[ PAGAN TO OCCUPY ] The Painted House for Latitude Festival 2012

The Painted House, Imogen Eveson, Samara Tompsett, The Faraway Forest, Latitude 2012, Pagan to Occupy
Multicoloured sheep, dancing on the lake, opera, comedy, literature, fashion and of course, music, what more could you want from a great British summer festival? Latitude Festival has all this and then some, and some of that some lies deep in the Faraway Forrest. If you go down to the woods this July you’ll be sure of a big surprise (and no its not where the teddy bears have their picnic) its The Painted House, formerly The Paper House and once upon a time The Faraway Fashion Studio, where a group of CSM graduates once debuted their talents (myself being one of them).

Three years later and the space has evolved from a simple exhibition to a multifaceted, interactive fashion destination. Masterminded by my very own friends: all round awesome Art Director Imogen Eveson and superstar Set Designer Samara Tompsett, this year’s Painted House is going to blow your festival frolicking mind! With a line up exciting events from a vintage workshop with Rag & Bow’s Roaming Vintage Store to dressmaking with 125 Magazine Editor David Hawkins, a DIY fashion fanzine with Illustator Nina Chakrabarti to a live body painting shoot with Clare Reed and Jenni Hare…the list goes on. And then you get to me. That’s right, I’ll be there with my little old trunk full or random tid bits collected on my world wanderings. So if you fancy taking ‘a trip around the world through clothes’ as Imogen has so aptly put it, come on down to the Faraway Forest on Friday 13th at 13.30 and peruse my collections.

Now go forth and visit The Painted House website to read a little Q&A with myself and some of the other contributors. And if you keep reading below you’ll see I turned the tables on Samara and Imogen and asked them a few questions of my own.

Samantha Davis, Wandering Threads, Nina Chakrabarti, David haWKINS, Luke Edward Hall, Jenni Hare + Claire Reed, The Painted House, Imogen Eveson, Samara Tompsett, The Faraway Forest, Latitude 2012, Pagan to Occupy

1. So, year no.3 and the theme is Pagan To Occupy: tribes, folk customs, identity, community and shamanism. How have you two concocted your ‘house’ to align with this year’s concept?

I: The loose idea is ‘fashion tribes’ as there is a lot of space for invention within that term and the entire crowd itself could probably be divided – crudely - into fashion tribes! But there’s also a lot more bubbling under the surface about Ceilidhs and shamanism and French Salons – as a place for exchange and inspiration. I came up with this story about an 18th Century French high-society woman who hosts salons but also has a sideline in the occult. Sharing this idea with Samara, we emerged with this vision of a crumbling Versailles as Samara found these incredible images by Robert Polidori. They are beautiful, decadent, dark and decayed and Samara and I are similarly drawn towards this aesthetic I think.
Of course, all of this won’t be obvious in the actual event. The ideas get absorbed into the mix and re-imagined in an abstract way; hopefully making the whole thing richer somehow in the process. When I first met up with Latitude’s arts booker Tania Harrison earlier this year she said what was missing in the forest was fun and glamour and I think – and hope – that is essentially what we’re providing! 

S: Last year we called our creation The Paper House, so we wanted to continue the theme to make us recognisable as the same team, plus the term 'house' hints to being someone's home. When Imogen presented me with her idea my thoughts were drawn to Versailles, as the subject of the powerful photographs of Robert Polidori. His images also caught the idea of the decadent and dark that Imogen describes, and so addresses this years theme. We wanted to make a structure that could provide a bit of shelter - a reaction to the rains of last year - something that could lend itself nicely to making a 'home'. The structure itself will be formed from the golden carcasses of a number of old greenhouses with various bits of rag and other things stretched and tied like those blanket forts we made as as children.

Samara Tompsett Set Design, Imogen Eveson, abandoned Versailles, Latitude 2012, The Painted House

2. Sounds exciting! It seems to get better every year, don’t you think? 

I: Thanks… I’d like to think so. The first year we rocked up in the middle of the forest fresh from our graduate hand-in with some building materials and our degree show to install in a shed. It was a bit crazy but we’ve learned a lot since then and this is definitely our most ambitious and accomplished idea to date.

S: Last year, during the install, the organisers said they weren't expecting quite such a big build, given the previous year. I hope this year they're prepared for something even bigger!

3. It must be exciting being able to curate and build your own project outside of the demands of your usual day-to-day work.  So what’s your favourite part of the process?

I: For me I like the challenge of responding to a theme, a place, and coming up with an idea that works on lots of different levels. I like bringing people together and seeing a pattern form that ultimately manifests in real life!

S: The interaction with the public is what makes it exciting for me and ultimately different from the majority of my work. The challenge is making something that engages people and is hardy enough to hold up to all the touching…and the weather!

Central Saint Martins Graduates, Luke Edward Hall, Yumi Fujiwara, Hannah Boone

4. Anything you’re particularly looking forward to seeing/being involved in with The Painted House over the duration of the weekend? 

I: In the Dark at midnight on Friday the 13th will be spooky and magical, I’m sure. They are a group of radio and spoken word enthusiasts who curate bespoke ‘listening sessions’. I'm also looking forward to seeing the illustrations that Rosie McGuinness comes up with from around the site in our pop-up exhibition on Sunday. And of, course, Wandering Threads – it’ll be a visual treat and tie in perfectly with the Fashion Tribes theme.

S: What I really like are the intimate moments of talking to individuals about the project, we often get young people who are interested in talking about what it's like to be in the fashion industry, and we meet people who have a wealth of knowledge in the area. Last year Eve Dawoud, a fashion history graduate came to speak about Teddy Girls, it was a lovely discussion and someone that visited us and new a lot on the subject made the discussion even more exciting. This year Imogen is curating a series of talks with the individuals on the schedule, so that should be similarly inspiring.

5. And what about around the festival itself? Where will we find you hiding when you’re not busy in the Faraway Forest?

I: I’m resigned to the fact that I’ll miss lots, however, there are a few new bands I’d love to see for the first time like Alt-J, We Are Augustines and First Aid Kit. I’ll also be watching the Graduate Fashion Show on the Lake Stage on the Friday, which I’m also helping to organise.

S: When I found out that Bon Iver were on the lineup, I made sure that we were too!!

Rosie McGuinness, Rag&Bow, Jenni Hare, Wandering Threads, The Painted House, Latitude Festival 2012, The Faraway Forest


6. You’re both fashion aficionados in your own right, so what will we catch you wearing over the weekend?

I: If it’s hot I have my By Malene Birger harem jumpsuit (which is surprisingly flattering) and if it’s cold and wet, I’ve got my full-length highwayman coat bought on impulse en route to Latitude last time.

S: Similarly I think jumpsuits are a festival must-have, they are comfortable and easy to wear. I'll also spend a lot of time in duck boots. Practical, but not as cumbersome as wellingtons.

7. And last but not least, because this blog is about world wandering after all, a token question: Where in the world would you most like to travel and what would you do there?

I: I'd love to go to Havana and take photos of the faded colours and crumbling architecture and I'd love to get absorbed in the culture of Buenos Aires... I'd have to learn to Tango and eat steak though and as a two-left footed vegetarian, that might prove hard for me.

S: I've never been to India, I think it would be very inspiring set-wise, with the use of colour and re-working of materials (an inspiration for The Painted House). I've also been wanting to go to Kyoto for a while now. But there are so many other places too!

For more info about The Painted House, or to see this years Latitude Festival line up visit:

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