New Beginnings, Angsty Endings And A Poem


I love change, except when it is happening. New ideas, projects and starts are exciting… and exhausting.

When I picked New Beginnings as May’s theme for DIY Creative Club, I was thinking of the future and fresh starts. It is Spring time, everything is extra pretty and full of possibility. It seemed like a positive and inspiring prompt.

Starting something new can be thrilling, and addictive. I’ve seen many creative people thrive on new ideas but get bored halfway through, begin new projects before finishing one they are working on, or get started on the next goal before reflecting on and celebrating the one they have just achieved.  

I started the month full of new ideas, but haven’t had the energy to work on them all. I didn’t want to make the mistake of starting too much and achieving little, so I decided to focus on writing a poem about new beginnnings, trying to keep posting regularly on this blog, starting to say no and give myself space and finish my blackout poetry project (I’ll be sharing news about this soon!).

DIY Creative Club New Beginnings

I didn’t realise I would spend most of the month thinking about endings rather than beginnings, about stopping as much as starting.

When I write, I often leave the opening lines until last. It is easier to start when you know how it ends. We don’t have that luxury in life. We only get to rewrite the narrative of our experience after the event. Let’s face it, most of the time change is messy and uncomfortable, even when it is positive.

I’m in the slow process of dismantling a life, one I created for myself and is really rather lovely, for something different and unknown. I’m decoupling, moving home and re-assessing everything. I’m feeling pretty good about it all, but I’m really tired and most days I am functioning in a Dolly Daydream/Nora Nightmare state. There may be a future blog post in the making about removing yourself from a situation with grace, gentleness and diplomacy. But let’s see if I can pull it off first!

For now, I’ve written a poem which cannot decide whether it wants to be inspiring or angsty, so is a bit of both (I am refining my angstpirational style). I have always used poetry to process the melodrama in my mind. I have written poetry for years, but aside from publishing pieces anonymously on myspace a few years back, I only started sharing my work last month. I have been insisting for ages that I don’t want to be a poet, but what I really meant is that I wasn’t ready to share it.Not the EndI decided to start sharing because I realised I would learn from it. My blog has got better through publishing posts, you get a lot of knowledge through the process of putting yourself out there. Also, I have learnt that I can live with the early, imperfect, slightly embarrassing work. I recently said to another artist “Make it, share it. Learn stuff, no regrets.”

When I told fellow blogger and coach Helen that I was nervous about sharing my creative work, she said lots of great things, including this… “with creative endeavours, it’s just about putting something out there, knowing that it is there for the people who will get something out of it, and having the confidence to know we can focus on those people.”

If you are still reading, I guess you might be one of those people.

Because the poem is a rather lengthy beast, I decided to record it, (which is another new thing for me!) adding a dimension of “urgh now people are going to hear my voice!” to distract me from any doubts about the poem itself! It took more takes than I could count, but I am finally content and ready to share. 

Check out our New Beginnings collaborative playlist – it has been my go-to soundtrack for the month – and sign up for DIY Creative Club here.


Discover Your Own Secret Garden Of Spoken Word

Cassy Fry at the Secret Garden

Ooh, a secret garden! And I discovered it! Well, not on my own, I had a lot of help from the City Sound Project, Wise Words Festival and Twitter. A couple of weeks back I spent a lovely Saturday afternoon collapsed on a pile of cushions, in a tent,  listening to and being inspired by spoken word (and recovering from a killer hangover).   

I saw some amazing poets. I heard wonderful words that whipped through my ears, flicked my brain into life and sparked my inspiration synapses. I felt rhymes reset the rhythm of my pulse. 

I could just write a review of my highlights, adding ample amazing alliterative adjectives (which is obviously a poetic side effect of this City Sound Project/Wise Words collaboration), but it would be much more fun to create another secret garden of spoken word with you!  

Before I do, I will just say… Maggie Akintayo is my dream poet (warning: you will fall head over heels in love with her); I had a blast judging the slam, but it was so hard to decide that we picked two winners; Michael James Parker’s poem Primal Scream is the perfect live music poem and now one of my favourite poems of all time (unfortunately I can’t find an online version so you’ll just have to go see him in real life); and Dizraeli sure can spin a yarn as smooth as his sounds, while simultaneously leading a Bulgarian choir style chant-along. Also check out this great review of his Secret Garden set.

