Travelling (report/upcoming): Sheffield, Athens, and Sofia

posted: 22 April, 2014

Earlier this month I spent a few days in Sheffield, a city which I had visited only twice before and never for such a lengthy stay. I was participating in the Open Sourcing Festivals project, a Pixel network venture that seeks to open up the process of creating education-based cultural festivals. The idea is we will create a 'festival toolkit', all leading up to a festival in Sheffield one year from now. We were meeting at Access Space, the Sheffield partner and host of the forthcoming festival. Access Space is a brilliant concoction, existing somewhere between community computer lab, democratic art space, and social pratice centre; we were mostly spending time with James Wallbank and Jake Harries, two fantastic organisers who never stop moving and bring a tireless enthusiasm to everything they do.

It was fun to see what was happening at Access Space and elsewehere in Sheffield, and I also enjoyed reconnecting with the United Kingdom - though I never lived in England, I spent 2005-2008 in Glasgow and in some perverse way, the UK feels more like 'home' than anywhere else does. Access Space runs events constantly - we gave presentations of our individual projects in what was billed as the "Pixelache Nano Festival", and also got to experience an Open Platform event. Open Platform is curated regularly by Suzanne Palzer and crams the entire audience into a way-too-small foyer for 10 minute performances which are supposed to address technology, but without using it. The performaces (by Jake, Susanne, Liz Hall, Richard Bolam, Kate Sicchio, James Price and others) were fun, absurd, and definitely not a million miles away from the types of interactions I've tried to programme at Ptarmigan.

I was hosted by old pals Jon Marshall and Fiona Kennedy, who run the briliant Singing Knives label and have played in various bands and projects such as the Hunter Gracchus, Roman Nose, and Vampire Blues. These two are keeping a spirit of out/side music alive in Sheffield, becoming a real rallying point with their generosity and energy. I brought my viola and played a bit with Jon, Jon Collin (who visited from Stockport), Steve Chase and the great Luke Poot. Most importantly, I realised how long it's been since I've been in a lifestyle so focused on musical collaboration, and came back to Tallinn (where Ptarmigan is again hosting regular open improv sessions) with a renewed vigor.

Next month I'm heading to Athens for Art-Athina, where the AIM network will be holding a meeting and I'll be moonlighting/performing as staff of one of the AIM network galleries. June brings me to Sofia for the Water Tower Art Festival, where I will be leading some discussions around the theme of burnout and reinvention, entitled 'Why care?'  The theme of Water Tower this year is 'Temporary protected spaces' which is on my mind now as I begin to wind down Ptarmigan's operations and look towards potential new directions. (Speaking of Ptarmigan, we'll have our summer programme announced this week.) I'm looking foward to spending some time in the South and encourage anyone to get in touch if you are in Athens or Sofia.

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