At the beginning of this month I was given the opportunity to help set up an arts event at local Victorian park, Saltwell Park.
Enchanted Parks is an event that happens every year in Gateshead. Part of the 55 Acres of land that Saltwell Park has to offer, is turned into an outside art exhibition. It opens after dark, allowing the public to follow the lights around the magical route.
The setting up of the park began two days before the first event night, and there was a lot to do. There were 15 art pieces altogether, 10 of them coming from commissioned artists and the other 5 from students at local university’s. Ever the pessimist I was pretty sceptical that it was going to be complete in time.
I arrived at the park at about half 8, where I met the other volunteers and after a quick cup of tea and a health and safety briefing I was given my first job, collecting benches from around the park. Unfortunately these park benches were like most benches you find in parks, made of steel and extremely heavy. It took five of us to lift one bench, these were then put on a trailer and taken to be placed in front of a large screen, ready to create an outdoor cinema for the “Dive in Movie”
The “Dive in Movie” was a piece by the group Lines of Desire. It’s a twist on a Drive in movie, but instead of sitting in parked cars the audience were instead offered park benches and pedalo swans. Yes, you read right, pedalo swans.
The swans came out of the parks own lake, but the poor things were in a sorry state. Submerged in the middle of the frozen lake, stained green with algae and covered in bird poo. After emptying them of the stagnant water that had filled them over the months, and scrubbing them with many a scouring pad the swans looked as good as new.
The swans had to be decorated but by the time were cleaned and moved to their positions it was starting to get dark so we called it a day.
We had achieved so much more than expected on day one that day two of work experience was just spent covering the swans with glitter and fairy lights, and putting final touches on the overall piece.
Day three it snowed. A lot.
On the morning of my third and final day of working at Enchanted Parks I was sent out with other volunteers to help out artist Molly Barrett, who was in the middle of putting together a huge structure by the name of “Pisces”
Our job was to cut long strips of cardboard, roll them up and pack them into tin cans, ready to be covered with paraffin and set alight. Cutting and rolling cardboard is surprisingly hard work, especially out in the bitter cold but eventually we decided to assign a job to each of us, so one volunteer was cutting up cardboard, another rolling, and we had the job done in no time. The rest of the day was spent helping out in various different ways such as spreading out wood chippings and making sure everything was in place for the opening night.
Helping out was an absolutely amazing experience. It was great being able to work alongside various artists and pester them with questions about their idea process and past work experiences.
Going along to the event night was great. It was interesting to see the work I had helped set up really come to life, as well as seeing the other pieces I hadn’t seen during the set up days. Unfortunately my camera phone pictures really don’t do any justice for some of the pieces, but here’s some photos regardless