City Sound Project Secret Garden with Wise Words

– If you have a garden or a tent, fabulous!  If not, open a window, sit on the floor, with cushions and blankets. Pop up any available bunting and decorate trees, pot plants or shelves with books.

– If you get peckish, get yourself some classy festival style food – I recommend a beef burger with halloumi, spinach and mango chutney.

– Pretend you are a judge. Pay attention, take your role very seriously indeed. What do you want to hear? Honesty, humour, hope? Describe the poem in one word. Which is your favourite?    

– Now wrap your ears around these…

The Poetess Goddess that is Maggie Akintayo

Solider of light and harbinger of hope, Deke Dobson

Big, booming performance poet (with superb taste in 90s music), Michael James Parker… 

The wonderfully whimsical and delightfully disarming Helen Seymour – I can’t embed this video, but you can click here to watch!

And of course, our headliner, the daring and divine… Dizraeli

– Applaud! Obviously the poets can’t hear you, so maybe send them a message on social media to say bravo! 

Theatre Review: The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Nighttime

If there was a theme to my last week, it was the importance of celebrating your capabilities and achievements, no matter how small or insignificant they can seem. I’m pretty sure this was triggered by seeing the National Theatre’s production of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury. 

This play, based on the Mark Haddon novel of the same name, is the entertaining and inspiring story of Christopher, a 15 year old with Asperger Syndrome. I have read the book, and the production invoked similar feelings, mostly because Joshua Jenkins brought Christopher to life with an endearing authenticity.

I wasn’t won over straight away, there is always a certain anxiety that comes with seeing disabilities portrayed on stage and it took me a while to warm up to the ensemble style, but I was won over. 

I did immediately love the minimal high-tech geometric set, which was made up of grids and used projection to convey the inner workings or overwhelm of Christopher’s mind. 

But this isn’t a play about disability, it is a murder mystery that explores what is actually possible in the midst of bafflingly complex human relationships. As Christopher disobeys his dad and starts his own investigation into the murder of Wellington, his neighbour’s dog. Christopher’s social naivety allows the story to unfold and mysteries to be revealed in a compelling way.  

As well as the mystery, there was fantasy. The use of the toy train set was fun and clever and the astronaut daydream sequence was stunning. I floated away with Christopher (and Toby the rat), lost in a huge starry sky.

The second half was packed full of adventure, mild peril, beautiful physicality and a puppy! The scenes of Christopher’s voyage to London are executed with minimalism, but so much atmospheric suspense. By the end of Christopher’s journey, you believe in him, in every sense. Anything seems possible. Especially a happy ending. And even a mathematical encore.

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time is on at the Marlowe Theatre until 23 May 2015

How To Make Life More Beautiful (for you and your cat) With The Clever Badger

Cassy Fry with cat tote by Mark McConnell

Is it too puntastic to say that this bag is tote-ally purrfect? Probably, but oh my kitty overlord, this tote by Mark McConnell not only has pink and orange cats, but a sturdy strap and quality finish. It is also one of the lovely gifts available from The Clever Badger – a stylish shop that sells greeting cards, stationery and practical products which have been independently created and designed.  

Obviously I’ll be filling this tote with a heap cute note pads, books, pens and crayons and heading to the beach, as soon as the sun comes out. But that isn’t the only thing I’m looking forward to in the next few weeks, as May also sees the launch of the Badger Box.

This is a new subscription box, carefully curated by The Clever Badger to include unisex goodies sourced from creatives and independents around the world. We’re talking homewares, gifts, greeting cards, stationery, food, illustrations and anything in-between! To top it all off there will be an exclusively commissioned product in each box, which is exclusive to the Badger Box. 

Put the 28th of the month in your diary as that is when a new box with a fun theme will be placed on line on a first come, first served basis. There will be limited numbers of rolling or quarterly subscriptions too. 

Life is beautiful - Betty Ettiquette Desk Planner

To celebrate the launch of the Badger Box, the lovely folks at The Clever Badger have given me (and Eddie Cat) a few things to tell you about. I’m delighted by it all, as someone who loves new things, but hates excess or waste, I like my wares to be practical as well as pretty so they make my life more beautiful in every sense. 

