11 Oct 2013

This is Not Art!

Concept by Damien Frost, executed by Leroy Black,
photographed by Ian Sweeny.
Last weekend I attended This is Not Art (TiNA), the contemporary and emerging arts festival set in Newcastle.

When I say attended I mean picked a few events I thought looked interesting and managed to see one of them.  As organisers juggled speakers and venues, I found myself listening to a talk on writing for children instead of the promised talk on bilingual writing and to a talk on stories of memorable meals instead of the Feminism one I expected. I did get to attend a very interesting discussion on linguistics and social politics though.

I learnt that TiNA is mainly about process.  Not just hearing artists talk about the process they use to develop their work but what one finds and who one meets in the process of going to a talk or a performance that you thought appealing when you read the programme.

Apart from the great time I had wandering through Newcastle city centre with friend and fellow blogger Alex Morris, from 
http://www.coffeecavewoman.com/, I met a bunch of interesting people. From Lucas, a Canadian with French and Mexican blood, who was searching for a new place to settle in after leaving Melbourne, to Sara, a writer for a well-known men’s magazine and Stephen, a linguist with a Spanish wife who has promised to introduce me to his Argentinian novelist friend, who, so far, is the only other person I know of apart from me who lives in Newcastle and is writing a novel in Spanish.

Although there are a variety of music, theatre and writers festivals across Australia, TiNA is unique in that it combines lots of disciplines and it’s truly alternative, allowing for a lot more participation from the audience. It’s a cultural event with the atmosphere of a music festival.

In my home town of Guadalajara, Spain, we have a “Maratón de Cuentos,” or “Storytelling Marathon,” where for a full weekend authors, professional and amateur story tellers and children tell a well-known story or one invented by them. It takes place in the patio of the “Palacio del Infantado,” a 16th century palace that used to host the local library. The Marathon is one of the most remarkable cultural events in town. 

One evening, years ago, I went to one of the Marathon storytelling sessions. As I walked to the Palacio del Infantado I saw lots of people on the streets celebrating Real Madrid Football Club winning a championship. Soon after I arrived to the Palace, Ana María Matute, a renown Spanish novelist, went on stage and improvised a story. It was a magical moment as she wasn't in the Marathon programme. She had gone along with a friend and felt inspired to share a story, a tale, with all of us.  It was unexpected and that made it a bit more special.

How about you? Have you ever had any unexpected and memorable encounters at a festival?