have – there’s always something that could have been done differently to improve the end result. But staring down that loaded barrel, there’s a work I keep revisiting called VHS R.I.P. (the fourth incarnation of it was shown at Pineapple Black earlier in the year, the first version was shown as part of Nuit Blanche Brussels way back in 2014) which has a very exciting mix of subject and material: video tape, horror and light. Maybe being obsessed with films like The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth and The Never Ending Story as a kid has something to do with my love of VHS and wanting to give it a proper send-off/funeral but it’s also nice to think of defunct technologies like absent friends and do right by them through celebration.

LOVE that answer….Tell me about the toilet with the rainbow coming out of it?

I’m a big fan of the work of people like John Waters, David Hoyle and more recently the artist Christeene. They all promote the idea of revealing and celebrating the beauty to be found in the dirt; ultimately highlighting the ridiculousness and hilarity of modern values that try and push us towards glazing over the more unsavoury and carnal aspects of our existence. So, the rainbow in a bog considers a lot of these ideas as well as being a direct response to some of Bobby Benjamin’s work which I thought looked a bit like the insides of a very healthy and active bowel.

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Rainbow in a Bog – Stuart Langley

Tell me about a fellow artist that inspires you currently?

I went to see Christeene perform Sinead O’Connor’s The Lion The Witch and The Cobra at the Barbican recently and loved how feral and honest her performance was. She has so much drive and ambition and never apologises for being so intense and direct – her energy is inspirational and I hope one day I can take my own work to a level where it might have a positive impact on other people’s lives.

Any advice for future creatives?

Just make stuff.

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Two Hearts – Stuart Langley

You don’t really do much social media – which blows my mind – how do you champion yourself and your work?

I came off Facebook in 2013 or summat and have since ditched everything else, most recently turning off Instagram. There was a time when what you experienced and what people told you directly mattered most and whilst there are some really good things about social media I personally think it adds too much noise, distraction and negativity to our lives. Maybe I’ll turn it back on in a year or so when all the commissions dry up from lack of presence on the internet.

Well, if you need a social media “representative” look no further! Do you have a highlight of 2019 so far?

I’m working on two big projects at the moment – the Nightfall installation and something for Ushaw College in Durham so fingers crossed I don’t fuck it up…

What’s next for Stuart in 2020 – anything you can share?

All buns in the oven for now but I would really, really like to make a ghost train before I pass away…

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Cars – Stuart Langley

Can I be one of the first to ride it please? Thanks Stuart, an artist who inspires me and reminds me that my dream of having a house full of neon art work to dance around near, on a Friday night, is more possible than ever before. See, all you folks planning your families and lives and I’m planning when I can afford a Langley commission, with a Light Up North commission and a Dan Cimmerman….

To see Stuart’s new commission at Nightfall 2019, why not nab one of the last few tickets available….. I’m so excited to see it in person! You can’t follow Stuart on social but he does have a website…so you can check him out there!

NOVAK from VJs to world class projection design: Bringing light to spaces and places through projections…

I’m currently working on Heart of the House – a joint collaboration commission between The Cultural Spring & The Customs House to celebrate 25yrs of The Customs House. I first put myself forward to work on the project at the beginning of Summer 2019….and I pretty much pestered The Cultural Spring until they gave me the gig. But that’s how excited I was about this happening in the North East.

For those of you, that don’t know – Heart of the House is a FREE outdoor visual spectacle designed by the world-class team at NOVAK that is on across 25th, 26th & 27th October on the side of The Customs House, running continuously from 6pm-10pm. It’s a total must see and experience.

More info on Heart of the House and FAQs can be found HERE.

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NOVAK have designed a 10minute long projection that will be rolling continuously across the night on the outside of the Customs House building celebrating the building’s past and present, and you’ll be taken on an enchanting journey of nostalgia, fun and illusion.

Expect to see everything from ship building and coal mining to music and performance with South Tyneside icons and pantomime characters popping up. The projections will feature the history, cultural rebirth and legacy of one of the most famous buildings in South Tyneside.

Of course, I love the folks at Cultural Spring and all their projects and events are ace – but it was certainly the NOVAK link that really got me excited. I love their work, I love their innovation, I love their humbleness, yep…I’m An unashamed NOVAK super fan……And they are one of MANY North East creative businesses that exist in the region that are absolutely flying and doing work on a global scale.

