Preview: Pop Up Festival, Newtown

Every now and then, a beautiful antidote to the unending yuppie-fication of Newtown rears its lovely head. If you’ve ever wandered down King St on a Saturday night only to be visually assaulted by packs of maggoted, cashed up, male bogan idiots in striped polo shirts, then the Pop Up Festival will be sure to delight you and restore your faith in the Inner West.

It’s a free event this September, part of the Sydney Fringe, and it’s a celebration of the weird, colourful Inner West we all know and call our spiritual home.

Chris Lego, a local independent artist and general do-er, gave Music Feeds the lowdown on what is sure to be a highlight of the Fringe.

MF: Give us a snapshot of what to expect at the Pop Up Festival!

Chris Lego: Gay breakcore, an idea auction, giant treasure hunt, ninja projections, a Newtown elder performing, the best five-minute party ever and 400 people.

MF: Who are your top five artists participating in the event for us to keep an eye out for?

CL: Jeff the Auction guy, Hurricane Bob, FEVA, 10k Freemen, Glace Chase and the drunk guy in the bunny rabbit costume throwing the treasure hunt prizes around.

MF: Can you hint at the identity of the surprise special guests at Pop Up Festival? Please?! 

CL: No. But there are at least five of them. It wouldn’t be a surprise if it wasn’t a surprise.

MF: Any clues as to the path we’ll be taking around Newtown’s streets when roaming with the Pop Up Festival? 

CL: Left, left, through the intersection, into a park with 4 sweet spots, left, stop #6, left, right, past the pub, left, down two blocks, left again. No, I’m not joking. That’s the plan.

MF: What do you ascribe the mini explosion in DIY arts culture in Sydney to? It seems to me like since the internet age broke out (blogging, tweeting), people want to be engaged in two-way conversation with the media, rather than passively receiving information from the old, hierarchical media organisations. There seems to be a craving for information, events, projects and stories that are raw and real and cut through the spin. What do you think of that idea?

CL: The spin is dead. People want something unpredictable, real, semi-unplanned and a bit raw. The DIY spirit has always been there. It just got buried in the debris for a little while. We want our local histories to be shared, with a treasure hunt along the way, and a mobile sound system. We invite participation, conversation. It’s a two way street.

MF: As an independent Sydney artist, what are the biggest issues confronting you?

CL: Space. Space without the pressure to make money doing what we do. The eternal fight for the use of public space. The incredible waste of money in the mainstream ‘arts industry’. Public Liability Insurance bullshit has killed so many great ideas. All these things affect us. We’re trying to think around these barriers. The whole crew behind these events coming up believe in just doing it for the sheer beauty of it. For the spectacle, the carnival, the unpredictable nature of an unpolished really good idea.

MF: There’s been criticism among some in the Sydney indie arts community that this community is taking on an overly commercial or PR cast, or that it’s more of a ‘scene’ than a ‘community’. Do you see any truth in these criticisms? Do you think it’s a problem?

CL: Interesting question. What is ‘this’ community? If it was commercial, we’d be charging money, or someone would be making money along the way. If we had a PR bent, we would be making a name for ourselves to do something huge.? I’ve no idea … we just wanna do this. I’ve got no cushy arts job on the horizon. We’ve been doing free events for years. We’re putting on three free events open to everyone. Even the stalls at the Artcore Art Fair are free for the artists, with free admission and music. So no, I don’t see any truth in that. Maybe they think we’re getting kickbacks from some huge business. We’re not. I’d happily talk to anyone within the indie arts community about their concerns.

As far as ‘scene vs community’; it is a community. Scenesters would insist on getting paid or something. Or a rider … these people [involved in the Pop Up Festival] would help me move house if I needed them.

MF: Pop Up Festival is a free event that takes place in outdoor, public areas. Is accessibility a priority for you in planning the event? What role do you see public space as playing in the independent, artist-run community?

CL: Accessibility is really important to us. Public space is vital. It belongs to everyone. It’s Ours. There is a time and place for events indoors and there is a time to go outside and make some noise. We have mobile soundsystems and it’ll be spring, and friends that are up for performing. Why not get out there… It is Newtown after all…

MF: Which independent Sydney artists/musos/people inspire you?

CL: Painters, dancefloor fiends, the queer freaky family, mobile soundsystems, 10K Freemen, Totally Unicorn, Treehouse family, Tone, Kooky, You. People that try. People that communicate. Welcoming strangers. Spontaneity. Makers and sharers. Bakers. 2ser and FBI and Skid Row.

MF: What other Sydney Fringe events are on your radar?

CL: Mystery Bus!, Confessions of a Grindr Addict, Artcore Guerilla Art Fair and Reclaim the Lanes. I’ll be out every night but I have not done my research yet. I’ve been up to my neck in all this wonderful shit.

Pop Up Festival is a roving carnival of outdoor performances.

It kicks off at 7pm, Friday September 9, starting from Newtown Neighbourhood Centre, King St (opposite Newtown Station) and stopping in two laneways for an hour each.

There’ll be a welcome by some of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, live music and art performances by Jeff the Auction Guy, Hurricane Bob , Jess Cook, a circus performer, Projector Obscura, Newtown Ukestra, a treasure hunt, a bubble machine, roaming sound systems and plenty, plenty more wild, wonderful carnivalesque celebrations of Inner West public spaces.There are still spaces open for performers. Get in touch with Chris Lego via the Facebook page if you’re interested.

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