A Jamboree at the Newbridge project


“Via a process of invitation, A NEWBRIDGE ENQUIRY proposes a 3 day programme designed to cultivate hospitality, reciprocity and social dialogue.

The opening times have been designed to welcome a visitor dialogue outside of the customary gallery opening hours.

All events are free and welcome to all”

It starts with a breakfast: “Come on in, sit down, grab a cuppa and a slice of toast! Chat to your neighbour!” Activities follow through the first afternoon, just some simple, enjoyable things to pass the time pleasantly. The same happens again on day two, but instead of an afternoon of sit-down workshops there is a (mind-opening) daytime disco. One of the Artists – Andrew Wilson is dressed to the nines, which is appropriate for the projection of ‘Saturday Night Fever’ playing on the wall behind him. He walks onto the dance floor just as I come in, and truly begins to strut his stuff. Initially I feel awkward, but as the calls for me to dance come in I give a little wiggle, and begin to move to the beat. Admittedly I didn’t quite fall for the charms of this part of the experience as much as most of the others did, but then I suppose I hadn’t had the magic of Messrs Lloyd and Wilson working on me for long enough. Luckily, others were more receptive and soon everyone was boogie-ing on down on the dancefloor like the best of them.

 The big event was that evening, the big Jamboree. I honestly had no idea what to expect but a bar in the second room. If anything I expected an exhibition, or perhaps a quick performance. I am quite glad that there was neither.

When I walked in it took a moment to realise that actually the people in the middle of the floor are not doing a performance piece, but are visitors to the gallery like me; It was as we tried to behave awkwardly, and give the wierdos a wide berth (making absolutely no eye contact) as they seemingly attempted to break as many musical instruments as they could that we realised how many other instrument were arranged in little, inviting piles all over the floor, and only then does it dawn on you; you are here to play.

                We ended up sitting on the floor for around two hours, occasionally getting up to move to a new stack of music-makers, or to make short trips to the bar. The sensation was extraordinary; we had gone back to a simpler time, remembering why it had been important as a child that ALL of the toys remained on the floor, within sight and therefore available for immediate use in the imagination. If one of the (quite decrepit) instruments were to come apart under the strain, its parts would simply be taken and used as new instruments of mass expression.

 I saw people are whacking away at the drums and cymbals, smashing tambourines together, and using strangely-shaped whistles to pluck at the strings of the electric guitar sat across their lap. I even spotted an old, rusty saw and a quite retro old salad-spinner (just for inventiveness’s sake), perhaps just to aid in the regression of the visitor – after all; who as a child did not just play with a salad spinner just for how it felt in your hands (as well as that noise)?

 

Everyone suddenly became enough of an expert to play an instrument in a public place, although occasionally someone with an actual skill would pop up, but would be forgotten or ignored in the medley after briefly, but proudly showing off said skill to the person next to them (the only person who would have been able to hear). Someone else, suddenly excited by a new and wonderful  noise would immediately seek the attention of their peers, pride being quite a dominant emotion in the experience that night.

One testing element of the potential absolute musical freedom was the bottle of Lyon’s golden syrup lying on the floor, its lovingly squeezed-in sides, and the fact that it is only half-full almost invites someone caught up in the madness of bashing a tambourine with a duck-shaped kazoo to think of it as a musical addition to any of the instruments, almost guaranteed to introduce heavy and sticky variations into any instrument's musical output. Luckily though I spent more than a moment thinking about it and was able to deduce that one of the Jamboree team, exhausted after the days of preparation and maintenance of the exhibition had simply been celebrating pancake-day earlier on. It was a close one.

People were able that night to leave the modern culture of social fears and peer-driven self-consciousness (which people normally have to resort to drinking to achieve) for a small amount of time, leaving them able to use the instruments for their true purpose – which is to MAKE SOME NOISE!!!

It gave people an excuse or reason to act strangely without the judgement (again usually something reserved for alcohol abuse) of their peers, and allowed them to just throw themselves in and enjoy themselves. A brilliant concept, and an enjoyable night.

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