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An InTents Moment

After a whistle-stop tour around the UK, InTents popped up along London's South Bank as part of Southbank Centre's National Poetry Day Live.

As part of this summer’s poetry project Peace Camp, we launched a UK-wide schools project with over 400 students taking part. Made possible by our Learning and Participation Producer Miriam Nelken, InTents was facilitated by some of the UK’s best artist-educators, with children and young people, from the Isle of Skye to the tip of Cornwall, taking part. Inspired by the themes of love, language and landscape, groups of students wrote poems and made art installations to be explored in specially commissioned bell tents.

On Thursday 4 October, seven of the tents were brought together from all corners of the UK as part of Southbank Centre's National Poetry Day Live (NPDL). These ‘pop-up’ poetry tents formed a trail along the South Bank and delighted many a passer-by. As well showcasing their tents, the students also opened the festivities by reading poems they had created during the InTents project. This marked the first time that young people had taken to the stage during NPDL and it was so successful that Southbank Centre said they would welcome more in the future.

We thank the schools, staff, and students for wholeheartedly being involved in Peace Camp. The tents will return to their respective schools to be kept as a memento - they represent a fascinating portrait of the lives and loves of young people across the UK in 2012.


Created with flickr slideshow.

Post Date

08 August 2011


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A major trans-European artistic collaboration will be launched at the Skyway Festival in Torun, Poland, this week, before being seen at the Valgusfestival Tallinn, (Estonia) in September, and at Lumiere in Durham (UK) in November. 

Three artists – one from each country - have each been commissioned to create a work of art for the three light festivals in a collaboration given the over-arching title Lux Scientia. The three artists – Simeon Nelson (UK), Dominik Lejman (Poland) and Leonardo Meigas (Estonia) will each collaborate with a scientist and all three works will explore both the scientific and aesthetic aspects of light.

Lux Scientia aims to act as a platform for debate about how the different artists’ vision relates to the their installation in different spaces and environments, and to raise awareness of a shared European heritage, foster mutual understanding and celebrate the cultural diversity of the three countries. Each festival will hold a round table discussion between resident artists and scientists culminating in a symposium in London curated by cultural programmer and designer Mario Caeiro.

LEONARDO MEIGAS’ work currently explores the scientific phenomenon of the Hartmann Grid. His piece will take the form of a multimedia installation of ‘invisible walls’ that appear when lit. The goal is to recognize the existence of natural radiations and their effect.

DOMINIK LEJMAN’s large-scale works aim to create a new kind of ‘urban’ light-painting – a technique involving video projections onto buildings, whose façades become highly charged historical canvases.

SIMEON NELSON is a sculptor who is concerned with the interaction between mankind and nature. Collaborating with scientists, philosophers and theologians, Nelson works to connect science with human understanding of the world.

The three artworks will be presented at all three festivals, each of which is independently curated and has a different theme and focus but all of which aim to present a series of installations, projections and performances created by artists using the medium of light.  All three festivals have built a strong critical following and attract mass audiences.  75,000 people visited the inaugural Lumiere Festival in 2009, and the oldest of the festivals, Valgusfestival (Tallinn), now attracts around 120,000 people. Each festival creates a context in which the nighttime economy of their city is enhanced by the large numbers of people who come out to attend events in the streets after dark. 

The social aspects of this animation of the city are easily proved, with reductions in crime and anti-social behaviour and an increase in night-time trading.

The partnership has been brokered by British event producers Artichoke, who produce the Lumiere Festival and are well known for mounting large-scale, site-specific events such as The Sultan’s Elephant and Antony Gormley’s One & Other.  The project has received funding from the European Commission’s Culture Programme, demonstrating the power of cultural events to attract inward investment and build local economies.

You can find out more about Lux Scientia and each of the festivals at www.luxscientia.com.

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.

Post Date

02 June 2011


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Brilliant Artists for Lumiere

We are delighted to announce the final selection in the competition for local artists in this year’s Festival programme. Entitled 'Brilliant’, the brand new commissioning strand is supported by Newcastle Gateshead Initiative, and offers opportunities for people based in, or originally from the North East, to develop and produce their ideas for artworks using the medium of light to be showcased at the festival in Durham this November.  

Four ideas have been selected from nearly 60 proposals submitted by local artists, designers, students and the general public, following the open call for submissions earlier this year. The four proposals were chosen following a rigorous three-stage process, the final stage of which involved site visits and interviews with each of the finalists. The successful proposals were selected on their artistic merit, as well as how each would develop the skills of the artists involved. An essential consideration was the way they all specifically explore the use of light as a primary medium, rather than using it to highlight or illuminate something else.

The successful artists, all based in North East, will form part of the Lumiere programme in November. They include Mick Stephenson, a local builder; Dan Ziglam and Elliot Brook of product design agency, Deadgood; Paul Goodfellow, a lecturer at Northumberland University; and visual artist Bethan Maddocks working with theatre designer and visual artist Verity Quinn.

