31 Jan A festival set up….
The summer of 2017…we added a new event to our busy summer agenda and tried out ‘Noisily’ on top of Glastonbury, Latitude and Boomtown. A ram packed summer started with the pack up in Ireland, a major undertaking to prepare for 2 months of events with the annual midgie attack hitting at the height of pack up stress. Anyone who’s experienced the biting midges (not small people) the insect kind, in West Cork, you’ll know they can wreak havoc to bare skin. Whilst being munched by insects there were three vehicles and two trailers to be made road legal. Three tons of plants loaded onto a specially made trailer. A truck bed loaded with moss covered Pods, twisted metal, bog wood sculpture and stone. This is not set design. These are probably the most impractical materials to travel and transport for the shear weight! But in my mind people want to see and feel the real thing. The first of the convoy left to await us at Glastonbury site. Its always a tense period, waiting for news of the trucks arrival, as our history of breakdowns in earlier years nearly out does our breakdown free journeys; sculpture stuck under bridges, wheels flying off on the motorway, brake hoses going and a fairly guaranteed blow out every year.
The day the next vehicles were due to leave, I received a message from Glastonbury site informing me that a crane on site had gone through the roof leaving a gaping hole in the cab of the truck. It wasn’t the kind of vehicle issue I had expected but fortunately the rest of the convoy arrived without any issues…
The build began in a roasting 33 degree heat. It felt as if we were wading through hot liquid with the labour becoming a sheer slog. People watched us while slumped in any bit of shade they could find. Filling ponds and the prospect of a large body of cool water seemed to keep us going. The contrast of the hard work creating a large installation alongside people who’s expectations are of shear hedonism and a good party, often clash. But that crazy energy mixed with an awe inspiring set up also create the drive to create something awe inspiring, and when you witness the pumped up crowd come across the installation for the first time, this is when it really creates something special. As a holistic piece of work it does not come into its own until the people are a part of it. The people balancing over the bridge fooled by the illusion of deep water, and drawn towards the mysterious entrance of the Pod from where music drifts and people are cosied up inside. People are transferred into the fantasy of the space and then so become a part of it.
There is of course the other side. This is where people come to numb their minds and become idiots and truth be told you don’t want them any where near the work you’ve put your heart and soul into even if they do just want to go and hug the sculpture.
I started creating at festivals because myself and partner Jessica have always loved a good party and my work evolved to fit outdoor spaces. The festival installations began in 2002 with my bringing a small sculpture into Glastonbury festival in the back of a van and asking an organiser if I could set it up. The reply was – ‘yeh sure, set it up outside my caravan’. In a field the sculpture looked dwarfed, so in later years it grew. That organiser is still running the field where we set up these installations.
The aim has always been more permanent garden spaces, where the plants can thrive around the sculpture, with a view to integrating permaculture with the structures.