NOVAK specialise in motion design and create projections, art installations and stage visuals for music artists (Shawn Mendes!) and video for theatre performances. NOVAK has had work featured across the world at some of the most highly regarded arts festivals, including Lumiere and music festivals including Glastonbury and Coachella. NOVAK also created the stunning visuals in The Cultural Spring’s past commissions RUSH and WordPlay.

 

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Festival of Light – Southampton

I’ve experienced NOVAK at both light festival events, special moments marked with a projection onto a building and of course, stomping and dancing the night away at a festival and yes, Dippy at Great North Museum. At Dippy whilst everyone else, was of course, enamoured with Dippy the main star – I was blown away by NOVAK’s animation and the beauty of the interpretation on the walls. I kept telling random strangers – “now THIS is how you engage families in a museum!”. Their technical brilliance and detail is inspiring….. and you can experience it too at Heart of the House!

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Dippy

I’ve always been fascinated by motion design, digital art and projection….. I think because it’s just not my skill set and beyond me – to me it’s so magical! I remember watching the H&M Amsterdam store opening in 2010 and just being blown away. A building actually brought to life!

Anyway – back to NOVAK – I’ve wanted to interview the NOVAK lads for ages and working on Heart of the House presented such a good opportunity. I even blagged an invitation to their studio – very exciting. In between, their several big commissions alongside Heart of the House, Adam – the studio Director kindly let me interview him.

But before, we go into the interview – you need to watch their show reel which gives you a taster of their work; the quality and ambition of it.

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Lumiere London

Hi Adam, let’s start at the beginning – What is NOVAK?

NOVAK is a creative studio based in Newcastle upon Tyne that specialises in motion design and immersive installations with a big emphasis on projection design.

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How did it all start? What was your journey into creative industries?

It all started in the night clubs of Newcastle. All of the members of NOVAK met through VJing at local clubs and from these encounters we started to gig together which naturally progressed into greater collaborations.

A notable one of these was our AV show, 3D Disco, which we toured the world with for a number of years performing in Australia, Canada, Nigeria, Vietnam and everywhere in between!

During this time we started to develop other creative outputs, including projection mapping which has become a key part of what NOVAK is today. We have created projection mapped artworks at variety of locations, including the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, the Singapore Art Museum, Durham Castle to name but a few.

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Royal Pavilion in Brighton

Wish I’d been around for 3D Disco….I’d have been alllll over that? So you’ve created work for Cultural Spring before with Rush and Word Play; can you tell us a bit about that?

On both of these shows NOVAK, in collaboration with Southpaw Dance Company, designed and produced all of the projection content, which was integral part to both shows.

Rush in South Shields was the first project that we worked on with Southpaw Dance Company and we have since then gone onto collaborate with them on many more projects including shows as part of Hull City Of Culture and Greenwich and Docklands International Festival.

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HideOut Festival

What is Heart of the House (from your perspective!)?

It is a joyful celebration of the many art forms and creative practices that are at the heart of The Customs House.

How did you get involved in Heart of the House?

We were invited to tender for the project.

What can audiences expect from the projection onto the side of The Customs House?

The artwork depicts a variety of art forms and creative practices; each with its own very distinct and colourful look, all of which will transform the facade of the Customs House into a something that has never been seen before!

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Ohhh gosh – the NOVAK superfan within me is already getting excited! So what about the making process and the groups you’ve filmed to create the projection?

Key to the Customs House is the community and the different people and groups that engage with it. To reflect this, we have worked with various groups, including the Youth Theatre, the Indian Classical and Bollywood dancers, the Customs’ Breakers, amongst others, which will all feature in the projection.

When you run with an idea like Heart of the House, projecting onto a building, are there moments when you don’t know how you’re going to realise your vision? Projecting onto a listed functioning building must create some interesting challenges!?

It is always a challenge when creating a work to be projected onto something that was never designed for that purpose, but a combination of experience and some new technologies allows us to understand how things will translate onto the surface of the building.

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Newcastle University Freshers Week 2014

Well if anyone was going to do it, you folks are certainly the ones to make it happen! What would you like audiences to take away from watching Heart of the House?

A sense of joy and wonder!

