AND Festival

The blisters have just about healed, the aches in places I didn’t know I even had still subsiding and my multi-tasking skills well and truly exercised after the whirlwind of chaotic brilliance that was AND Festival 2011. Otherwise known as Abandon Normal Devices, AND is an event which showcases new cinema and digital culture and as the name suggests, throws two fingers up in the flaccid face of ‘normality’. Anything that invigorates the mundane and causes a bit of a stir pushes my buttons and to be a part of AND as it returned to Liverpool, a city so close to my heart, was a brilliant experience and one I would love to repeat.

Volunteering ‘behind the scenes’ at AND alongside the lovely staff at FACT involved many, many, many trips tramping up and down the infamous cobbles of Liverpool’s Bold Street where a majority of the exhibitions were based. Amidst becoming a human pinball machine, darting from one corner of Bold Street to the other, I got the chance to assist the featured artists in the preliminary preparation of their exhibitions, get a glimpse into their imaginations and experience the exhausting but exhilarating work which goes into creating a seamless showcase. As a keen artist myself, I could imagine the sense of pride and satisfaction that each artist must have surely felt as I watched their exhibitions spaces evolve and transform into an eclectic array of intriguing works of art; some beautiful, some thought-provoking and others quite disturbing but all a refreshing break from conventions.

Some of the exhibitions and artists which I was involved with throughout the festival were: John O’Shea, the brains behind the Pigs Bladder Football exhibition, seeking to rekindle lost craftsmanship, Revital Cohen‘s, The Immortal (a harrowing piece consisting of four gasping life support machines standing in a darkened expanse) and Stephen Fortune‘s, Data Mining && Divination. I was particularly intrigued with the latter and continuously questioned the artist during my time with him and will post in more detail about this later on.

My favourite task on ‘the rota’ was by far working on the Small Cinema piece in Liverpool’s modest but sentimental China Town, which consisted of an outdoor screening of multiple short films and the main feature, Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountains. I don’t claim to be a fan of Samurai cinema and evil eyebrows and levitating fight scenes aren’t my general forte but the atmosphere this night was just fantastic as the 300 chairs were filled and pavements lined with wide-eyed spectators.

At the screening in China Town there was a complementary installation commissioned by AND Festival called Popcorn For Cycling which invites two audience members at a time to cycle in tandem in order to produce enough energy to make the popcorn. Film-watching is never complete without hefty handfuls handful of popcorn and it was brilliant seeing how enthusiastically the audience embraced and interacted with this installation.

Popcorn For Cycling also came along to the drive-in screening of Planet of the Apes at Knowsley Safari Park. With images of traditional American drive-in films in my expectations; entwined couples in convertible cars and star-spangled skies, I was more than frustrated to be let down by English weather yet again. However despite the relentless drizzle and sodden shoes, there was something quite magical about looking out over such a successful event which I had been even just a small part of and hearing the occasional lion’s roar in the background.

I absolutely loved volunteering at AND Festival; getting the chance to see the cogs which make an event such as this run so smoothly, assisting in putting them to action as well as meeting some brilliant people and new friends so thanks, AND Fest! See you next year!

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