The little things in life!

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Thought it was about time I shared my love for the little things on here! I am a miniature intervention artist, which is just a fancy way of saying I set up teeny tiny little scenes in public space- photograph them, then leave them there. As far as miniature urban artists go, there aren’t a lot but to name a few; Slinkachu, Sprinkle Brigade (who do genius things with dog poo) and Charles Simonds and his work on “Dwellings” (who has been developing a narrative for “the little people” since 1970.)  I think I’ve always had an interest in little things, For me it was dolls houses and tiny furniture. I remember going to a Wallace and Grommit exhibition about six or seven year ago and just being so absolutely content studying all the tiny rooms, props and food. The detail just absolutely swept me up and took me into a very happy place. I looked into the nature of “miniature” on my degree and I guess wasn’t surprised when I read and discovered that imagining yourself there inside that tiny detailed dolls house is a form of escapism, and there are great children’s stories out there that execute this brilliantly. So my love for the miniature is ever growing- as of late Hotch Potch are working on a new show called “Café Petite”. It explores the notion of the tall and the small through Celtic and Cornish folklore-whilst we serve people tiny tea and cakes. Ross- the other half of Hotch Potch used to work as a Chef and is a pretty awesome stilt performer. A couple of years ago we started dreaming up ways to combine our practices and one was Café Petite- a performative dining experience serving miniature food. We started experimenting and invited friends round for miniature roast dinners. We didn’t know it at the time but we were not only creating exciting novelty food but a new way to enjoy food. To appreciate the small….take your time….take it in. To encourage mindfulness and to celebrate  quality over quantity. We are big foodies and we are pretty excited about all the changes that are taking place with regards to produce and sustainability at the minute but are also saddened by the problems with obesity and other health related illnesses  our culture has. Café Petite is our way of communicating a new way of appreciating not only our food but everything. Take time to look at a tiny spider make its web, and how an Ant colony works. Its incredible, don’t over look it. After all we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for all the tiny bugs and bees. So Café Petite is our thank you to the little things that make the world go round…we do see you and we thank you.

For my mice- sorry I don’t get you out of your cage more often to play. You have my word I will make a maze for you soon.

Laura 🙂

Busking as a living statue

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This is me…. not the best image but it was taken in the public toilets in Truro. or more formally known as (my busking changing room) Its an unusual part of my day job but I have to admit I do love to see the look on ladies faces as I walk out of the cubicle painted white, hoisting up my heavy long wedding dress to reveal a not so elegant pair of wellington boots. Then I venture on to the high street to find a spot. Busking as a living statue is a side job to running my company Hotch Potch and community project The Crooked Thicket. But its become a valuable part of my life. It reminds me why I do what I do and gives me that very satisfactory engagement with the public that I thrive on in all my work. Human Statue kind of gets a hard press at times, because “all you do is stand still”. But of course standing still very well is entirely different from standing still half heartily. And I do go back in forth in my mind thinking. Yeah I am just standing still and people give me money to do it, but a good human statue doesn’t just stand still. You have to be a strong visual artist, create an authentic and striking costume from scratch and this takes months to get right, you have to have an idea that’s widely recognised and of course once you have learnt how to “stand still” you have to be a pretty fearless person to stand on the street for hours a day exposing yourself to.. well… anything. FYI things that NEVER happen~ people running away with the money (although there is always talk of it) ~ people pushing me over (this is my biggest fear) and~ the dreaded urge to scratch an itch- its incredible what you can train yourself to control when you put your mind to it. Things that ALWAYS  happen ~ People assuming you cant hear them talking (which is just bizarre) ~ People genuinely thinking your a statue (I really don’t set out to scare, but the pace of the high street and peoples busy schedules are a huge contrast to what im doing, a lot of the time I really do become street furniture and end up terrifying lovely old ladies). ~ And teenage girls being the most annoying people on the planet but having THE BEST response to human statue….. they like to scream….loudly! Anyway so there you have it, a bit of insight into “that funny white lady who stands still like a statue”. Look out for more on this on the blog and if your in the neighbourhood check  out “The White Lady” at Trevithic Day in Camborne at the end of the month 26th April.