Tell me about some other projects you’ve been working on? Enchanted Forest?

Most recently we presented a new work at Leeds Light Night called ‘Pleasance’, which was a 35 meter long ground projection. And presently we have another new work showing at Enchanted Forest called ‘Constellation’ which is a projection onto a water screen located in the loch in Faskally Wood, near Pitlochry.

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Pleasance – Light Night Leeds 19 (Photo: Rooster PR)

Advice for folks wanting to get into the world of digital arts, outdoor arts and animation?

Always strive to do something original and don’t always look in the obvious places for inspiration.

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Flux – Newcastle Central Station (Photo: Rich Kenworthy)

Highlight of 2019 for NOVAK?

Very hard to say, as nearly all of our projects this year have been a lot of fun; they have been varied from presenting a digital artwork in Newcastle Central Station to projection mapping the National Theatre in London. Designing projections as an accompaniment for Dippy’s visit to the Great North Museum was certainly a high point this year as well as being quite a departure from our normal works.  We certainly expect that we will look back at Heart of the House and see that as one of the highlights!

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National Theatre – London

Absolutely! So post Heart of the House….What’s next for NOVAK in 2020?

Before we get to 2020 we have other projects to present after Heart of the House, including a projection on the inside of Doncaster Minster, which we are really excited about! As for 2020, early in the year we are collaborating again with Southpaw Dance Company on a new show in London, which will be really spectacular! Plus lots of others that I can’t talk about just yet!

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Constellation – Enchanted Forest

Well on that note of anticipation – that’s it from Adam and NOVAK. Heart of the House is going to be a beaut of a projection and is your chance to see NOVAK in action doing what they do best  – lighting up a building with a really special and innovative projection whilst capturing the past, present and future of the building.

You can view the projection ANY time 25th, 26th & 27th October between 6pm-10pm. The projection lasts 10minutes and will be continuously rolling so Heart of the House is a drop in. You can also head inside Customs House, see the Customs House Elmer inside and take in celebratory banners co-ordinated by The Creative Seed, made with various South Tyneside community groups and schools.

More info on Heart of the House and FAQs can be found HERE.

I’m now off to plot how I can persuade NOVAK to bring back their 3D Disco…..

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Enchanted Parks 2016; “Love me or hate me, both are in my favour!”

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I can finally get down to writing a post about my visit to Enchanted Parks. For those of you, that don’t know what Enchanted Parks is, it can be summarised as NewcastleGateshead Initiative and Gateshead Council’s popular after-dark arts adventure in Saltwell Park, Gateshead. This year it made a welcome return from Tuesday 6 – Sunday 11 December.

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The theme and concept behind this year’s installations were inspired by the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, taking visitors and participants on an intriguing journey through Saltwell Park, where a hidden manuscript found inside the Towers unleashed a strange kind of magic, as ‘A Midwinter Night’s Tale’ slowly came to life.

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I visited several times across the week, with very young children, primary school groups, older adult community groups alongside a whole host of groups of friends, so I really experienced Enchanted Parks through the eyes of lots of different demographics of people. This is the first year, I’ve had the opportunity to do this and it really added to my own personal experience, seeing which pieces captivated particular people and the infectious excitement of viewing again and again, with individuals that hadn’t seen it before.

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St Joseph’s Primary viewing The Eternal Debate of the Unconscious Mind – Alise Stopina

Like many social media’aholics, I take an interest in what other people are saying about their cultural experiences, as part of the process of reflecting on my own. I was really shocked but also very interested to read the extent of negativity towards this year’s Enchanted Parks.

The whole reason Enchanted Parks has steadily grown from strength to strength, year after year, is that it’s something different, it invests into student artists alongside National and International artist commissions, it innovates, it takes risks and it creates an experience. It is not a commercial entity or a cash cow lights event; it is an art walk….the art is shockingly, I know…at the heart of that. Each piece has its own story to tell, has been specially commissioned and brought together within a curated experience.

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Enchanted Parks brings people who love art and culture like myself, alongside other people who may not engage as regularly with art, side by side to both enjoy and appreciate a magical experience. Whilst we each may take very different things away from it, for example I look at the glass piece thinking in complete awe knowing the processes behind it, whereas my mum, who is not particularly into art at all, simply thinks she’s had a lush night and thought the glass piece was ‘beautiful’.