The artists will spend the time from now until the festival developing their pieces, be that working with community groups, adapting their designs to fit locations available in the festival and physically testing and creating the works. They will work closely with Artichoke who will support them in their endeavour to create their lightworks for the festival. Precise details about the each lightwork will be kept tightly under wraps until the final festival programme is revealed later this year.


Deadgood is a successful Newcastle-based British design brand, run by Dan Ziglam and Elliot Brook, who met whilst studying Three Dimensional Design at Northumbria University. The pair set up an annual regional design exhibition that promotes new design talent in the region, and deliver the ‘Enterprise in Design’ lecture
series at Northumbria University’s School of Design. Deadgood will create a lightwork inspired by a natural weather phenomenon.

Mick Stephenson

54 year-old builder, Mick Stephenson, is from Durham City, and runs a small family design and build company, Mick Stephenson Building Services. Mick, whose previous experience includes working on a local music festival and a background in audio-visual manufacturing, trained in art and design at Sunderland University. He will craft a beautiful light creation out of an everyday product that gets thrown away, in its millions, every day.

Paul Goodfellow

Paul Goodfellow is an artist-designer, and runs the BA degree in Motion Graphics and Animation Design at Northumbria University. He is a practising artist, with many years experience in computer animation, and is particularly interested in the relationship between computer graphics and light. He will be developing an installation to be sited in an empty shop at a secret location within the city. Working with graduates and third-year design students at Northumbria University to help realise the piece, this lightwork is inspired by the local versus the global and will break down barriers between technology and art.

Bethan Maddocks & Verity Quinn

Bethan Maddocks, a visual artist, and Verity Quinn, a theatre designer and visual artist, are both based in Newcastle. Bethan grew up in a small village in County Durham, studied at Durham New College and Northumbria University and now exhibits and delivers art workshops around the region. She has worked and collaborated with organisations including Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, NGI, Wildworks and Sierra Metro. Verity’s roots are in Wallsend in Tyne and Wear, she has designed and worked with organisations including Northern Stage, Newcastle, Live theatre, Sage Gateshead and  Enchanted Parks at Saltwell Park, Gateshead.

Both artists make work that creates immersive experiences for audiences. Together they will be working closely with specific communities in rural areas around Durham in order to uncover their hidden stories across generations. This will form the basis of their research to gain inspiration for the final designs of their lightwork.


Helen Marriage, co-director of Artichoke said: “In keeping with the wider programme of the Lumiere festival, almost all the local commissions are beautifully simple and original ideas. In one case, the piece was selected as a technically spectacular concept that will push the boundaries of what we know to be possible. In another, the piece will explore and portray Durham’s heritage in acknowledgement of a festival that is rich in international content but local at heart”.

Carol Bell, Head of Culture and Major Events at NewcastleGateshead Initiative said, “I am delighted to have been able to work with Artichoke on the development of “Brilliant" which is what it says on the tin, a fantastic opportunity for some amazing artists working using the medium of light, from and choosing to work in the North East to showcase their work on an national level.

“It has been a truly enlightening process, we have seen some amazing ideas and innovation, the chosen four have been selected both for the quality of their work, but also for the ability for the individuals to extend and develop their own artistic practice. I am extremely proud of the quality of all the proposals we received and of the shortlist. I am sure that the tens of thousands of people from the North East who see the results will have a great sense of pride in our creative achievements.”

Lumiere has been commissioned by Durham County Council, and is supported by Arts Council England. In 2009, the inaugural edition of Lumiere drew an estimated 75,000 people into the city over four nights, and generated some £1.5million for the local economy. Lumiere will return to Durham in November 2011 to showcase all the possible uses of light that artists can imagine. Festival producers Artichoke have travelled the world to find the most exciting and innovative installations and performances for the city’s audience. Witty, playful and imaginative - the festival aims to delight and surprise its audience and to stop people in their tracks.

Cllr Simon Henig, Leader of Durham County Council, said, “The selection of proposals for the local element of Lumiere is another milestone on the exciting journey towards this year’s festival, which promises to leave a lasting legacy for our community and economy. ‘Brilliant’ offers a fantastic platform for local artists to showcase our regional talent and creativity to a wider audience as part of a world-class international festival. It will enable the selected artists to further develop their knowledge and practice, with the support of the professional Artichoke team, and will bring benefits to the local communities with whom many of the artists will be working”.

The artworks selected for Brilliant are commissioned in partnership with NewcastleGateshead Initiative and are funded by Northern Rock Foundation. 

Post Date

29 July 2010


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There must be some French cheese around here somewhere…

The lovely Kate Harvey, site manager for The Magical Menagerie, has been stationed in a car park in the middle of Milton Keynes for 6 weeks. We caught up with her to get the low down on what's been going on.

Read on as Kate tells us about over coming language barriers, raising the roof, and the importance of food on French moral...

