Curator of LLAWN (Llandudno Arts Weekend), Megan Broadmeadow talks to Lin Cummins about curating the festival, the journey, the creative process and ‘a line in the sand’. LLAWN returns for its seventh year with a new curator, a new vision, and a whole host of new artists heading for North Wales over the weekend of 13 – 15th September 2019.
Megan Broadmeadow is a well-known in the welsh arts scene, having previously lived, studied and developed art happenings and events in North Wales and Cardiff. Her work, The Briny Deep, formed part of the opening ceremony of the National Eisteddfod in Cardiff Bay in 2018. She is also currently showing SEEK-PRAY-ADVANCE- an interdisciplinary artwork comprising of installation, video, performance and sound – at QUAD in Derby.
This year’s theme at LLAWN, A Line In the Sand, marks a departure for the festival. With a new curator and a renewed energy, LLAWN is ready to step forward and become a festival of international significance. A Line in the Sand refers to the mark-making and activity of artists, those that will make their imprint on the walls and surfaces of the town in the first ever mural trail for North Wales. It also represents those marks, trails and moments made by those that will walk, crawl or dance. From promenade, hilltop and even in the air. Lines will be drawn and connections made.
Lin Cummins: What was the journey to curating LLAWN?
Megan Broadmeadow: North Wales is my homeland and so, when I finished at the Slade in 2002, I returned to the coast, and approached what was then known as Oriel Mostyn for a show! And it worked! I got a spotlight show a few months later. I was then approached by the collective Real Institute to see if I was interested in getting involved in live events they were putting on. I studied sculpture, but quite early on found myself performing as well as making but hadn’t really done many live events in public. Through Real Institute, we developed all kinds of events and performances in random places, playing strange games and sometimes being compere too! I started to help organise the events, and got into producing and eventually directing an immersive theatre company Theatr Cynefin in a forest in Llanrwst. Over the years I worked as a lead artist and artist in residence across North Wales, with many projects including live events, and site specific pieces with lots of artists involved. I also just made up events. At that time In North Wales you had to be pro-active – if you didn’t put things on, then they didn’t happen. Grassroots work is important when there are very few galleries or venues set up to support local artists. I guess this DIY spirit is what has led me to LLAWN, or at least is my motivation which gives me the determination to put stuff on.
In recent years I’ve been focusing on my solo practice, but the opportunity to curate LLAWN comes at a point when my work with community is beginning to resurface. Since dedicating time to my own work I feel that now I have a much stronger voice and direction when it comes to curating work and working with others. When the possibility of LLAWN came up, I was at point where I could say “Yes, I do have ideas for the programme. I do have things I want to explore in Llandudno and I do feel up to the challenge!”
How did you approach the task of curating, what have been the challenges and what have been the joys?
It’s equally scary and thrilling to be asked to curate an existing festival. I have my own personal relationship to LLAWN and know that it is held closely to many people’s hearts in North Wales. Everyone loves LLAWN! So I feel a big responsibility to give them what they want whilst also trying new things out.
I want LLAWN to move forward as something that is known across the UK as a platform for Welsh arts, and so curating Welsh artists in the show was imperative to me. At the same time, I wanted to ensure that the festival brings quality acts to North Wales, from across the UK, so I feel my aim has been to find the right balance between these two aspects.
The joy of course has been to be able to bring people who inspire me, to my home town. It’s a total privilege, and so nice to invite people – artists love being invited to things. As an artist I know it’s the best feeling, and so it’s been really great to be on the side of offering opportunities to people whose work I admire.
I’ve also come to realise there are things which can be explored by working with a group of artists, or a multitude of voices that can also compliment and inform the work I do as an individual rather than be wholly separate from it. I’m also happy to give up my opinions when it matters and let the artists go for it too. I try to imagine the festival, but it will always be somewhat out of my contro. I’m a facilitator not a dictator so I’m really looking forward to see what happens as a lot of it will be new work, and live, so I won’t really know what it is until it happens!
Is there a message to it, how do things like this work during times like these etc etc?