One of the brilliant things about art and culture is the fact it provokes a reaction, an opinion. With an event that evolves, changes, transforms year after year, it is expected that certain years are considered “better” or more to a particular taste than others. It is also, perfectly acceptable for people to walk away and think – “that wasn’t really what I thought it was going to be” or “I didn’t really get it”. These opinions are completely valid and interesting in their own right – that’s what the artists want!

I remember having a chat with well-known Sculptor Colin Rose, and he was flicking through gallery book feedback during his exhibition at Gateshead Central Library. As always lots of positive comments, some colourful and several that just said “how is this art?”, “this is rubbish” etc. I obviously, apologised for those types of comment and was a bit embarrassed. However, Colin said it was these comments, he most enjoyed because if he was creating something that everyone thought was “good”, “nice” then what was the point!? It’s like a beige buffet – it’s ok, I’m not excited about it, I wouldn’t complain but I wouldn’t rave about it……..who on earth wants something they’ve created to be a “beige buffet”.

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You want to evoke something in someone and if the reaction you evoke, is that someone wants to express “it’s bad” or “disappointing” then that is great because firstly, it’s a reaction and secondly at the other end of the spectrum, many people will think it’s brilliant…..this year’s Enchanted Parks certainly did that and I think it’s a sign of a job well done. Different people from all walks of life, had entirely individualistic experiences.

This year’s Shakespeare theme was abstract and conceptual which allowed for visitors’ ideas and imaginations to run wild. I really enjoyed the storytelling through Shakespeare’s themes from the stories we all know (some better than others). I thought the thematic approach actually made it far more accessible to all ages and demographics, as you didn’t have to engage or follow a specific story or have a certain level of knowledge about Shakespeare. It wasn’t even linear story telling – again this suited me as I was really able to enjoy and appreciate the pieces for what they were, how they made me feel, making sense of them instead of trying to fit them into a pre-conceived narrative.

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Engagement is a two way process; this means you must be willing to be open minded, fluid in your expectations and interact with the exhibits and pieces. Enchanted Parks is not simply walking through the door with the perception of “right…..entertain me!”….. you have to be willing to create some of the magic yourself, spend some time appreciating the exhibits, buy into it, share your experience around with your party. It’s an immersive experience in which you let go and encourage others to do the same.

The first piece as you walked in, the projection on Saltwell Towers was called A Forgotten Treasure and was by Roma Yagnik and Chris Lavelle. It’s hard to capture a piece like this on a photo…..but I’ve tried….

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A Forgotten Treasure –  Roma Yagnik and Chris Lavelle.

A Forgotten Treasure set the scene for your enchanted Midwinter journey through Saltwell Park, starting with the discovery of Shakespeare’s diary, uncovering the existence of a long-lost work. This piece was a very traditional Enchanted Parks piece that we’ve all come to know and love. Lots of colour, 3D projection work and amazingly visuals.

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A Forgotten Treasure –  Roma Yagnik and Chris Lavelle.

This is unsurprising given that Roma is a Newcastle based composer of music for film, animation, television and theatre. She has a diverse client list including BBC, Sky, EMI, Universal, Unicef, Open Clasp and Tate Britain and has had music performed, recorded and broadcast internationally. Roma is part of 2016’s BAFTA crew. Roma worked with children from St Joseph’s primary school recording their voices and reactions which were layered onto the projection.

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A Forgotten Treasure –  Roma Yagnik and Chris Lavelle.

The second piece was called Ignis Fatuus – Faery Magic and was by ArtAV. This piece represented fairies (think Midsummer Night’s Dream) giggling and whispering in the trees, whilst running amok and mischievously darting from tree to tree, their brightly coloured fairy dust clear for all to see.

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Ignis Fatuus – Faery Magic – ArtAV

ArtAV are digital artists, producing complex multidisciplinary works involving interactive video, lighting and sound. They specialise in the fields of 3D projection mapping and pixel mapped video. This piece was a real crowd favourite, as whilst it was subtle in its appearance, it had the effect of enabling visitors to walk into a fairy world almost accidentally and suddenly being surrounded by the sights and sounds. It was extremely effective.

