I have just completed a commission for Cheltenham Jazz Festival to design and build 250 handmade musical instruments. Each one needed to fit inside a vending machines capsule, for purchase at the festival. Yes, it was as epic a task as it sounds; not least because I was responsible for the concept, management and delivery…as well as checking and maintaining the machines on site.
I developed six different musical instrument designs. It was quite a challenge, given how small they had to be, but the results were pretty playable little things, as demonstrated in the How To video I produced for anyone unsure of what to do with their Ear Candy.
There were three sonic vending machines installed at the festival. One in the VIP lounge, one in the Box Office and this larger one in the public bar area.
As ever, if anything, I over delivered. I even ended up doing the sign-writing for the machines…but despite literally dotting the “i”s, one issue slightly scuppered sales. Somebody decided to issue a new £1 coin. I flagged this early on and took advice on the roll-out schedule but these old machines only provided the option for old or new coins; not both. Sometimes you just have to take a punt…and that aside, things went swimmingly. I received a number of excited tweets and snippets from people enjoying playing the instruments. NICE!
I’d like to give a big shout-out to the Cheltenham Jazz Festival organisers – especially Emily – for sterling project management, assistance and artist care. Top drawer! It really was a lot of fun and I hope it brought joy to those who bought and played them!
Lastly, here is a daft little promo video I did showing me playing four of the instruments together…
I am lucky. By most standards very lucky. I am a full-time musician and artist and as such am living the dream. Yes, it’s often poorly paid and involves far more sales and admin type tasks than anyone likes to admit but I know I lead a charmed life. To some extent I do so because I am scratching an itch. I live through doing this stuff and I find not doing so for a prolonged period causes me to get like a stop-valve needs releasing.
For a long time now there has been certain background tension though, which stems from a sense that I am not giving enough back. Art is good. It enriches lives. It is often also radical and challenging. But with the broad political trajectory of the past few years and in particular very recent events that just didn’t seem like enough any more. So, for a while I have stopped making art to run this campaign: www.dancehowyoulike.co.uk
If I am honest, I didn’t plan to stop making art entirely while this 21 day campaign is running but it has proved far more all-consuming than I had envisaged. So far, it’s also failing pretty miserably. At the time of writing this the campaign has sold a total of 23 t-shirts. I paid £120 to have 20 t-shirts printed for the promotional activities, including the video below. At present, the charity donation will be around £100. MEH! Must try harder. It could only take one celebrity endorsement or some good press and away we go…but I have also decided that this first iteration of this project and that Dance How You Like will continue beyond this first 21 day campaign. I’ve learnt a lot, including that charity work is fraught with challenges and that you have to work your ass off because people just aren’t going to get to hear about it otherwise.
I will never run a vanity project, so I will quit this if/when the time is right to do so…or if I decide upon other ways to help make a difference. Dance How You Like exists to raise awareness of tolerance and integration issues in the UK – as well as money for Citizens UK. That’s it.
If any of this is making you think you could help an inexperienced soul in this world of fundraising, or maybe you just want to let people know about it, here is information on how you can support the project / get in touch: dancehowyoulike.co.uk/support.html
Oh and here’s that video I mentioned earlier…ENJOY!
I wrote this blog post in part to give myself permission to continue with the project and still avoid making any art for a bit. This may last the full 21 days of the initial campaign but I do have a couple of time-critical projects I will probably do some work on in that time. We’ll see. That itch is certainly getting itchier by the day!