Saturday, August 22, 2009

Things to do in Northamptonshire - Arts Fresco

This is a review I wrote after the 2008 Arts Fresco in Market Harborough, slightly edited for this blog. I might update or re-review if we make it to this year's Arts Fresco event! As with some of my 'Things to do in Northamptonshire' posts, this event isn't actually in Northamptonshire, but it's within fairly easy reach (20 minutes or so's drive from Kettering). Market Harborough is in Leicestershire, very close to the Northamptonshire border. Anyway, here's last year's review:

Arts Fresco
The seventh annual Arts Fresco in Market Harborough was billed as 'an extraordinarily fun celebration of innovative street arts and spectacular entertainment,' and promised 'the best street artists from around the world.' I was interested to see whether the mental image conjured by the phrase 'street artists' – that of poorly made-up clowns juggling (I hate clowns, and hate juggling) in the midst of talent-deficient buskers with signs asking for donations of cat food – could be dispelled and replaced with something more rewarding.

When we arrived a little past midday everything was in full swing and the small market town was already buzzing with activity and atmosphere. Our route into the town centre took us past the Joules clothing store, a major sponsor of the event and host of the Traditional Seaside. A large sand pit in which a host of youngsters (and not a small number of oldsters) were hard at work with buckets and spades sat next to a man with green/blue hair and a boat on his head and a collection of deck chairs facing a stand which played host to some traditional performances by Punch and Judy, recreating a scene from a 1950s postcard.

Wandering on from surely the country's furthest inland seaside resort, we I came across some people with very strange hair, and Fairly Fresh Fish – a pair of cheeky-chappy East-ender fishmongers encouraging young and old to pet their dancing prawns and converse with a gooey eel emerging from its jelly jar.

Spying a conspicuously parked caravan a short way on, we went to investigate. It turned out to be a mobile exhibition displaying snapshots of British life with a slice of humour, a dollop of irony and a light dusting of satire. There was also somebody with an exceedingly odd hairdo.

Working our way past a small collection of craft stalls (and more people with odd hair) we came across a crowd of people. Politely squeezing our way through to a decent viewing position, we finally found out where all the strange hairstyles of the day were coming from: Osadia. These wildly dressed (and blue-skinned) Barcelonians were inviting audience members onto their stage and turning fairly normal hairstyles (in most cases) into extraordinary, one-off and, frankly, bonkers works of art.

Other artists worthy of mention include the fantastic Oxbridge undergrads Artizani punting (yes; that's the boat-and-big-stick method of travel) down the high street; fantastically charismatic and talented Goronwy Thom (who has turned my view of jugglers on its head); a pair of enormous seagulls terrorising anyone with a bag of chips; Jon Hicks, who produced a stunning pair of larger than life portraits of Freddie Mercury and Elvis Presley before our eyes; and Circus Box, the all-day circus school for children of all ages.

If you haven't been convinced by my review so far, let me add that the day's entertainment was absolutely free (apart from the pizza for lunch and the obligatory ice cream), and there wasn't a burger van or glow-in-the-dark-paraphernalia-salesperson in sight: this was all about art. All in all, it was a packed and enjoyable day out. We didn't leave until after the roads had re-opened and the street artists were packing away, yet we still hadn't seen everything. I'd encourage anyone who may be even remotely interested in this kind of event to keep an eye open for next year's Market Harborough Arts Fresco and put the date in their diary as soon as it is announced*!

More info

* Sunday 13th September 2009, 12am - 5pm