The third piece was Forever and a Day by Impossible Arts. Impossible Arts are known for creating intriguing digital arts works that capture the imagination with interactive and participatory elements. Their interactive piece at Enchanted enabled individuals to have their faces projected on to big screens whilst mouthing the words of famous Shakespearean lines.

Forever and a Day – Impossible Arts (St Joseph’s Primary School faces)

For most families and groups, this was a highlight – seeing their faces projected led to loads of giggles! The St Joseph’s group that I went with, although nervous at first to have a go, were soon at the front and absolutely howling with laughter at each other contorting their faces for specific vowel sounds and later seeing the finished projection. I thought this piece worked so well, full of interaction and it was lush to hear all the giggling.

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Follow your heart to Saltwell Towers and we did……..with the forth piece The Eternal Debate of the  Unconscious Mind by Alise Stopina. These pieces were subtle and complimented with beating heart sounds. To me, this explored the theme of love in Shakespeare both from a romanticised feeling sense, but also in the brutal, heart break and the realism of the hearts depicted something to me, which spoke of violence and humanism. Love sometimes feels like having your heart ripped out of your chest and exposed for all to see.

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The Eternal Debate of the Unconscious Mind –  Alise Stopina

Alise Stopina is a 2nd year student at the University of Sunderland, the Glass and Ceramics department and I think the quality of this piece, and other student pieces really evidenced loud and proud about creative and art’s students this year standing shoulder to shoulder in concept and visual quality with the National and International Artists. Her pieces were fantastic and the piece was one of my favourites!

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The Eternal Debate of the Unconscious Mind – Alise Stopina

The next piece viewed on the trail was the Enchanted Talking Posts by Shared Space and Light. On all occasions of visiting, I was able to stop off just before this point in the trail and purchase an obscenely big hot chocolate, covered in cream and mallows which made standing and taking in the pieces a little bit more brilliant.

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Amazing hot chocolate

The lamp posts with their discourse, banter and insults were very typical of Shakespearean comedy – frenemies one minute and sworn enemies the next. They evoked lots of giggles from the crowd and I loved their expressive faces – as someone with a very expressive face, I really embrace the inability to hide any sort of emotional feeling because my face contorts and speaks volumes.

The next piece was often I noticed slightly overlooked by passers-by……it wasn’t really hidden, but for whatever reason, people walked passed it. Not sure why – as it really stuck out to me! The piece was called The Song of Time and was by Natsumi Jones, another Sunderland University student.

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The Song of Time – Natsumi Jones

The colourful nightingales danced, twinkled and appeared in like a curtain format. It spoke to me about the fragility of people and love; slightly obscured by the trees made me think of something intangible that is so beautiful, that we can’t really quite understand or touch.

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The Song of Time – Natsumi Jones

Following on to Enchanted Echoes by Stuff and Things; this was an immersive sound scape at the top of the Dene draws audiences in, creating a sense of mystery and intrigue, magic and uncertainty. For some of the adults that I visited with, this was their favourite piece but it was also one of the ones that was quite negatively talked about on social media.

Enchanted Echoes – Stuff and Things

I found it beautiful, entirely innovative and something completely different from previous years. It was the true definition of an immersive, multi-sensory experience. As someone working on a Digital Arts project currently, I’m extremely interested in sound influencing experiences, perceptions and visuals. You can see the exact same images and visuals, but different sounds added can make things feel and seem very different. The soundscape was new to Enchanted Parks and I hope it is something that is weaved into future performances.

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Enchanted Echoes – Stuff and Things

This year Enchanted Parks welcomed back Steve Newby with a new piece Rough Magic under a new professional name Studio Vertigo . These flashes of lightning worked fantastically well alongside the Soundscape, drawing the audience further into the Dene and into a storm. The pieces together made me predominantly think of King Lear and the madness during the storm but also thematically about the conflict and emotional wars in McBeth and Richard III.

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The third piece in this mix was Storm by Output Arts; a collaboration between artists Andy D’Cruz, Jonathan Hogg and Hilary Sleiman who create artworks that are powerful, emotional and memorable working primarily, but not exclusively, with sound and light. This installation was like walking into the eye of the storm, under the storm clouds and then out the other side, with the storm and conflict left behind and dispersing. Again, I was drawn to think of the moment in King Lear where Lear is wandering the heath and the character Edgar who plays a mad man, is his company  – the storm whilst not the beginning or the end of the story, feels like some kind of conclusion so the story can move on and the characters can grown.

