Arts Festivals

This month (June) saw almost simultaneous arts festival in Portsmouth and Southampton. Here's how they went.

The Portsmouth Community Arts Festival begins first, just a week into the month. It's a fairly informal affair, with the emphasis on community spirit and involvement. The residents of Portsmouth have been encouraged to experiment and get involved with art. To this end they have been offered the funding to launch their own ventures, which they do with gusto, Portsmouth being rich in local and amateur artistic groups, particularly performance art. Every community seems to have produced something, from schoolchildren making their own masks and costumes and parading through their district, to amateur plays and concerts for charity. There is a general carnival atmosphere for the entire three weeks, and it does wonders for the tourist industry. However, there appears to be no appreciable kindred involvement, and no invitations to particular functions are sent. Kindred life in Portsmouth continues as normal, except for the slightly improved feeding opportunities afforded by so many people out in public!

The Southampton Modern Art Festival, by contrast, is a far more high brow affair, and opens a week after the Portsmouth festival. Perhaps the most impressive part of it is the newly opened lighthouse gallery. This is owned by Lady Caroline, but it is clear to the discerning eye that the artistic impetus has come almost entirely from Ian Locke. The ground floor is dedicated entirely to art, with a two level cafe at the top floors, and a circular balcony providing an excellent view of the art below and suspended in the centre. The place provides an almost perfect setting for viewing the pieces present. This may be partially due to the fact that the main exhibit is a series of interrelated paintings and sculptures which, again, the discerng eye will recognise as Ian's. The five canvasses are fine examples of purist minimalism, and they are complemented by several sculptures in wood, metal and plastic shielded electrical wire, which reflect both the stark lines of the paintings and more human shapes.
Other presentations include a piece sent by Doctor Potempkin called 'the Triple Helix', which is a chrome ball and stick model resembling the canonical DNA helix, but altered to form a new triadic structure, a series of dark, abstract paintings by an artist called Thesbe, a piece of jazz by Jennifer, accompanied by a couple of mortals, the first recitation of some of Mo Travis' new work, a display of dance by Imogen which is rather more frenetic and violent than her usual style, some Spanish poetry from Alexander Rosenthal, plus a series of perfomances by a modern theatre troupe and various bands.
Among the mortal community, the festival is extremely well received artistically, and is generally a resounding success. The presence of Grace in the later stages of the event has its usual effect of making it the place to be seen, inspiration of the A-list that she is. Indeed, towards the end, the festival begins to attract mortal visitors from London.
As for the kindred, Estella is very busy playing the hostess, and has made every effort, though it is occasionally quietly observed that she is a better organiser than she is a socialite, and that for someone who has put so much effort into an artistic venture she seems to express surprisingly few artistic opinions.

One more noteworthy thing; throughout the festival period, large magic eye pictures periodically turn up in various displays. Mortals are seen walking away from them looking confused and disturbed. Fortunately these paintings are fairly quickly removed by the very efficient organisers, as they're not part of the official exhibit, but they continue to appear at intervals.

The Southampton papers focus largely on the success of the Southampton festival for its entire length, saying how good it is to see the city prove once again that it is a true cultural centre for the south. The Portsmouth papers focus on the Portsmouth festival, rejoicing that so many people there are able to be involved in the arts, and barely mentioning the Southampton festival. The Oxford papers admire Portsmouth's community spirit and suggest that the kind of art on offer at the Southampton festival is elitist, inaccessible and irrelevant, but reflections on the effects of last month's pedestrianisation of the city centre are more prominent than comments on either festival.

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