The first ‘official’ Dandifest event by the Norwich Dandies exploded into colour in St Margaret’s Church of Art on 28 April. Ann Young took part.
I knew the Dandies were a fun loving collective of artists but nothing quite prepared me for the sheer volume of creative energy that hit me as we passed through the curtains into a wonderland of vibrancy and colour.
Every inch of St Margaret’s had been covered in art, including the floor and I felt like Alice, in awe of her surroundings. At first glance, it was like a rainbow had exploded yet, out of this beautiful chaos I saw humanity laid out before me in glorious honesty.
The Dandies love life, this really shows in their work but they also deal, head on, with uncomfortable truths that exist around sexuality, disability, gender and cultural diversity. The experience of violence and hatred comes through in images of war and of people demonstrating against hatred and prejudice. At the launch, we were invited to sign the ‘Hate Free Norfolk’ Pledge; a set of seven commitments that you can sign up to in order to work together for a hate free Norfolk. See http://www.hatefreenorfolk.com/hate-free-norfolk-pledge
War and hatred were deftly balanced with pieces that celebrated the ‘human condition’ and rejected restrictive definitions of existence. I particularly liked two beautiful ceramic plates, one saying, “I Love My Mental Health” the other, “I love my HIV” These small, individual offerings gave me a profound sense of belonging, as if I had arrived home.
We then moved through to an area of acceptance where we are free to celebrate and share ourselves with others through sensuality, warmth and comfort. The beautiful bed looked so inviting and became more so as stories were read, taking us back to memories of childhood
The central space was given up to bounty, a harvest festival of abundance. A table overflowing with consumerism is contrasted with an installation of meat spelling out “EAT THE POOR” a reaction against government policies and cutbacks.
It was great to see a balance of images and words, creating a flowing commentary throughout the space. I had to smile at one caption, which read, “My mother has Alzheimer’s so I have to keep coming out.”
Finally, I met Community, a space for everyone to take part.. This is where the Dandies’ magic came alive with music and poetry. I felt the pride oozing out of these amazing artists and I knew, in my heart that this was just the beginning.
It was impossible to take everything in from a single visit and the more I write this review, the more I want to be back there in the midst of so much fun and creativity. Thankfully, Dandifest is on until the 10th May with lots going on. So I have got plenty of time to return and immerse myself in all that is human.
Maybe, I’ll see you there!
Norwich Dandies Artists are: Eloise O’Hare, Vince Laws, Dugald Ferguson, Ann Nicholls and Chrissy Sabberton
Final words go to Aiden, the 14 year old boy who wrote ‘The Norwich Dandies – A Short Field Guide’, Brilliantly funny and a must read for all aspiring Dandies.
Norwich should be Proud!