Arts on the Move proved to be a charming cultural affair as creative talents from all corners of the South West brought the gloriously dilapidated Poltimore House back to life on a sun-soaked day of artistic absorption. For the second year in a row, artists, musicians, poets, actors, comedians and local businesses transformed the 18th century country house and grounds into a bustling hive of creativity, providing a welcome counterpoint to the soul-sapping events that tend to dominate the end of year calendar.
Poltimore House – a marvellous, crumbling structure held in place by a skin of scaffolding – had the look and allure of a Harry Potter set. Indeed, the way performers turned the derelict construction into a vibrant, creative space seemed like a magic trick.
Theatre With Teeth production “The House of Sleeping Cats” kicked off the day with a creative drama in which Nazis, prostitutes and disaster coalesce with darkly comic results. We then stumbled into the dark, dingy Hideaway, where original short films – some disorientating; others hilarious; all thought-provoking – looped continuously throughout the day. Another turning took us to the Gallery, a high-ceilinged space adorned with the expansive outdoor photography of our very own Tom Hanks (no, not that one). To effortlessly wander around and wonder at such eclectic art forms in surreal spaces was one of the most rewarding things about the whole event.
Outside in the garden, musicians including Tom Elliot, Emily Howard and Sweet Nothings provided a harmonious acoustic soundtrack for those lolling on the lawn, only for female duo Sound of the Sirens to steal the show with their heady mix of foot-stomping folk. Elsewhere, both student and seasoned poets took turns captivating audiences underneath tree-covered canopies in a sublime spot of serenity. Hair braid stalls, illustrated merchandise, local food vendors and, naturally, a Jurassic Park-sized chameleon also lined the outskirts of the lawn. Round the corner, meanwhile, Cathy Rose gave lessons in how to slackline which, we can report, is a lot harder than it looks.
As the sun continued to burn we headed back inside to the old Operating Theatre to catch highlight Tom Lenton from electronic two-piece Delmer Darion mesmerise with his idiosyncratic experimental sounds. Samples and recordings complemented live guitar and keys performances in a recital of their debut album, available on a free download. The hypnotic looping sounds synthesised with the strobe lighting to great effect, creating a sparse setting with all the seedy look and allure of a Red Light District backroom. Fortunately for us, Tom kept his clothes on. But his Bonobo-like music bared something soulful and spiritual that audiences couldn’t help but absorb with both eyes and ears.
After such brooding introspection we needed to lighten up. Step forward – or stand up – Dan Squire, the student comedian charged with providing the day’s smiles. He didn’t disappoint: monologues-cum-raps on everything from fish to religion weaved self-depreciative wit and punning rhymes into an impressive performance that drew a large crowd and, most importantly, laughs.
It proved a fitting end to a thoroughly enjoyable day. The only disappointment was that there weren’t more people there to experience it. So next year, as well as enduring the beer and “banter” at events like Touch Duckes and EGB, head down to Poltimore Castle and immersive yourself in a world of restorative artistic movement that, we hope, continues to build on its creative foundations.