So it is coming up to Burns night and you have curated a third and final cabaret event so that the Southampton Fringe Festival can go out in style. How have the last two cabarets gone down in the city and what can audiences expect from this one?
It’s really hard to say how the other two have gone. People who came, enjoyed themselves. And we managed to get a cross section of artists, & creative types to perform. And in each cabaret there was a ‘main attraction’ who were people that haven’t ‘performed’ in Southampton before, so I’m really pleased that they were ‘firsts’. It was the first time Owen & the Eyeballs (a band made up of freelance illustrators) performed down here for the Halloween event. And for the xmas one, Illustration super stars Rob Ryan & Geoff grandfield hadn’t dj’d here before either, spinning northern soul classics.
And it’s the same with this last one. Mr. Solo aka david devant (& his spirit wife) aka mikey georgeson will be the ‘host’ for the night, introducing all the acts & singing songs too. There will also be other songs by myself, & poetry from two local poets. And our director of school, professor peter Lloyd, has devised an ‘art bingo’, where the prizes will be original works of art. The full house prize is exceptional! Come along & see.
What has been most challenging about curating the cabaret events?
Organising these events has been hard work. From venues unsure of the correct dates, to getting the PA all sorted, it’s not been easy. And then putting the goodie bags together was another job on top of all that. But I’ve had a lot of help from my colleagues & students at solent university, on the illustration course where I teach. So that’s been great. The xmas cabaret was a fundraising event for my students, & through ticket sales alone, we raised £322, which was great. But the biggest challenge is getting people to come. Trying to convince the punters they probably won’t have seen anything like this before is really hard. ‘you will enjoy yourself’ has been my catchphrase for a while. But some people, especially students (who seem bizarrely conservative these days, or is it because I’m getting older?), simply don’t believe me.
You are a Southampton based artist yourself, can you tell us a little bit about what you do?
I’m a freelance illustrator, working from my shed in my garden, just off Shirley high street, for clients like penguin books & the guardian. But I also do a lot of exhibitions too. My last big show was at Yorkshire sculpture park, & it was here I first mentioned having a cabaret. They were unsure, but decided to go ahead with it, so with my exhibition as the backdrop, me & my friends (who have performed in the Southampton cabarets too), entertained 70 paying customers.
I also teach at Southampton Solent School of art design & fashion, on the illustration course, two days a week.
Do you have any advice for aspiring artists and curators?
Definitely don’t follow trends. Even if what you do seems ‘uncool’ or out of step, make that a feature. Develop a thick skin. Rejected ideas & work will happen, but it’s not personal, just someone else’s taste that isn’t the same as yours. Have a laugh; being a creative person has always been about having a good time for me, not having to get a ‘proper job’. Enjoy being a bit skint. Read a ‘season in hell’ by Rimbaud & watch any film with jean gabin in it.
Do you think the festival has been a success for artists and audiences alike?
I really hope so. Southampton, as we all know, isn’t one of the arty cities, like Bristol or brighton of Manchester. So this festival was sorely needed. We, as artists needed it to have a new outlet for what we do, but more than that, the people of soutmapton needed it. Something different, an alternative, is essential. By all means enjoy strictly come dancing, but away from that telly there’s proper dancing happening that isn’t to mainstream music. There are people painting images that aren’t realistic, but personal, & you might just enjoy them. Look for it & engage with it, even if it does seem a bit weird. Weird is good. So, I really hope that the good people of old sotonia have got a lot out of it too.
What have been your highlights?
The lighten up show was fantastic. Really impressive. I was involved in the last event like that, but since then, the projectors have clearly got a lot better, so the images on the guildhall looked amazing. The mobile vintage cinema was also exciting. So for me, having events like this that don’t normally happen in Southampton, have been the best, alongside the exhibitions, which were also really enjoyable.
What do you think the presence of British Art Show 8 and accompanying Southampton Fringe will mean for Southampton and its cultural scene? What does it mean for you?
It’s all been a great starting point. Something we can now build upon. Do we now have an annual ‘fringe’? perhaps it lasts for just two weeks? But this fringe has shown we can put on a set of events that are of a high quality, challenging, & fun.
God’s house tower will be opening it’s new renovated doors later this year I believe. That will be a huge boost for the city, having an art centre run by artists.
Why do think its important to nurture contemporary and visual art in regions outside of London?
The most important part of all this is to give people in Southampton something on their doorstep. Simply because they deserve it. London’s not far, but far enough. We’re a huge city, so we desperately need a bigger arts scene. Other places have, why can’t we? And ulitmately, we have something different, new & equally as exciting to offer that London has, only on a smaller scale. And this has given us the chance to show it off.
Do you have a favourite place or memory of the city of Southampton?
I love shirley high street. It’s down to earth, straight forward, but has hidden gems too. I’ve always loved places that come from the ground up, & Southampton is just that. And the fact that Shirley high street is a bit of a blank canvas means that the only way is up. We need to commandeer the old woolworths & have our very own Shirley arts centre. One day…
Burns Night Cabaret – The London Hotel, Terminus Terrace
Weds 25 Jan, 19.00 – 23.00