The Betty Ettiquette Weekly Desk Pad is a fantastic example of the kind of stationery that I like to surround myself with! It instantly gives your workspace a pretty, productive, focused and inspiring feel. Every day I write morning pages (three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing) and every day I start with “I am tired” (so not a morning person). But as my mind wakes up, I nearly always end up by thinking about the next few days, what I have coming up or things I need to do and I scrawl them down too. So I obviously needed a weekly planner! 

I am loving this one as it reminds me that yes, life is beautiful (and my whole life is a whirlwind of emotional chaos right now so I need that!). It shows me at a glance when I am trying to do to much in one day and also what I have already achieved in the week. Don’t forget to celebrate the small wins! (This design is also gorgeously motivating.)

One thing I am winning at is idea creation, so it is a good job I have not one, but five pencils to scribble them down with. Being an all or nothing kind of creative, I either use pencil or permanent marker to write with. These Katie Leamon Big Ideas Pencils and The Clever Badger Geometric Ruler are ideal for planning out my latest black out poetry project (I’ll tell you more about that soon!) – both useful and gorgeous. 

Katie Leamon Big Idea Pencils and The Clever Badger Ruler

I haven’t forgotten that I purromised you some Eddie Cat in this post… 

Of course, Eddie was curious about the box of goodies that arrived on the doorstep, mostly because as a cat, he has a professional interest in cardboard boxes. As you can see, he was surprised to find there was a gift just for him. A catnip bom from Ohh Deer. He gave it a sniff to claim it as his own and now we just need to throw this grenade of seeds into some soil and grow it! Then the kitty-nip fun will really begin. 

Eddie Cat Catnip Bom

A big thank mew to The Clever Badger for these goodies – we cannot wait to hear what the first Badger Box theme will be!

Live Music Review: Beautiful Town present Thomas Ashby, Nina Clark & Alice Heggie at the Gulbenkian

Beautiful Town music at the Gulbenkian Canterbury

I was invited to a night of new music programmed by Beautiful Town at the Gulbenkian in Canterbury. Of course, being a live music lover, I couldn’t pass up such an offer!

Beautiful Town are a collective who promote, support and cultivate new music, founded by Emily Watts, who has programmed a series of new monthly music nights at Gulbenkian. 

This was a refreshingly classy evening for a Friday night out, but then the venue was the cafe bar of an arts venue which houses a theatre and a cinema on the University of Kent campus. The bar was set up cabaret style and the audience included some families. All very civilised and a nice wind-down into the weekend.   

First up on the line up was the beautiful Alice Heggie, who has a sweet and sultry voice, an acoustic guitar and songs about secret glances, romantic runaways and polar bear fur. I think there was one with hedgehogs too, I didn’t quite trust my ears as I seem to have reached that age where you mishear all the lyrics. It was the combination of her beautiful and really quite sexy voice with the evocative and quirky lyrics that kept me spellbound for her set. My favourite line… “aspirin and wine, chased with vodka and time”.  

A changeover for chat and drink refills then another acoustic artist, Nina Clark took to the stage. She is a singer-songwriter with an eclectic style, which she can’t even describe, but as I’m a writer, I suppose I should give it a go… upbeat smooth acoustic with soul and jazz influences and an entertaining troubadour style. Nina is an accomplished performer and I loved her chat between songs and hearing about her varied song-writing inspirations, which include Game of Thrones and getting a really bad haircut in New Zealand.    

Finally, self-taught multi-instrumentalist Thomas Ashby, who played with a guitar, kick drum, snare and tambourine and got the crowd clapping and stomping along with his buoyant folk-pop numbers and Arctic Monkeys cover. His newer, slower, untitled material was the most interesting and heartfelt, but his percussion was very watchable and good folking fun all round, and finished up with dancing and an encore.     

If you enjoy listening to acoustic singer-songwriters in a laid-back atmosphere, this night of emerging, emerged and re-emerging musical talent is definitely for you! 

Introducing The DIY Creative Club

How to get DIY Creative on your clothesThe InspirApril instagram challenge is almost over! I really like monthly challenges. I find them strangely motivating, especially when there is a whole community all taking part. It is inspiring connecting and sharing creatively with others. I’m going to miss it and I’m not the only who has said they don’t want it to end.