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Storm by Output Arts

The next installations were a collection of pieces and sculptures under the collective name These Words Take Wing by Richard Dawson. Lots of papercutting and sculpture was used to bring these magical manuscripts to life.

These Words Take Wing – Richard Dawson

Richard is an artist based in the North of England and works in various mediums especially three dimensional and sculptural pieces often with kinetic elements and created from recycled materials. His pieces were so diverse and different, that I assumed they were actually made by entirely different artists. Each piece was so delicate, beautiful and thematically different. To me, the pieces each spoke of story-telling by very different means; the books, the words, the stories, the characters all were brought to life, very cleverly.

These Words Take Wing – Richard Dawson

Feedback from one of the little boys from St Joseph’s primary was that “the art is good – I like it. But he’s very naughty for cutting up books – what if someone wanted to read that book, they can’t now!”. Hehe – still makes me laugh and is in fact a very good point.

Larger than life, the beautiful red and white roses lined the Cherry Tree Walk; a memory of the bloody battles of the War of the Roses. This installation was called A Rose By Any Other Name by Cristina Ottonello; a designer, educator and public artist, specialising in the construction of large scale and temporary installations for public spaces and events. These oversized flowers were a perfect photo opportunity and looked visually amazing. I read more into the piece, thinking about warring families and how from those troubled factions and difficult times, something beautiful can bloom.

A Rose By Any Other Name by Cristina Ottonello

Love, Rivalry and Magic! by Daniel Rollitt, a University of Sunderland student, was what Mary Berry might call the “showstopper” piece. It depicted a scene from one of Shakespeare’s most popular works, where love, rivalry and magic meet in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The layering of the glass, the colour and the fact that visually as you moved around the piece, it slightly changed and offered a real depth. I loved it.

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A Rose By Any Other Name by Cristina Ottonello

Again, my appreciation for this one, comes more from working with glass artists and knowing how bliddy hard it is to work with glass. I’ve got several coaster attempts on my desk at work which highlights this. I worked really hard on them, but they look like a five year old did them. The time, the skill, the patience behind this piece, is just mesmerising.

A piece I had the privilege of seeing stage by stage before the final installation was The Book of Shadows by Bethan Maddocks . Bethan worked with community arts groups, paper cutters and Oakfield school on elements of this piece.

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The Book of Shadows – Bethan Maddocks

Within the bandstand, sat a giant magical book, waiting to be discovered, waiting to be read. Its large pages were delicate paper-cuts of scenes frozen in time. Participants were encouraged to pick up a torch and shine onto the piece, which projected stories through shadows. There was a lot going on within this piece – hanging witch trials, animals in nature, floral scenes. Fantastic, entirely unique, beautiful and interactive.

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The Book of Shadows – Bethan Maddocks

The final piece, was also the last student piece; ‘Exit, pursued by a bear’ by Jonny Michie, University of Sunderland. Take your leave exit stage right as directed by Shakespeare himself, pursued by a bear – a giant, glass bear. I wasn’t 100% sure of this pieces’ connection to the Shakespeare theme – but it was still one of my favourites and a warm way to end the show.

Exit, pursued by a bear – Jonny Michie

A roving piece was Nyx by Gijs van Bon. If you don’t know which piece this was – it was the robot writing glow in the dark quotes. Letter after letter the glowing text poured slowly out of the machine and made its way slowly around the park.

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Nyx – Gijs van Bon

Audiences were both transfixed on the quotes themselves, but also the robot and how it was operating. I could have happily watched it all day. Again, another really innovative, exciting and unexpected piece!

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Nyx – Gijs van Bon

So Enchanted Parks 2016 – you were a beauty and a really different experience. Please continue innovating, doing something different and creating a magical, unique and often unexpected experience for all. We are so lucky to have an event like this in the North and I’m buzzing for next year already!

If you loved it, like me –see you next year. If you didn’t like it this year….well keep an open mind because next year, it will be completely different again, a different experience, story and installations. Remember Art is supposed to make you think, question, reflect and feel – so if you came away doing any of those things, well Enchanted Parks smashed it out the park (literally).

Nobody wants a beige buffet.

All my love – The Culture Vulture.

 

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!