REVIEW: RAW FESTIVAL NEWCASTLE 2016- ‘SIGNATURE’

Thursday, the 7th of April, mid-afternoon, I receive a text. “Two tickets at the door, have fun tonight!”. It’s just been confirmed that I’ll be attending the 2016 RAW Festival: Natural Born Artists: Signature, an event I’d been hoping to attend! The eclectic nature of the event is what first intrigued me, a collective of over 30 of Newcastle’s “best emerging artists across music, fashion, hair, makeup, performing art, visual art and photography”. RAW Festival is a travelling creative showcase, presenting in a mammoth 70 cities worldwide across the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

My sister and I approach the grand façade of Central 145, the venue for this year’s Newcastle RAW Festival. Immediately we notice the variety of attendees; there’s a single line of patrons weaving around the entrance and onto the street, from clusters of young people with sharp haircuts and grungy stares smoking away from the entrance, to elderly men, smartly dressed and waiting in line with their hands in their pockets.  This variety is an accurate homage as to what the festival offers, to be discovered inside.

The people working the door are bright eyed and warm as we get our wrists stamped and make our way into the loud music with anticipation. The first thing to catch my eye is a profoundly intriguing staircase next to the entry, accompanied by a sign stating “more art upstairs”, and we silently vow to return after investigating the ground floor.

People young and old in equal measure occupy the restaurant seating on the outskirts of the magnificent crowded room. The scent of beer, perfume and hot food permeate through the different displays as we shuffle through the abundance of guests, taking a thorough look at each stall lining the sides of the venue. Taking salience however is a raised central stage, below three huge glowing chandeliers.

We first venture to the right of the stage, inspecting a myriad of gorgeous and fascinating displays. The first we come by is rockabilly-esque jewellery and accessories reminiscent of the 1950s, also appearing to have been influenced by Dia de los Muertoes (Day of the Dead) featuring sugar skull prints and classic swing patterns such as polka dots and cherries, by Bobby Trouble. Following this is Jessie Fancett SFX, my personal favourite display of the night! Jessie is a body painter and SFX makeup artist, demonstrating her talents in the company of guests watching on in amusement (and some may arguably say disgust) as she brought zombies to life with her skills in gore. To conclude this section of displays was the work of Taylor Mason, presenting minimalist art with a strong personal sense of subject matter such as animals and icons like Frida Kahlo.

On the opposite side of the stage is a live painting demonstration performed by a slightly intimidating-looking man, ironically painting a smiling crab on beach.  As I muse over how delightful this stark contrast is, an older woman we have never met before approaches my sisters and tells her over the music that she looks like Wednesday Addams with her dark hair, (she insists it’s a compliment, I agree!).

Now was time to climb the resplendent yet wonky original staircase.  Whilst winding our way upstairs, we pass people holding colourful drinks and rendezvousing with friends and acquaintances, the busy energy pushing the eclectic crowd around and through the various exhibits in this new space. The second level was just as impressive if not more so than the ground floor. The space, formed in a striking horse-shoe shape with a cavity overseeing the stage from above, was crammed with even more displays and eager viewers, as well as a central bar manned by a single bartender.

The highlights of this level included Floweresque, a unique display of floral art using real fresh plants, Jael Collection, gorgeous flower crowns crafted by 19 year old Jael Louise from dried flowers and thrifted metallic ornaments and centre pieces, LMS Photography by Lauren Moss, local urban photography focusing on “scenes of urban decay, aiming to bring light to a little considered aspect of our post-industrial society”, Kali Sunshine Prints, passionate graphic paintings and ceramics inspired by nature frequently featuring the female figure and connection with the universe, evidently used as ”some kind of emotional dream diary”, and Belinda Alcevski, a combination of video, photography and painting, featuring dark moody graphics as Alcevski  aims to “evoke a physical and mental reaction from the audience primarily dependent on the viewer’s personal perspective”.

As we surveyed the artwork from the upper level of Central, some of the artists were brought on stage with pieces to promote their work and stalls, before the second musical act of the evening, rock duo Banddits, introduced as “full time musos from the Central Coast”, began their set. We descended the notorious staircase to get a closer look, feeling anxious for the wait staff, ambitiously and skilfully manoeuvring towering stacks of glasses through the crowded venue.  We settled close to the stage, warm under the lights and the body heat of all those present, a red velvet curtain being the only thing separating the impassioned performance from the bar and those waiting to order food and drink.

Ultimately, this was a very unique experience and a perfect night out with great energy and a sense of collaboration between the performers, artists and guests. As stated previously, the range in ages and gathering of sub-cultures is an impressive feat I have not observed many times before. I can imagine this festival would offer a vastly different experience from each location, spotlighting original local talent each time. The concept is wonderful and a creative, fun and effective way to expose local aspiring artists and performers. I would definitely attend again in the future.

More information on the Newcastle showcase can be found at www.rawartists.org/newcastle/signature, general information on the festival at www.rawartists.org

The next RAW Newcastle showcase will be held on June 2nd – Head to www.rawartists.org/Newcastle/ and submit your work if you’re keen to be involved!

Event review by Sophie Graham for Culture Hunter.

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Category: News
Region: Newcastle
Artform: Visual Arts New Media And Design,

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