The good news is that while the photo challenge is coming to a close, there are other awesome things in development! I have had the idea to create a lovely creative community bubbling for a little while, but you’ve all inspired me to make it happen! Right now! 

So it is time to launch the DIY Creative Club!

What is it?
It’s a club for you to have some creative fun, share your art (in whatever form that takes), connect with like-minded creative people. All are welcome, whether you create for money, for love, a mix of the two or even if you don’t consider yourself to be creative, but fancy trying something new or just hanging out with quirky creative types. It is particularly suitable if you are going it alone in your creative endeavours, whether that means you are entrepreneurial, a die-hard indie artist or just the only creative weirdo in your village. Read the manifesto and if it makes you say “hell yeah!” or some equivalent thereof, you should certainly sign up.  

How does it work?
– On the 1st of the month, the theme will be announced.
– You’ll get an email with creative prompts, quests and a playlist.
– We can all chat, share creative work and advice, inspire each other on an exclusive DIY Creative Club group on Facebook.
– You can share your creations using the hashtag #DIYCreativeClub and being a supportive community we can all like, retweet and share again!  

If you are interested in joining, sign up to my mailing list. I’ll be emailing everyone on 1st May with this month’s theme and links – it is open to all and it’s free for the first month.

In June, you can choose whether to continue and pay what you can, which means you can decide what the membership is worth and balance it against what you can afford, but no one will be excluded.

The club will only ever be as awesome as its membership (so if you sign up it will be brilliant!). The most important investment is you, your ideas, creations, enthusiasm and support for your DIY creative peers. It is a community so I’ll be asking for your opinions, input and feedback as we go!

Are you in? Sign up to my mailing list here to receive the first DIY Creative Club theme on Friday. 

UPDATE! I have pushed the magic launch button! Here is a link to the info you need to join us this month DIY Creative Club: May 2015

Q&A – Blogging, Music And The Secret Identities Of My Cat

QandA with Cassy Fry April 2015I told my Instagram followers they could ask me anything and they did! Here are my answers.

@fibrogeek asked: “What made you decide to start blogging? What is the best thing that has happened thanks to blogging? What one piece of advice to other bloggers be?”

In 2010 I was reading lots of vintage style blogs and I took part in a style challenge on Facebook. I wore a dress every day for a month and when it came to an end I started a blog to continue sharing my outfits and because I liked writing. I posted sporadically at first, and because I didn’t have that many outfits to post, and my health made getting dressed up and photographed difficult, I started to write about different things – my cultural influences, where I had been and what I had seen. Everything has evolved quite naturally from there. It began as a hobby, something just for fun, and is slowly turning into something more professional and purposeful, but still fun!

The best thing that has happened because of blogging is that it has helped me get my shit together! The last four years have been so tough and my life has changed massively. Connecting with like-minded people on line has made a huge difference during the times I have been isolated and lonely. Plus I’ve always wanted my blog to be a positive and honest space, so I try to share my best, but authentic self and that has been a really good practise for me. Once you tell the world how you see it, you owe it to yourself and your readers to live it.   

My one piece of advice to bloggers (myself included) is to connect with other bloggers and readers in real life whenever you can. Not everyone will turn into your new best friend and you might be surprised by who you do or don’t click with offline, but you are guaranteed to have a load of fun and get a ton of inspiration. Also it is just really lovely to spend time with people that share your ability to have a good conversation while simultaneously editing selfies for Instagram!    

@heleniumknits on instagram asked: “What’s your cat’s secret identity? (they all have one)”

Of course they do, cat identities are possibly even more complex than human ones!

Eddie has just had a haircut and it seems to be a massive weight off, he has so much energy now he is lighter and cooler, so he is channelling ‘sprightly Spring lamb’ this season. Eddie actually has a few secret identities, here are my favourites…

Lord Edward Fluffybottom – The little Lord knows he is one of those posh cats, therefore superior and entitled. Even if he was never going to be a best in show or the Downing Street cat, he is still better than his human servants (who inadvertently reinforce his worldview) and the street moggies (that he is terrified of even though he has never met any). He huffs at the riff-raff that surround him and expects to be served his cat treats with a silver spoon. This is the cat we once came home to find he had turned on the TV and was watching the Conservative Conference coverage. Of course, it is hard to tell what he actual political opinions are as he scowls at everyone.