Bye for now

Laura xx

The Crooked Thicket Project

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We are slightly notorious for having our fingers in many pies! Since moving to Cornwall in January we have been thinking a lot about our future, about our career paths and what to do with the rest of our lives. Ross and I moved to his parents house where we have been helping out on the property- Cambrose Farm House. Its quite a large property- 2 acres; and used to operate as an organic poultry farm. It also homed a family of home educated children- Ross and his siblings, so you can imagine the kind of liberated childhood they might have had. There are seven cats and three dogs, five ducks and the property is filled with mystery sheds, apple trees and just tons and tons of stuff that has accumulated over the years. Its basically a curious kids paradise.

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One of the reasons why we moved here is that we could actually have a space to store all our performance equipment and  have a workshop to keep making and creating-this is essential for the kind of work we do. The only problem was that the property needed a lot of help, it had been neglected for a long time. So we got stuck in! Of course our minds started to wonder and we couldn’t help thinking about the potential the property had for a venue to serve as our creative base. A tennis court, a meadow with a coppice at the end, a workshop shed, a stable, all unused and all needing attention. So we dreamed about a place that could facilitate emergent artists, hold outdoor events, run workshops for those in need, share practices and educate through the arts.ross fire poi

So were doing it! we held a small event for friends and family to discuss ideas and to get a feel for the space at a night-time event. We had a trail of candle lit torches through the tennis court were guests watched some fire poi and juggling, then it went on up to the meadow where we sat down to a big bonfire in the twisted living room. It was a lovely family orientated night and a beautiful beginning to something really special. So The Crooked Thicket is a project we can see becoming a very important part of our lives! an ongoing project and a extraordinary journey! Stay with us for the journey and even better if your near by come out and play!

Festivals and Events, from Stadiums to door steps!

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Being the first Graduates of a degree in Street Arts is certainly an honour. We were part of a programme which hasn’t been done before anywhere! This was really exciting! We were referred to as the guinea pigs on a number of occasions, not sure if that’s a great label but it was true. We were partly mapping out the degree for the following years. This of course was not easy at times but our ideas inspired the make-up of the Degree and the three years were filled with unusual collaborations and experimenting with new ways of making work. Another bonus was the amount of extra curricular opportunities that were literally thrown at us. Because the Degree is so unique it received much interest from various events and festivals, naturally we jumped on the opportunities as they came. Sometimes this took the form of directing and producing a whole night of performance and others- pre-show light entertainment. There was always talk of feeding all this extra work into the curriculum but the truth is there was a lot of it to go around and we went for as much of it as we physically could. One of the first was The RTS Television Awards Winchester. Where we provided various different Human Statue related Acts. Followed this was a string of corporate style events including “A better life Glitter Glamour Ball” at the Guildhall Winchester . One of the most surprising Gigs was providing an evening of performance for a wedding at Lainston House Hotel for a Lecturer at the University.396214_10150526337927205_749727204_9214578_1961262456_n
We performed at Winchester’s Hat Fair from 2010-2012 and in our final year we part ran Dr Strangeloves Burlesque Discotheque– a weekly club night at The Railway Inn Winchester.
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By this point we were operating as Hotch Potch so we took on projects as a company. The summer proved to be a busy one where we took our show Ka-Dunk-A-Junk to Festival d’Artois in Arras France and then to La Rue est a’ Amiens where we were an apprentice Company in the Festival. This was an incredible experience we really felt honoured to be performing in a festival alongside the likes of Generik Vapour and Wet Picnic. One of the unforgettable gigs was performing at the Olympic Stadium for the London Olympic games 2012 and Student Games with our act Flexi La’ Flem. Then not forgetting music festivals such as Larmer Tree Festival 2011, Blissfields 2012 and Boomtown Fair 2012. As the Festival season drew to a close we naturally looked to educational work and carried out workshops at The Discovery Centre for The Wessex Childrens Book Festival. Then recycled instrument making workshops at local Schools for part of  A Curious Christmas Circus at Bursledon Windmill. We also worked on some experimental projects particularly around the time of Halloween where we decided to round up a group of Street Arts students and friends and re-invent the notion of “Trick or Treat” where we visited houses and sang in a Guerrilla Cabaret fashion. See video made by Media Student Loz Morgan- The University of Winchester http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VamP-4DWLDg

