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Claire Hammill Choir© Alexander Brattell

Claire Hammill Choir © Alexander Brattell

Birds, feathers, chairs and saws

Coastal Currents burst into Hastings on Friday heralding three weeks of performance, installation, exhibitions and open studios. HOT’s Lauris Morgan-Griffiths went along to its launch party.

Five hundred or so people gathered in St Mary in the Castle theatre space. There was a definite frisson of anticipation as to what was going to happen. Moths flitted in the light of a large moon, electronic music twanged. The audience did not seem to be the normal Hastings arty crowd and many people had never been to the venue before. So thank you St Mary in the Castle for the generous offer of their space.

The music jangled relentlessly on. A figure in a fantastic headdress of white peacock feathers appeared on the balcony. The choir gathered in black bird-like head gear. A bird-masked man, Jason Singh, took the microphone on stage and made extraordinary bird-like noises, the choir responded, the man spoke to them in more bird-like tones, echoed by the choir.

This, after all, was The Dawn Chorus.

Le Gateau Chocolat. Coastal Currents 2014 © Alexander Brattell

Le Gateau Chocolat. Coastal Currents 2014 © Alexander Brattell

It wasn’t over until the fat lady sings. At which point I was making for the exit my ears ringing from the music. However, I was stopped by the appearance of a rotund, bearded man on stage dressed, in what can only be described, as a black meringue of a dress singing with a deep, dark brown, mellifluous voice. Le Gateau Chocolat.

I might not have been overwhelmed by it all, but others were. I met a woman the next day on the Stade who had come down from Northampton and had found it an exciting spectacle. So one man’s meat …. However, I did love the venue, the costumes and the head dresses created by Hastings artist, Linda King,

Things could only get better. But it did give a taster of the Festival in general.

Reckless Sleepers © Alexander Brattell

Reckless Sleepers © Alexander Brattell

Saturday morning on the Stade six women dressed in black were sculpturally poised on wooden chairs, cradling saws. The audience in red and white deck chairs sat expectantly, waiting for the concert. This was the orchestra: the instruments the saws; music, the sound of the women sawing the legs off the chairs – while trying to remain seated. They succeeded. The audience applauded when the first leg fell, laughed while the women tried to retain their composure sitting on squinky-legged chairs. The women paused, ruminated on their next move, looked sculptural, elegant even at the end when perched on the wreck of their chairs.

A symphony in black.

Kate MccGwire’s feather installation had appeared in the window of Butler’s Emporium. Feathers hung across the window, in metal boxes feathers overlap looking like a sleeping cat waiting to be stroked, another container was packed full of feathers, the shaft poking out looking like a mass of fledglings, beaks upturned, impatient to be fed.

Kate MccGwire. Sculptures © Alexander Brattell

Kate MccGwire. Sculptures © Alexander Brattell

At St Mary in the Castle crypt were larger installations, instead of aerodynamic, light creatures, feathers designed to launch a bird into flight, these had a strong earthbound presence. The feathers glisten in the dark vaults, radiate their exotic colours; feathers overflow like water out of a bucket, another is weighty gravity-defying on a plinth.

N.B. The feathers were donated by game keepers and pigeon fanciers.

Creating an Arts Festival can be a precarious pastime particularly when introducing international artists and cutting edge art. This year, as last, Coastal Currents has attracted international artists to Hastings. Alice Anderson’s intention was to wrap the Claremont shop, Dyke and Dean. The artist, helpers, ladders, machinery – cherry pickers –  and the copper mesh arrived ready to go. They wrestled with the mesh, twisted it, draped and installed it. Unfortuantely, torrential rain over the Bank Holiday weekend, turned the mesh black. The artist, helpers, ladders, machinery – cherry pickers returned and  took it all down. The result is a smaller, rather delicate mesh installations in the shop window.

Artists are brave souls. It takes risks and courage to produce art; artists play with thoughts, ideas, conventions, breaking boundaries, new ground. Playing safe just does not cut it. And when sometimes doesn’t quite meet the creative dream, it is sad. However, better to have tried and half succeeded than not tried at all.

Coastal Currents continues until 14 September.

Posted 00:18 Tuesday, Sep 2, 2014 In: Community Arts

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