Ed Valiant, Private Investigator – Eddie loves investigating, he likes to sniff everything and likes to observe humans as they do things. You can see his mind calculating and mystery solving as he tries work out how to climb the shelves to see what is in that box at the top. His nickname is stolen from Who Framed Roger Rabbit? because that film is genius, but he is more of a film noir anti-hero, with thoughts narrated in a deep no-nonsense American accent. Example: “I had a chance and I had to take it. The dame left the room, the cupboard was wide open, just like this case, and I knew the answers were inside.”

My Little Cowardly Lion – He gives it all that, picks a fight with you, saying “puttem up puttem up” and then completely freaks out and then hides. Plus he looks like a little lion.

@alubelle3 “If you were stranded on a desert island with 3 things, what would they be?”

I’d like three people please! I’d go totally mad on my own! A survival expert, a doctor and a handsome poetic musician would be nice! As I don’t think people count as ‘things’, I should choose some actual stuff. I have no idea what would be useful in this situation, but I’d like a life supply of a sun lotion with a high SPF, prescription sunglasses and a ukulele! (I would like a hairbrush too, but I’m assuming I could borrow one from a local mermaid).

Of course it is tempting to choose three items of Crown and Glory (Ali is a fellow member of the Glitterati), in that case it’d be the Shauna Tiara, Elbie Crown and my Mermaid Turban!

@nikkiloymusic Top 3 female artists?

I’m assuming this means music artists as Nikki is a singer/songwriter (check out her music). I like artists that write awesome lyrics that are good to sing/scream along to as well as speaking direct to my soul, make feisty, fun and innovative music, have an independent/DIY attitude and are artists in every sense of the word. I’m cheating and doing top 5 (it’s a High Fidelity thing!)

  1. Ani DiFranco
  2. Helen Love
  3. Kathleen Hanna
  4. Amanda Palmer
  5. Bjork

@helenthornber What is your proudest achievement so far this year and why?

Argh! Helen is a coach so asks the best, difficult but useful, questions! This is so hard as I feel like I have set lots of things in motion this year, but not got to the actual achievement bit yet! However, I am proud that I have handled a series of personal crises and difficult situations with grace (I think! Not sure if I’m a reliable judge of this, but I’m feeling positive about it!)

In terms of things I have actually done – I’m really proud of my collaborations – the 10 Things I Am Afraid To Tell You posts and #InspirApril challenge. Collaborating has pushed me out of my control freak comfort zone and given me a real boost of confidence, inspiration and enthusiasm.

I am also really proud that I am finally sharing some of my (less bad) poetry. I have so much really bad poetry hidden away (and I’m not being modest, some of it is horrifically cringeworthy) as I have written for years, but not shared. I procrastinate like Hamlet, but have faced the fact that if I want to write, I need to put something out there. My blog posts have only got better because I kept publishing them and learning as I went. Sharing something that isn’t perfect, or that I might decide I don’t like later, is part of the process and is always going to be preferable to stabbing your ex-girlfriend’s dad in your mother’s chamber. Thanks for the perspective Mr Shakespeare.

And thanks everyone for your questions – I might do this again one day as I really enjoyed it! If you can’t wait ’til then, you can always hit me up with questions in the comments!

How To Write On A T-Shirt

How to get DIY Creative on your clothes‘How to write on a t-shirt’ feels like a weird title as it seems kind of obvious – you get a pen and write. But you’d be surprised about how many simple DIY creative projects I’ve messed up! Take nothing for granted. 

I have a few creative projects bubbling outside of this blog – I’m working on a zine, I’ve been sharing some of my bad poetry on Instagram and I’m playing with putting my words onto stuff, hence this blog post. This website is my little window to the world, as my creative life evolves so will this blog – no big revamp in the immediate future, just a plan to get gradually more awesome. I’ve taken the first step and sharpened up my manifesto. The second might actually be a bit of crafty procrastination – customise a t-shirt!

Cassy Fry DIY Creative Customised Tee

What you need
Get a t-shirt, some fabric pens (I recommend Sharpie Stained), a pencil, ruler or any stencils/templates and something to stretch your fabric over that you don’t mind getting stained (I used a tray).