I wanted to bring a new direction to LLAWN this year. Things in the UK are changing, and I felt that I wanted to bring artists to Llandudno who would be able to address these changes in an engaging, and unique way. I happened to be in Llandudno the day the Brexit result was announced so it felt appropriate to think about it in the context of curating LLAWN.
The title A Line In The Sand was important, to make a standpoint for the festival. Rather than thinking of the past lives of Llandudno, I wanted to bring the festival to this moment. To think of the location at this point in time, and consider the future of Llandudno and North Wales in a time of uncertainty.
I wanted to invite work that might be poignant as well as celebratory. The ‘line in the sand’ is declaratory on one hand but something which can be crossed also. A line might not last forever, and barriers can be overcome.
I chose work and artists with this idea of ‘A Line in the Sand’ in mind, and have put an emphasis on work which activates or incorporates the audience. The first work I chose was a game called Faceback, people will get a photo taken and it will become a badge. They then swap it for the badge of a person they don’t know. Over the weekend they will be looking for their face, and in the process finding and talking to people across the town. For me it’s symbolic for the festival – making eye contact. Crossing the line from strangers to community, stepping over invisible social lines for the festival weekend.
Other works such as Gary Steven’s piece with a community based ensemble really draw on the wavering line between individual and society through movement and gesture. In his work, seemingly simple actions such as breaking away from the crowd are actually under the control of super complex system of rules and rituals in which the individual may only have a millisecond of autonomy before being subsumed back into the group.
Blazing Saddles, a piece by Bicycle Ballet is also about boundaries, it will tell the story of how women crossed the line, by defying rules about not cycling. The action of getting on a bike was actually much more than that and, as it turned out, intertwined with the Suffragist Movement and ultimate freedom for women.
How does a festival like LLAWN bring contemporary art to the fore?
LLAWN is in a really unique position to be able to offer support to contemporary artists in a time of uncertainty. Mostyn Estates, one of our main festival funders, and MOSTYN gallery, the principle festival partner, really want Llandudno to be a place that people look to for quality contemporary art in Wales. It’s the support from them, the team and the community who want this to be the best. It’s people therefore who bring the art forward and with that support artists can flourish.
For artists I also think Llandudno is a wonderful place to visit. There isn’t anywhere quite like it, with the beautiful seafront and the drama of the mountain backdrop. It is an inspirational place and I think artists respond really well to simply being in the town. I’m certain the location enhances the work they make. To be out of a studio and to have the whole town as a canvas – I really hope we can offer them something that brings the best out in them.
I guess also, the location helps the work to be recognised on a wider platform. If people see images of the festival, they will see interesting things happening in an amazing town. It will certainly look massively different to the same work in a white space gallery.
Why bring contemporary art out of the gallery?
With each curator comes a different set of concerns and areas of interest too. Marc Rees who was the first curator of LLAWN was passionate about contemporary dance, so the festival had a big emphasis on movement in the early years.
My interest is in a different kind of live art – contemporary artists who use the live moment or site specific setting. They may well dance, or run a dog show, but they come from a fine art background rather than theatre or dance school.
These artists’ work wouldn’t make sense in a gallery. But they understand the language of contemporary art and want their work to be understood in that context. They just don’t show it in a gallery.
How do you engage a non-gallery audience?
In LLAWN’s case – it’s the element of integration. The festival will happen around the public. They won’t really be able to avoid it. I’m hoping they may engage with one thing, which will get them wondering what’s going on. This in turn will lead them to seek out another. I think of it as a kind of trickle-feed art engagement. I’ve also programmed lots of work which demands involvement such as the Faceback game. There will also be the murals being painted around the town, and visitors will be able to talk to the artists whilst they work. Everything is designed to get people talking rather than simply observing – it’s a festival – it should be fun and interactive!
LLAWN is MOSTYN’S free ‘Llandudno Arts Weekend’ and has, every year since 2013, brought contemporary art and performance to the town over one weekend in September.
MOSTYN, 12 Vaughan Street, Llandudno, Conwy, LL30 1AB
+44(0)1492 879201 www.mostyn.org
Open Tuesday – Sunday
10.30am – 4.00pm