It’s an analogue meets digital pop-up space celebrating independent creative culture as well as a flagship project for a social enterprise called Bees Make Honey Creative Community. I like to think of it as a tiny festival as we've all sorts going on. We are concentrating on the four specialisms of music, moving image, photography and the written word. All of these areas face rapid changes in how they're made and how we consume them as we move into the digital age. Yet all have a rich history in different traditional formats that people are very attached to - from the traditionally-made book, to vinyl and cassette tape, to analogue photography and 16mm film. We don't see this as the old versus the new. Rather we hope to explore the best of both and how they can still co-exist and actually help each other.
It’s also a celebration of independents…
Many people are unaware of small book publishers, music labels and film and photography collectives working just around the corner from them. Aside from on the internet there aren't enough opportunities for people to discover all this great stuff. If you're not already part of the hip Hockley crowd, how are you going to hear about it? The creative scene does no favours to itself if it comes across as cliquey.
Why are pop-ups so popular at the moment?
I sort-of don't like the term pop-up because it has Shoreditch hipster connotations, but it's easy to understand and I celebrate the fact that pop-up culture looks at the latent potential of all these empty spaces that changes in society - industry, the economic collapse - have left behind. In some respects the 'pop-up' idea has been around a long time, it's just a new buzz name for it. Short run theatre productions, small art exhibitions and illicit raves have always been pop-up. It's a way to do something on a small scale and minimal budget by only running it for a day or a week. You can takeover an un-used space without forking out huge sums of money, and you can move projects around so they pop-up elsewhere.
How has the project been financed?
Sadly our Grants for the Arts application was rejected, as many first-time applications are. We are running the project from personal funds, investment funds and a small grant from Un Ltd for Social Entrepreneurs. So we're working to a fairly tight budget as we need to generate income to keep going and fund future projects. It's a pity, because if we had the bigger grant we would be able to pay our collaboraters what they deserve, but luckily most organisations and individuals involved are used to the DIY scene where projects like this are pretty much run on costs. I’m a believer in the DIA scene: Do It Anyway.
Other than being skint, what’s been the other biggest challenge?
Trying to create an event that is really challenging and interesting to the existing creative community, while at the same time trying to make it approachable to new audiences. If I get to 13 October and I haven't met at least 20 new people I want to work with at some point, I'll be disappointed.
How do you see the community arts scene developing?
The developing nature of non-profit social enterprises - like ourselves - is really complimentary to the future development of DIY creative culture. It's a cliche, but it's true that often the most interesting creative stuff comes from the edges of society. The most expensive education in the world can't make you an interesting and radical individual, it comes from within.
Tell us about NTU’s involvement…
I joined NTU's The Hive Headstart business programme this time last year. It's a crash 13 week course which you pay for in a small percentage of the business income - so they're invested in your success. As part of this I get ongoing mentoring as needed which is invaluable because as supportive as my friends are, none of them quite understand everything I'm doing and they lead busy lives. Having a go-to person for all the big obstacles and petty details alike is great and I feel damn lucky to have someone with contagious enthusiasm, who seems nearly as passionate as me about what I'm doing.
Will you be showing any arty French films?
No. The title of Memories of the Future was inspired by the work of my favourite French filmmaker Chris Marker. The films we're showing are either made by fairly local DIY collectives, or they are nearly lost in an analogue past. I'm particularly excited about an event that Kneel Before Zod Cinema Club are doing for us at Screen 22. It will kick off with Rich and Ali doing live visuals for a performance from new electronic drone outfit Lviv, followed by a screening of Phase IV (1974) a dystopian sci-fi horror in which desert ants form a collective intelligence and wage war on the local humans. Apparently it's one of the films Kneel Before Zod are most often asked to dig up from the analogue mires of time. So, to quote Rich Dundas - "It being our most popular request, we thought we'd show it in the smallest cinema in the world."
You’ve got loads of workshops on. Give us a teaser of what to expect?
We hope the workshops will have a broad appeal, even though some of them are quite unusual. There will be analogue photography workshops from Leicester Lo-Fi and The Photo Parlour. These will be pin-hole camera-making and Kamra-e-faoree portrait workshops. The Kamra-e-faoree is a wooden camera and darkroom in one, very basic and traditional, still used on the streets of Afghanistan.
There will be a zine-making workshop to inspire artists and writers to collaborate on their own creations. Zines are a really great medium for the DIY scene, because they can either be really lo-fi, basic cut and paste jobs, or really fine digital productions. There will be a Digital Stories presentation and workshop from the chaps behind the Sillitoe Trail and Dawn of the Unread (interviewer coughs). This is really to explore how writers and techies can work together with new mediums, be it web platforms, ebooks or apps.
And weirdest performance…
We'll be having afternoon tea with Babes in the Wood who are a hybrid music and fashion label with handmade one-of-a-kind clothes and ambient electronic music. The thing I really like about them is the folklore they've created around it all featuring a giant mascot hare called MYST who will be wandering Hockley scaring children and hipsters on the day in question. They release chapters of their Lore, along with compilations of their artists. So with live Djs, QR code experiments, stunning artwork, storytelling and some nice posh teas, there will be something for everyone.
Photograph Samantha Gallagher
You’re very keen to put faces to the music scene…
The art and literature crowd have a lot of talks and symposium type events, dissecting what's going on, while musos tend to walk-the-walk, putting on live gigs and launching stuff like Record Store Day. So, this is the one area where we feel it would be really interesting to get some local heroes sat down to chat about what they do. We aim to cover the whole musical ecosystem from record shops like The Music Exchange, to amazing labels like Gringo, to recording studios like First Love and promoters/programmers like enigmatic screwball Ste Allen. Also, from a personal perspective the way record labels and musicians share costs and work together is really admirable, and I try to use this as a model with our publishing projects. The world of publishing is full of detrimental categories like vanity and subsidy publishing, this cripples the flexibility of DIY publishing in some ways.
Are you flogging owt?
We'll be selling a range of music in various traditional formats - you can listen to records in store - as well as digital through the website, there will be zines, magazines, graphic novels, fiction, non-fiction and poetry, old gig posters, a few t-shirts by our key supporters and loads of incredible photography. We're hoping to create a bit of an Aladdin's Cave with beanbags and knowledgeable, friendly staff to offer a bit of advice.
What do you hope to achieve from the festival?
Memories of the Future is our flagship project and already seems to have hit a nerve in the collective conscious of those involved, so we hope to do the same next year or possibly pop-up in a different city. We intend to keep selling a selection of niche products through our e-commerce site and continue the Creative Start-ups series on the blog, so contact us if you'd like to do a Q&A. We are developing our creative service packages in terms of promotional videos and graphic design, plus I've discovered the next author I want to publish under our name, which is a real buzz…
Digital or analogue?
I'm an analogue geek at heart, as if it isn't obvious. But I really see the potential in digital.