I doodle some design ideas so I know what kind of style I’m going for. I don’t work these up too much as I don’t want my sketches to be better than the finished product! Then put on t-shirt to work out where you want your text or doodles and mark it with a pencil.

How to write on a t-shirtWrite
Keep the fabric stretched and flat. Use a ruler when you want straight lines. Create shapes with clean sweeps and then make then bolder and tidy them up. It is easier to add than take away, so slow and steady wins the race. 

Make mistakes
Just go with any mistakes, it is part of the DIY aesthetic! I dropped the damn pen, which left a little ink blotch, so I did it again a few more times around the text! Go with the creative flow.

Have fun
Add some colour or details as you go. Be playful!

That’s it! I love customising stuff, I think I’m going to be writing on all the things for a while! 

Five Amazing Artists On Etsy

Etsy Artists featured on Cassy Fry dot com

I love buying directly from artists and DIY creative types. I often start buying small items, badges, postcards and the like, before I invest in a larger piece. I get a bit of a buzz from supporting creative people, both financially and by giving their work a happy home. I love surrounding myself with beautiful, quirky things that make me feel, so I’m always in the mood for buying art! In fact in the process of compiling this blog post, I brought the textile vampire teeth pictured above from artist Emily Tull, as well as adding a load of prints and zines to my wishlist. For the sake of my bank balance, I decided to stop at five of my favourite Etsy artists, but there are so many fabulous creative people selling work on the site from all across the world, so there is something to suit all budgets and tastes. 

Arty Emily

Etsy Artists - Emily TullArtist Emily Tull is based in Kent and her textile and embroidery work is even more gorgeous in real life. My favourites include her crow and skull, because I like the contrast of delicate and dark, but she also makes beautiful birds and bees. I also love her photographic work, which you can pick up for a snip in greeting card or postcard form. Aside from today’s purchase I already own one of her Disco Ducks (pictured at the top of this post) – this is a bathroom art must-have for everyone everywhere! If that isn’t enough, she also makes a selection of quirky jewellery featuring two of my favourite ‘B’ icons – Barbie and Bowie. 

Make Blackout Poetry

Etsy Artists - Make Blackout Poetry

I follow Make Blackout Poetry on Instagram, which is currently my favourite way of following artists. You get to see work, behind the scenes and get to know the artist. It is also great if you love the artist’s style, but they haven’t created the piece you were meant to own yet. I’ve started to make my own black out poems now, but I still *need* a piece from John Carroll, because his work has inspired me so much. Pictured above – Infinite Sadness, Eclectic Persona, Prepare to Launch, and Life Disappears – they are all fab, but I actually have two of these on my must-have wishlist – can you guess which ones?   

Betty Turbo

Etsy Artists - Betty TurboMy darling artist sister sent me a Spike card (because i LOVE him!) and the amazing Eat Fashion zine by Betty Turbo, and so I discovered my new favourite artist.  How much do I want to cuddle the s’Morrissey cushion?! As well as zines, plushy homewares and cool cards, she makes fun, sweet and inspirational prints, like this No Time For Crappy Thoughts one. So damn cute! 

Charlotte Thomson Art

Etsy Artists - Charlotte ThomsonTwo things I love – pin ups and fairytales – so I think Charlotte Thomson‘s cheeky watercolour illustrations of Little Red Riding Hood and Alice in Wonderland are amazing. You can get them as prints or cards. Charlotte is another artist I follow on Instagram after I saw the live scribing for the Blogcademy – sadly not the weekend I went

The Kat and Monocle 

Etsy Artists - The Kat and MonocleYou didn’t expect to get through this post without some cat art! I adore these illustrated kitties on fine china by The Kat and Monocle. You can get The Duchess on a mug or the darling Mr Bojangles on a plate. I first discovered these at Borough Market on the Blogcadette Meet Up and I really want to save some pennies towards getting a piece of commissioned china featuring my own cat! There are also doggie designs available, if you aren’t a cat person (although I cannot understand how that would be possible!). 

What are your favourite pieces from what I have featured? And what other Etsy artists do I need to know about? 

