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N O R T H E R N  A R T  S C E N E  

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Emily Birkett

One thing that I love about working with Deco Publique is feeling really immersed in the northern art scene. When producing our festivals, projects and commissions, we partner with great organisations around the UK to help make visions a reality. The organisations we work with curate incredible work of their own which I have been lucky enough to visit or contribute to throughout my time with the crew, especially events that resonate with my own practice as an artist.

The first being Festival of Thrift in Kirkleatham, Redcar covering an impressive 10 sites throughout one of the loveliest villages and demonstrating sustainable living in the finest detail - upcycling, saving money and forming a creative community. Handmade natural goods, second hand stalls, grow your own plants and some delicious, healthy food to top it off. The event offered culinary workshops, ceramics, textiles, woodwork, had endless amounts of eateries including a community lunch catered by The Smeltery and a wonderfully quirky Bistro du Van restaurant which provided freshly cooked food in a pop up tent, served straight to your very own mobile home. Den-making supplies were available for the little ones (with parental supervision of course) and a fabulous Oxfam stall, whose items were reworked by employees and paraded down the catwalk to show of the power of textile recycling.

Not long after, Lauren, Elena, myself and the lovely Kathryn from More Music attended World Factory by Metis as a part of Super Slow Way’s Fabrications festival in Burnley. As ‘owners’ of a clothing factory in China, we responded to scenarios on queue cards and selected the appropriate using a barcode scanner providing consumerist connotations. Our conclusions took us on different routes, questioning our ethics of production, exploitation, social responsibility and textile sustainability within manufacturing and capitalism. The evening was interrupted by paydays, work holidays and shift changes where we were presented with garments and the money we had made based on our rational (but at the time, we assumed well-thought out) decisions. A year in the life of a Chinese clothing factory was whittled down to one intensified hour inside the chilly Brierfield Mill, in a monopoly-esque interactive performance. Footage from China’s factories were projected onto large cinematic screens and on our table was a binder of our employers IDs, forcing us into a moment of realism. The fast paced, witty but utmostly educational ‘game’ left participants bewildered with statistics and with a receipt listing all our actions. It was thought-provoking, shocking but unusually enjoyable.

Through my work at Deco Publique I also recently assisted at Light Up Lancaster - a winter light festival that’s part of the ‘Light up the North’ network of seven northern light festivals. Here I was responsible for looking after the community choir at Lancaster Castle’s former prison, A Wing as they performed the soundtrack to Imitating the Dog’s Trespass, conducted by composer James Hamilton which lit up Lancaster Castle. The job consisted including tidying up, replenishing the refreshments and making sure the listed building remained in a clean and presentable condition, ensuring the choir attended their performances complying with the rota and supported artists with their workshops in The Storey Institute (especially when the footfall picked up).

You can follow the teams travels, inspirations and must see events on our Deco Publique Facebook.