Melting Vinyl’s Anna Moulson has transformed Eastbourne’s Towner Art Gallery into a 1970s New York nightspot, a Tokyo bar and the product of the fevered imagination of artist-in-residence Bob And Roberta Smith.
But her biggest challenge has been to create a club night based around Towner’s current exhibition Collective Observations, which captures images of British folklore and traditions from throughout the last century.
Moulson is combining both her memories of growing up in Yorkshire and the entertainment and spectacle that the tradition has been about throughout the centuries.
“The stuff I experienced in Yorkshire was a bit League Of Gentlemen ,” she laughs. “Folk in pubs was always very strong, with people singing harmonies and singing in a circle. There were always morris men around in the towns and cities and I remember doing maypole dancing when I was growing up.”
As part of tomorrow’s folk celebration she has contacted practitioners of particularly English music traditions, from handbell ringers to brass bands.
She has also brought in a young band working in the folk tradition today to join forces with Lewes Youth Concert Band.
“Early Ghost are from Lewes and Eastbourne, they love traditional English folk music,” she says.
“They have worked out some songs with the brass band, who will be projected onto a screen behind them as it will be a little bit too late for them!
“So much money goes into the classical world, but the brass world isn’t subsidised. For everyone who plays in a brass band it’s to do with belonging and heritage – they come from a particular town with a particular identity.
“It’s why I approached Lewes – it’s great to have a brass band from them to back the band.”
Early Ghost will also be doing a set of their own material, and bringing in the audience with some collective singing.
More music will be provided by Brighton’s classically trained fiddle-player Jo Burke performing classic folk songs, wandering minstrels Will And Ed, who will be starting a long walking tour of the country from the Towner, and the Hastings Shantymen and Rattlebag who will be welcoming partygoers with a sea shanty.
“It’s reflecting the fact the Towner is by the sea,” says Moulson. “A lot of seaside towns have been singing these songs from way back.”
Also on the bill are Brighton-based performance artist The Baron portraying a series of different characters, a Mummers group performing tales of Kings and Queens and stories from the Bible, and a folk DJ who will be playing music into the small hours.
And there will be the chance to look at the exhibition, feed a Rentaghost-style Hoodening Horse, sample local ciders and real ales and explore the Towner’s many rooms.
Guests are being encouraged to come in folk dress, with a face painter on hand continuing a tradition begun by morris men.
“A lot of morris men wore black face to disguise themselves from the squire,” says Moulson.
“In a close-knit village where everybody knew each other, even if you got your face painted it’s hard to see they would have escaped punishment!”
Moulson and exhibition curator Simon Costin of the Museum Of British Folklore will be looking for the best costumes taking inspiration from traditional folk characters such as The Green Man, The Highwayman and John Barleycorn.
“I wanted to be inspired by the exhibition but put a twist on it,” says Moulson.
“We have called it Night Folk because we want to emphasise that darker, mystical side of it.
“Morris men are used to performing in daylight at 2pm – it will be interesting seeing them at 11.30pm!”
- Night Folk: Embrace The Dark is at the Towner Art Gallery, Devonshire Park, College Road, Eastbourne, on Saturday, November 24. The event runs from 8.30pm until midnight, tickets from £8/£6. Call 01323 434670