By this point we had graduated so we had taken full control of our Artistic Endeavours and were even lending a hand to the Street Arts Programme by organising the extra curricular activities. Because Winchester is very welcoming to Street Buskers we were also trying out new ideas in the high Street busking as often as we could. It was an absolute jam packed few years for us. We have moved to lovely Cornwall recently to venture a career in the Arts- we have been making big plans for our future and enjoying a much deserved rest as we constantly dream up ways in which to change the world! So Wish us luck with the rest of our lives, we will be hitting the streets of Cornwall soon so keep an eye out!

Laura Surgenor
Artistic Director

Re-using and re-inventing!

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Ka-Dunk-A-Junk

Ka-Dunk-A-Junk. A name which some struggle to pronounce, suggests the combination of rhythms and junk materials. We have heard people describe us as “the trolley people” , silver aliens and spacemen, some children have even been convinced that some of our equipment was a time machine…if only! Ka-Dunk-A-Junk is really a tribe of outsiders who have collected various different pieces of unwanted material and used it to make a man powered musical machine. Hotch Potch have a little bit of a tendency to be attracted to the unattractive and how to create a masterpiece…well….on a budget. One of the first things we learnt on the Street Arts course with the help of reading material such as Engineers of the imagination- The Welfare state handbook by Coult and Kershaw. Was that having a limited flow of money can enable you to create some wonders as you are forced to use your imagination. Ka-Dunk-A-Junk is most definitely speaks of this method. We made a whole performance out of hoover tubes, bottle caps, abandoned trolleys and hose piping etc. For us the piece speaks about many things; cultural minorities, social exclusion, the unspoken rules and tradition’s of street performance. But most of all it speaks about waste. How its incredibly ironic that our equipment consists of rubbish and junk that our society has considered undesirable an and so have disregarded it and chucked it away, yet is the most highly photographed act we do and continues to accumulate large audiences just because of the visual aesthetics the piece offers. For more information on the act go to http://www.hotchpotchperformance.co.uk

Hotch Potch who?

Flexi La' Flem

Hello! all and welcome to the first blog of Hotch Potch. Hotch Potch are a performance company specialized in outdoor arts. We consist of myself- Laura Surgenor, Eve Blakemore and Ross Wheeler. We met a mere three years ago on a very unique degree at the university of Winchester; BA in Street Arts. Yes its a real degree and no its not “like Banksy and stuff”. Street Arts can combine any of the following; Circus, dance, acting, clowning, parkour, visual arts, puppetry, physical theatre. The list goes on and the cross overs are tremendous but all of these art forms can be a part of street arts as long as they are not only performed in the street but are at their best in an outdoor public environment. Street Arts is an ambiguous term which i think now is described as outdoor arts, as the term Street Arts kind of unofficially belongs to graffiti or street intervention artists. But none the less Hotch Potch are specialized in outdoor arts. we experiment with non verbal communication, physical theatre, clown and bouffant and many other art forms. We decided on the name hotch potch because we could’nt decide what exactly we wanted to specialize in. A hotch potch is a kind of stew where many things are mixed together and so Hotch Potch was born. So please readers do not expect the hot pot to be about anything in particular. We love variety, collaborations, unusual mixes and we all very much practice the art of experimental cooking. So please tuck in and enjoy.

Laura Surgenor
co.artistic director