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Nova Festival Of Arts And Music
Nova Festival shows how far the humble summer festival has come. The newest addition to the Sussex calendar has invited nine well-known artists to design a hole each for a fine art mini-golf course – the centrepiece of an event which promises “no crowds, no queues, no peeping through a sea of heads”.
“Crazy golf is a work of art itself,” explains Victoria Burns, one half of a duo with Katrina Larkin behind the boutique four-day festival at Bignor Park, Pulborough.
“You are playing golf around sculptures, so why not take it to the next level and get all these luminaries of the contemporary art world to design each hole and you have an interactive piece of art.”
Burns and Larkin had been mulling over the idea when they discovered Doug Fishbone – best known for his 2004 installation of 30,000 bananas in Trafalgar Square, which he piled up in the space and gave away for free – had had similar thoughts.
The aim is to steer clear of pre-made crazy golf courses where the same designs crop up – windmills, bridges, waterfalls – to make something unexpected and challenging for players.
“It’s about taking crazy golf to the next level.
“We got the agreement of Jake Chapman, David Shrigley, Brian Griffiths and Zatorski and Zatorski. They are all on board and it sparked their imagination.
“I haven’t seen the designs yet, but I imagine they will reflect the artists’ approaches.”
Fishbone has said his hole will be “a figurative sculpture that plays with the conventions of public art”.
Anyone who saw Shrigley’s recent Brain Activity show at London’s Hayward Gallery will know to expect something witty and absurd, probably involving signage.
Pete Fowler, whose cartoon monsters line the sleeves of Super Furry Animals records, will surely create something psychedelic.
It’s an extra £2 to play on the Adventureland Golf but the fees will be donated to ActionAid.
“We are basically taking art outdoors to do away with the stuffiness of a gallery and the rules.
“We approached Doug because he is good at playful and interventionist installations and that is what Nova is all about – having quality and fun and being immediate and accessible.”
Nova’s ethos is about pushing the boundaries of what you can do outside in the open-air working with artists, says Burns.
“We say, ‘Here is your canvas’ and there are no rules in a field. It’s a levelling experience for everyone.”
Burns and Larkin might be foolhardy launching a new festival. But they have 15 years’ experience working together at The Big Chill.
Larkin co-founded it in 1994 and Burns joined as a producer in 1996. By 2010 they had left after transforming the festival from a 500-capacity concept to a 40,000-capacity festival with spin-off events in Goa, Toyko and Sydney.
Nova follows The Big Chill in aiming to remove the barriers between audience and performer.
It also seeks to encourage respect for its site and offer luxury.
There are Reki sessions, wood-fired hot tubs and “soul pods” – huts filled with therapists dotted around the Zen Garden.
But one advantage is the numbers will be lower at Nova (5,000).
“The Big Chill was great. It changed dramatically over the years, became big, with lots of commercial pressures. This is us starting again with a blank canvas and pulling out the elements that excite us.”
The thing they look for in performers is spirit.
“Someone doing something new and brave – whether in theatre, art or music.
“We are not interested in booking headliners because they are headliners. We are interested in people doing good things in the name of experimentation, so we can roll out something new behind our drive to make stuff bespoke for Nova.”
Bignor Park has 1,200 acres and is owned by the Mersey family. To help with the upkeep of the family house, Lord Mersey (who used to drum for Nina Cherry and is also a composer) has allowed Burns to build a temporary pub with hand-pulled ales. It will fit in with her idea to make a site of “sweet and discreet spaces”.
She wants a compact festival that “comes to the guests rather than them having to find it”.
Stalking poets will wander around the site reading sonnets and postmen will ride around on bicycles to deliver messages.
A field hospital with nurses will have the remedies for any ailments.
“Anyone with a sense of adventure who is open-minded will enjoy Nova.
“You don’t have to be an expert in art to enjoy it, you should just want to have some fun.”
More Nova highlights...
Music: Before her debut record drops, Jessie Ware – the singer who has worked with SBTRKT – will join Mercury Music Prize winner Speech Debelle, Mancunain disco merchants Crazy P and hotly tipped New York glam punks Mother Feather at Nova.
French/Finnish hipsters The Dø and critically acclaimed multi-instrumentalist tUnE-yArDs are others to look out for.
Art: Showing at Nova will be Myths, Monsters And Legends, the film collaboration between photographer Rankin and artist Damien Hirst.
Dotted around the site will be four of the signs from 12 Months Of Neon Love by Victoria Lucas and Richard Wheater, originally conceived for an event in Leeds.
And an installation called Still by Jem Finer, founder member of The Pogues, will be in the Zen Gardens.
Theatre and comedy: Saturday night will see the Edinburgh venue known for launching new talent host The Pick Of The Pleasance. Max And Ivan, Doc Brown, The Beta Males and Late Night Gimp Fight will be among the performers at their night.
Other performers include John Hegley, mask theatre specialists Teatro-Saurus, and RedSarah will share her circus secrets – from boylesque to fire shows at workshops and shows.
* Nova Festival is at Bignor Park, Pulborough, West Sussex, from July 5 to July 8. A weekend pass costs £145, students £105, teens 13-17, £63. Visit www.novafestival.co.uk or call 0844 8889991 for more information.