Noisily Festival of Music and Arts
Interview with Assistant Art Director, Lizy Bending
"My favorite aspect of using the woodland areas is the way we are able to hide works away, create pockets of art which are to be discovered rather than offered up. We provide secrets to be explored and works which can be found off the beaten track, if you wish to adventure there"...
Seeing as we're currently in the thick of festival season in the UK, we thought it was a good time to find out what work goes into creating the visual identity of one of our favourites, the beautiful Noisily Festival of Music and Arts. Lizy Bending, this year's Assistant Art Director, was kind enough to take time out from her busy festival schedule and let us in on the details of how this particular festival creates its stunning and immersive visual show.
Junko: Lizy, tell us about your role at this year’s Noisily Festival of Music & Arts.
Lizy: My role this year for Noisily Festival was the Assistant Art Director, so basically I was the right hand and useful person to have around for the fantastic Art Director, Ruth Herbert. I was in charge of managing the art department - the physical space it occupied outside of the arena - as well as managing all of the creative volunteers and project managing some of the on-site installation works across the site. My main job however was to be a point of contact, I am sure as you can imagine with an immersive arts festival such as this, there is lots of on-site work to be done, so while my boss was busy siting works across the arena and making sure requirements were met, I was able to make sure everyone was happy, and could get hold of someone when they needed assistance.
As well as all of the fun onsite work I was also responsible for some of the admin, ticket allocations, meal allocations and generally answering emails for the art department. Oh, not to mention getting stuck in with the physical work, sign painting, installing work and being a spare pair of hands when needed!
Written by Amy Moffat
J: Do you work within a conceptual framework for the festival’s visual identity?
L: Most of the conceptual elements of the festival are decided by the Art Director, my main role was to be someone with whom she could bounce ideas off. Personally I think the best creative decisions happen when artists get together and exchange their ideas, so while Ruth was fronting up the concepts and themes of the works, we would work together to put these into practice and split the responsibility for each of the artists pretty evenly between us.
Although there was not a concept as such for this yeas festival, what we were really hoping to achieve with the art works was for an immersive, captivating experience. We used live mural painting as well as actors and performance artists to give a multi-faceted artistic experience. Rather than a conceptual framework, apart from its immersive nature, most of the projects selected for this year’s festival were based around colour schemes and themes. While not officially, we did chat about blue, silver and green colour schemes that would reflect a lot of the space and universe inspired works that had featured across the site…This was also our main concept behind the Tree House stage which had a complete overhaul this year, we brought in a team of artists just to run this take-over as we really wanted to give it the attention it deserves.
The Noisily Stage: By Michelle Tounsend & team, photography by Hungry Visuals ©
Light installation by Helena Doyle & team, photography by Hungry Visuals ©
Tree web installation, photography by Hungry Visuals ©
J: Did you make your own work for this festival or did you invite other creatives in to make work? If so, how do you go about selecting artists? And is it a collaborative process?
L: I did not make any of my own work this year, however I did have creative input constantly throughout many of the installation builds across the site. I was able to collaborate and be heavily involved in the general décor side of things, as we were dressing many of the seating areas, chill spaces and stage designs.
Noisily offers art grants to installation artists to allow them the opportunity to realise works that may not have been possible without this financial aspect. Again, because we wanted works to be immersive and larger than life this meant our selection process was aimed towards participatory work, as well as immersive, large scale pieces and installations. Every year we do an open call for artists who then send us proposals for their own projects. For us it’s all about how well we can curate the site, so that the works fit nicely together and make a cohesive yet fun and inspiring space to be in. Both Ruth and I were continuously collaborating and in conversation with all of the artists to make sure their work would be possible, figure out what requirements were necessary and how to fit it in the best space across the arena.
As well as including immersive, kinetic and large scale ideas we also wanted to make sure we had works from multiple disciplines included on the site. We were able to feature painters, installation artists, moving projection pieces, static light shows, textile artists, graffiti and street art works as well as performance, which I feel gave the festival such an all-inclusive artistic feel.
True snake installation, by Sophia Daly Rossin, photography by Hungry Visuals ©
J: Is all the work site-specific or do people make sculptures and installations that aren’t necessarily specifically for the festival?
L: Some of the works were realized specifically for Noisily, for example our mural artists and the main décor / lighting rig for the Noisily Stage. However many artists have touring art works - especially the large scale pieces - that are taken around to multiple festivals as a way to make a living. I feel we struck a nice balance between the site specific as well as the just so simply awesome we had to have it on our site!
When I am not working on a managerial aspect of art departments for festivals I myself run a décor team, The FeelFree Company, and make works which I tour around festivals, so I know how important it is as a way of making a living to accept and offer artists these opportunities.
J: Do the landscape’s characteristics shape your creative decision making and if so, how?
L: I think having the main site within the woods definitely shapes the curation of the festival, the wonderful thing about having this back drop is you can be quite clever about how you position works. For example, we were able to have lots of large scale hanging works, like trees decorated with dangling LED’s and mobiles, which were enhanced by the natural aesthetic, if we didn’t have those kind of landscapes to work from I think the types of art works selected would be very different. My favorite aspect of using the woodland areas is the way we are able to hide works away, create pockets of art which are to be discovered rather than offered up. We provide secrets to be explored and works which can be found off the beaten track, if you wish to adventure there. We really aim to provide things to explore and discover, elements that aren’t just centered on the music, hopefully giving a new dimension to the festival scene.
Slack Line performer, photography by Hungry Visuals ©
J: Can you pick a favourite piece from this year's Noisily and tell us why?
L: Yes! My favorite work was definitely Illumaphonium! This work was hidden away by the Liquid Stage, it was an interactive light and sound piece that myself and hundreds of other festival goers had the joy of playing with all weekend. The immersive piece allowed you to make your own music by hitting lit up sections of the installation. Personally I feel this piece brought people together, it made strangers interact and have fun with each other. Everyone from the different stages, different musical tastes and backgrounds were given time and space to simply have fun, while mingling with others. Some people took it very seriously creating beautiful music in groups, which was fascinating to watch, while others just had a play. The refreshing element was that simply joyous element, anyone could have a go, anyone could make some music and every time I went to see the piece there was smiles from ear to ear to be seen from everyone being involved, as well as those just watching.
I would just like to take a quick moment to thank everyone from this year’s art department, this festival would not have been possible without the hard work and determination of everyone on the team. We built this festival with our bare hands, we assisted artists, we painted walls, we built stages and hung décor…We all made this festival a weekend of pure bliss for our magical little community to enjoy, and I think there is something overwhelmingly special about that. I would also like to thank Ruth, for giving me the opportunity to join the team and realise things within myself that I never thought possible. I surprised myself with what I could achieve, and if it wasn’t for her blind faith and confidence I would not get to reminisce in the joy. Thank you.
Illumaphonium, photography by Hungry Visuals ©