Images of products featured belong to the Etsy shops credited. This post contains some affiliate links – see my disclaimer for info about these – but be assured I only share things I think are amazing! 

Choosing My Path Through A Maze Of Dance and Art

Maze - Jasmin Vardimon Company and Turner ContemporaryI was lucky enough to attend the preview of Maze at the Margate Winter Gardens on Friday; an exciting collaboration between Jasmin Vardimon and Turner Contemporary bringing together dance theatre and visual arts. I was invited through Ideas Test rather than as reviewer, but it was such a magical experience and so many people have been asking me about it, I had to write something about my immersive adventure through the labyrinth (spoiler alert – I didn’t find the Goblin King).  

I wasn’t sure what to expect, other than some kind of maze involving dance and something interactive. Being asked to “leave inhibitions behind and immerse yourself in the unknown” can make you feel a bit apprehensive, but I was also a little excited and very intrigued. 

The Maze experience is different for everyone. You choose your own path and navigate the labyrinth by yourself. Leaving your everyday baggage (and shoes) at the door and entering alone shifts you away from your own world and into one that feels like a fairy-tale, and a fantasy adventure film, and a manifestation of a weird and uneasy Lynchian dream.

You are beckoned when it is your turn to enter the maze and at the end of the corridor, you are faced with two paths and one decision. I was lured to the left by a siren-like dancer, who led me into the labyrinth only is disappear giggling like a naughty nymph. I was alone, surrounded by walls of foam, but before I could take in my surroundings, another dancer held out her hand.

I was gently pulled through a fabric door and suddenly I was surrounded by beautiful dancers, all dressed in white, whispering “choose your path” as they spun around me. The changing faces and circling sounds were enchanting and just as the spell started to disorientate me, I was whisked out and left alone once more, as if I just imagined it.

At this point, I felt like the heroine of one of my favourite books or films. It allowed me to surrender to a sense of mischievous adventure. This was a story, normal life rules don’t apply. I slowly but purposefully made my way through the maze, allowing myself to be curious to look round the corner, to crawl through a small space just because I hadn’t been that way yet.  

The maze is constructed from all this amazing foam, huge sculptures that look cold and edgy like icebergs, but soft and spongy as your mattress. It is flexible and moveable, you can squeeze through narrow corridors. There were gaps and holes and strange shapes, eerily lit. There were branches and tree stumps, adding to the enchanted woodland feeling, but there was also scaffolding above and a foam equivalent of a padded cell with a dancer throwing himself around. The maze wasn’t sealed in, so the ornate ceiling and chandeliers are visible. I liked this as the contrast was beautiful, the space didn’t feel too claustrophobic and it still felt like an alternate reality inside a familiar space.

The soundscape was amazing, unobtrusively altering the mood. I started to feel different, wary, there were more people to encounter, both audience and dancers, more happening and more to take in. There was an unpredictability, a darkness to the magic and scenes of mild peril. Characters emerged, one with a maniacal laugh. Hands poked through gaps in the foam. A couple call urgently to each other. 

There were times when we gathered together as an audience, seeking safety in numbers or just trying not to get in the way, to watch wonderfully choreographed dance pieces, the performers taking on the quality of a forest or the foam landscape. Watching groups of dancers performing so close is fascinating. You can feel the vibrations of their movement on the floor just in front of you.

Then I sought a quieter corner and found a lady with a sign offering a free souvenir, I choose ‘feelings’. She stood behind me, told me to close my eyes and let her lead me, guiding my hand alone the foam, until she disappeared.  

While I loved the whole experience, it was the intimate individual moments that made it special and that helped me to lose my inhibitions and submit to the experience. Still when a girl in boxing gloves held out her hand, I was reluctant. She waited patiently, we held eye contact, we slowly smiled and my anxiety passed. She stood me against the foam wall and raised her gloves and stared me straight in the eye, then threw a slow motion punch as her glove connected with the foam next to my head, the music stopped and everyone froze.

A more jovial tune started playing, the kind that makes you feel like you’re on a fairground ride, and she removed her gloves and asked me to dance. We swayed hand in hand. A line of us – dancers and audience. The professionals did some fancy floor work while we held their hands. Then we all danced out of the maze together.

Maze is on at the Margate Winter Gardens until 15 April 2015.

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