Sunday 25 May,  I was really happy to attend the ever-expanding Cowbell Radio‘s Alfresco. This festival is now a regular event in Blackpool, based at Blackpool Cricket Club and getting bigger and better every year. I have spent quite a bit of time photographing the event in previous years, but this year I wanted to take some images from a more alternative angle, from the visual artist’s view point.

There are always loads of amazing musical artists on at Alfresco.  This year’s line up included favourites: Government,  Mr Scruff, A Certain Ratio, Andrew Weatherall, Section 25, Chris Duckenfield and 2 Billlion Beats plus champion scratch DJs accompanying Tha Gods DJ’s as well as Speak to The Streets hosting the hip hop and breakin’ sessions.

Alongside the musicians, I want to draw attention to the some of the visual artists who really added that further ‘something’ to the day. First up, The Rusty Alexander Art & Curio Gallery is a very cool touring art gallery that is also a vintage double decker bus. The exterior of the bus has been painted by My Dog Sighs, Funns and Kazland with later additions by Beastie and Airborne makes it a visual delight to look on from the outside and the inside was even more alluring. The owner,  artist Hayley Kendal, is known for making beautiful mechanical sculptures out of salvaged metal from guitar parts to toasters and she recently set the bus on its travels with Alfresco being its first point of call. It really was the most creative and accessible way to view art and has over 50 artists waiting to exhibit.

The Rusty Alexander is like a trove of delights with affordable art pieces and was surely a very cool centre piece at the heart of Alfresco. I did not buy anything, but so wanted to. I love skate decks that are re-painted and the sculptural pieces, paintings and prints were gorgeous, current exhibition artists are Everly Dark, Kirsty Elson, Jonny Arnold, Cherie Strong, Rust Bucket workshop, Midge, Freakstatic, Paul Monsters, Vanessa Longchamp, Hoshiko, Dice67, Miqui Onestop, Dan DMS, Neese Plush, Naughty Monsters, Korp, all the art work is affordable and beautiful and the exhibitions unique gallery space of a double decker bus is cool – so it’s a winner all round. See images/ gallery for artists.

My friend Yappers Chappers Designs was there with her lovely, unique hand-crafted jewellery.  Now here is someone who really supports the Alfresco vibe of music meets art and her jewellery pieces reflect that. Her individual twisted decorations are archaic and beautiful. Danielle of Yappers Chappers has been soaking up the atmosphere and selling her wares for a number of years at the leafy cricket club and could be seen rocking out on top of a chair in the marquee this year and at three 3 months pregnant there’s just no stopping that girl.

Some of the graffiti artists’ work was impressive and its backdrop against the cricket club seats was well placed. I do not know of a cooler cricket club than Blackpool’s very own at Stanley Park. I always knew cricket was a laid back and accepting sport after spending two weeks circa 1998 selling newspapers at Lytham Cricket Grounds. Graffiti Artists whose pieces are featured in the photographs are: Chris Fenn, Mister Dee, Paw Ski, H2I crew, Mozz and Catch 22. I always used to hate painting in front of people when I was at art college. I asked Catch 22 how he found it:

“I enjoy painting at live events although I often fear I come across as rude as once I’m painting I kinda go off into my own world and forget there’s people around! But having a bit of sun and some music does help with the creative juice!”

I asked him, “Do you know what you are going to do on the day or do you just let it flow?”

“As I use stencils I have to plan the piece first and make the stencils but the rest kind of comes together on the day! I arrived at Alfresco thinking I was painting on a white background but ended up painting directly onto wood so that changed the piece a bit.”

“How do you get your work out there usually?”

“As for getting my work out there, it’s a constant struggle really, always kind of one step forward two back! I think locally a lot of people know about the artists from Baseline but getting it out to the rest of the world is harder! Especially when you’re having to work as well to keep going and have a young family which can make it difficult to do as much as I’d like.”

“Final thoughts on Alfresco?”

“To get bigger and better as it goes on. I’m painting at a few events this year but as Sand, Sea & Spray is not on this year, Alfresco is the only local event we are taking part in. But keep your eyes peeled for the next exhibition at Baseline, which we are currently planning. I would love to be feature on The Rusty Alexander – nah, nobody has contacted us about that, I’d love to if asked! We might also have something else locally – but that’s a big ‘shush’.”

It’s great to see art at festivals and in one of its perfect settings for an audience. It’s a perfect mix when music and art meet; think David Bowie or Jean- Michel Basquiat where the cultures of music, art and performance collide and in many cases feed off each other.  It would be great to see 6ft installations and sculptures at the next Alfresco, alternative theatre acts, trapeze artists in the marquee and burlesque breakdancing or something like that! Hear more about the artists on further shows on Cowbell Radio’s Talking Heads programme this Monday from 7pm to 9pm.
All images courtesty of C J Griffiths photography.
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