So, Kate, you’re heading up the team on the site of The Magical Menagerie. What’s the general mood of the camp there?
The team here is in good spirits. It was a long week last week but after a day off on Monday they’re all raring to go!
There is a team of French engineers working alongside a team of British engineers. How have the teams found working together?
When we were doing the ‘get in’ (installing the Manège) there were four British technicians working alongside the French team. They all got on really well.  There were some language barrier quirks - discussions involved a lot of hand signals and drawings. It seems however much French you’ve learned at school, no one thought to teach “forklift” or “spanner”! The teams decided to come up with their own translation manual - pictures of nuts and bolts with the translations in French and English written next to the diagrams. This is now stuck on the wall for reference!

We’ve since been joined by a team of UK stewards now working alongside the French team, but we’re pretty international: there are Spanish speakers, Russian and Uzbek speakers, Polish Speakers as well as French and English.

Have you noticed any main cultural differences between the teams?
The main difference is the lunch break. The French team couldn’t understand the English technicians who didn’t take an hour for lunch!  Food is very important to French morale.

Any bonding stories you could share with us?
During the get in I asked the French team whether they had any problems or if they needed anything. There were two queries. The first related to how to wash greasy overalls in a town that doesn’t seem to have a launderette.  We managed to find a man who washes the overalls for the Grand Prix team who came to the site and collected it all for us. The other concern was where to buy French cheese. The head technician was so pleased when he’d found the Waitrose cheese counter.
Tell us a little bit about the three weeks of building the carousel. What was the process like and what challenges did you come up against?
The carousel arrives in nine trucks and is assembled over two weeks.  Gradually the site builds up from a mere fenced off area of the car park to a full production area with electricity, offices, a water tank, workshop and the ever important portaloos.

When you create a new site, the first challenge is the address for deliveries. Most delivery companies are a bit confused by being given a car park as an address. Even with sat nav, they don’t believe you.

For the first 10 days or so the animals and insects were all stored in crates around the site - they looked like they’d emerged from a long sea voyage.  Slowly but surely during the two weeks the structure took its shape from chalk marks on the ground to a level platform.  The roof raising was quite an exciting moment – we had to make sure there wasn’t too much wind as it’s quite a structure to lift.   After the roof went up, the carousel really grew before our eyes with new elements and insects being added each day.  The moment it first turned was so exciting; you could see it all come to life.

How do you think the people of Milton Keynes have responded to The Magical Menagerie?
I think that the appearance of a carousel in the car park has surprised a lot of people. There are a lot of questions from passers by asking where its come from, how old it is, and what age you need to be to ride it.  I think they’re surprised that it’s a ride as appealing to adults as it is to children. Everyone who has been on it has really enjoyed themselves, quite often they comment that they haven’t had that much fun in years.
   What delights you most about the carousel?
  I love the fact that all the creatures are so individual, they all have their own characters.  It’s great to see people’s faces transform as the ride starts and they get to bring their creature to life.
In your opinion, why should people come to ride on The Magical Menagerie?
The menagerie is a beautiful thing to see and watch. The imagination and skill of the designers and makers can literally transport you to another world.  To get the chance to ride on the back of a giant buffalo, making his ears twitch as you see flying fish rise to the roof above you, or to ride on the back of a huge blue beetle while making his legs run underneath you, are experiences you’ll never forget!
 And lastly, how do you unwind from a long day on a busy site?
I’m on site from 10am to about 9pm each day so normal life has pretty much come to a standstill for the time being!  My day can include anything from managing on site staff, answering queries from members of the public, or searching Milton Keynes’ engineering shops for a joint for a buffalo leg.  At the end of the day, I look forward to some food and a glass of red wine, hopefully without falling asleep at the table!

Post Date

17 July 2010


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Mad Songs and Crazy Hair

It’s been two days since The Magical Menagerie opened. We’ve had VIPs galore come for a ride on the carousel – Adrian Evans, the director of the Thames Festival; the great and the good of Milton Keynes, including the Mayor and Monica Ferguson, the director of IF: Milton Keynes International Festival; and even a delegation from Senart, the town who originally commissioned the Menagerie (then known as Le Manege Carre Senart).

But what we haven’t seen thus far is a pair of Spanish street performers with crazy hair, or an operatic duo singing their lungs out in the middle of a car park. As of tomorrow, though, all that will change as Osadia (pronounced ‘Os – ah – dee –ah’) and Operaplayhouse (no, it’s not a typo) descend on The Magical Menagerie.

The selection of these two companies for our Sky Sundays’ entertainment was the result of collaboration between IF: Milton Keynes International Festival and Artichoke’s director Helen Marriage. They wanted to invite companies who were, first and foremost, fun. Helen had seen Osadia in action and thought that they were marvelous and batty and very original. Bill Gee from IF brought Operaplayhouse to the table, adding a touch of comic culture to the proceedings.

We think that they will complement each other, and the Menagerie, really well, as if we’re holding a mini-Festival in the car park! A bit smaller than Lumiere, or IF, but hopefully perfectly formed.

Do you think you’ll come along for one of the Sky Sundays? It’s a 241 deal , so what with that and all the free entertainment going on, do you really need to think about that? And to those who have already had a ride on The Magical Menagerie; what did you make of it?

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