The annual Transport Festival known as Tram Sunday has been running for many years in the centre of Fleetwood and is a staple event in the calendars of trainspotters, tram enthusiasts, classic car collectors and young families alike. It is only the second year of the complementary free arts festival Spare Parts, which happens on the Esplanade and area surrounding Marine Hall, introduced by catalyst for artistic change LeftCoast and so it is not surprising that in spite of excellent efforts on the part of the organisers, it hasn’t yet found its full driving force.

On the day, Fleetwood town centre was positively pulsating with steam, diesel, petrol, clockwork and every kind of locomotive form possible; cloaked in the smell of pies, candyfloss and old-style town carnival fun, it’s a step back in time to traditional family entertainment. However, as you take a few steps off the high street and towards the seafront, the offers may become distinctly more interesting but sadly the people enjoying them become radically fewer.

There was a feel of Victorian sideshow captured in the range of small-scale attractions on the Esplanade which included the Insect Circus Museum (a small, ornate caravan that contains a selection of tiny mechanical scenes of insect circuses plus the actual waistcoat of the famed wasp tamer who was fatally stung by his favourite creature); the Save Our Stories machine (a bright red hybrid ambulance, tank, robin reliant, space ship that simultaneously evokes the spirit of Yellow Submarine, Thunderbirds and Terry Gilliam) and Circo Rum Ba Ba (an all female circus/street theatre group who on this occasion cycled up and down in fake moustaches and offered plate spinning (and smashing), wind-blown acrobatics and good old-fashioned cake-in-the-face humour) amongst others.

The main event on a specially constructed stage was Weighting – a show created by Extraordinary Bodies, a piece fronted by the highly charismatic performer Jamie Beddard who has, for many years, been a powerful voice reminding us that the arts can and should be more representative, diverse and inclusive of those with bodies of all shapes, sizes and abilities. The largely aerial show was, as expected, physically impressive and brilliantly executed involving complex acrobatics, strange soundscapes and other-worldly storytelling; a small, specially-recruited community choir also played a strong supporting role.

However, it was the simple stalls provided by recycling artist Sarah Hicks making cars out of old washing up bottles and the graffiti cardboard box bus hosted by the ever-amiable Dave Healy of Infected By Design that kept the younger children most entertained.

The option of documenting that engagement through a nationally recognised qualification of Arts Award at Discover Level was a great addition to the programme. For me, this lowest level worksheet felt more achievable alongside the intentionally multiple focuses of the day than the slightly more intense Explore Arts Award trialled by LeftCoast at Showzam!

Spare Parts is a well executed feat of organisation and curatorial decision-making all affably supported on the day by a host of willing volunteers and small cluster of local arts-appreciators. However, it feels that, in order to gain real traction with a wider variety of people, and to ensure that the multitudes who arrive for motorcars can also be transported into their own journeys of imagination, the mythical creatures of the seafront need to be more firmly harnessed to the vintage vehicles of the town centre. To enable more genuine creative inspiration to be derived from the brilliance of transport engineering, in future, Spare Parts needs to more clearly signpost and route map everybody towards the more ethereal journey of the mind that they have presented for all to take part in.

Images courtesy of CJGriffiths Photography and Jill Reidy.

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    Melanie Whitehead is the Creative Director of The Old Electric, Blackpool's newest theatre. She previously worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre.

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