Tag Archives: Feast of Fools


Sadly this is my final post for the Fishmarket blog. So forgive me for making it a long one.

I have been involved with the Fishmarket in some way or another for three years now. First as an exhibiting artist and more recently as the gallery curator.

I’ve been deliberating over how to end this blog for the past few hours in between packing up to leave for Hong Kong. I think it’s best to keep it simple so I present you with my own personal Fishmarket Top 10.

In no particular order:-

1. The Instruments of Oblivion – Exhibition

This was my first experience of showing on a truly mammoth scale. I had a tremendous time rising to the challenge of filling the space by building a 30 foot tall volcano and a replica of Northampton’s now demolished castle.

Back in those early days the Fishmarket was run by the indefatigable Jayne West. She had done an inspirational job of turning the Fishmarket into a bona fide contemporary arts space. In fact everyone attached to the Fishmarket project seemed to have contagious enthusiasm, so it seemed natural to remain in touch after my show came down.

The Instruments of Oblivion Live at The Fishmarket

2. Sixty Miles by Road or Rail – Closing Night

When I arrived at the Fishmarket to start my tenure as the curator  the gallery was going through a number of funding problems. The most pressing issue was that we did not have funding secured beyond the first four months of 200, closure seemed imminent.

By the time we got to the closing night of “Sixty Miles by Road or Rail” we had confirmation that the building would continue to be funded. Obviously this was a great excuse for a party!

We also gave away 100 “A love affair with Northampton is a journey into space” T-shirts. It’s always great when I spot somebody wearing one. You’ll have to some serious dredging of ebay to get hold of one these days!

Sixty Miles by Road or Rail Closing Night

3. Feast of Fools – Install

One of the great pleasures of curating at the Fishmarket is the install period. Every install has been different and the opportunity to see a range of different artists respond to the gallery and its spacial eccentricities has been valuable.

This particular installation sticks out in my mind because it was the show that gave us Chris Davies phenomenal “Banjo-Playing Tree Frog”.

While the piece was being constructed in the gallery, I was having serious concerns about how it would be received by the local public. It’s not the most subtle piece of art!

Although I had visions of myself being chased from the gallery by locals bearing flaming torches there wasn’t a single complaint. I was thrilled to find that it was immensely popular.

Chris Davies and His Frog

4. My Heart Spins on the grill – Install

As anyone that has spent any amount of time with Stephen Mathewson and the Brainmanagerz will tell you, there is a very serious danger of “funburn”.

“Funburn” is a symptom of too much laughter, which was in plentiful supply during the preparations for “My Heart Spins on The Grill”.

Booze City

5. Hiker Meat – Opening Night

The Opening night of Jamie Shovlin’s “Hiker Meat” was memorable for a number of reasons.

It is currently the most technically complex show that we’ve hosted at the gallery and it exploits the space to great effect. The photos don’t really do the installation justice, take my word for it – it’s well worth making a trip to visit.

The added performative element on the opening night transformed the Fishmarket for the evening, hopefully it showed people the amazing potential of the place. The exhibition is a great platform for the Fishmarket to continue to build on, and it was great for me to leave on a high.

Jamie Shovlin and Lustfaust

6. Renewed Funding

One of the best days of my tenure was recieving news that we had been given a grant for the arts by the Arts Council.

The news came after a long , frustrating summer without money to host exhibitions. To say that I was excited when I heard would be an understatement. I’m not certain what we would have done to continue our activities as a gallery had we failed in our application.

7. Sixty Miles by Road or Rail – Surround Northampton Fishmarket

“Sixty Miles by Road or Rai”l was my first exhibition as curator at the Fishmarket and as I mentioned previously it came at a point when we were all uncertain about the future of the project.

Bill Drummonds “Surround Northampton Fishmarket” performance helped us drum up renewed support at time when that was exactly what we needed. Aside from that it was a huge amount of fun.


8. Natural Disasters

The Fishmarket is far from being your average gallery. This is in part due to the buildings micro climate. When it’s cold outside it’s colder in the Fishmarket, when it’s hot outside it’s hotter in the Fishmarket.

There have been floods, snow, ice and parching heat.

When rainstorms hit the gallery the sound is incredible. The drumming of the rain on the roof acts as a warning signal for us to man the mops in readiness for asuaging the flow of the flood water!

9. Don Letts

Don Letts’ appearance as part of the Feast of Fools exhibiton was a high point. His film “Carnnival” was excellent food for though and his talk and Q&A afterward was always lively and interesting.

Here’s a clip of Don at work.

10. Steve and Franziska’s Kids day

Steve Mathewson and his colleague from the Vienna Children’s museum and The Brainmanagerz very kindly agreed to put on a childrens day as part of the “My Heart Spins on The Grill” exhibition.

It was fantastic to see so many people in the gallery having fun. Steve was generous enough to invite the participants to contribute to his exhibition in the form of wall paintings.

Painting in The Gallery

I’ve had an amazing time working at the Fishmarket, thank you to all of the artists and musicians that I’ve worked with over the past 18 months and a big thanks to all the staff, boardmembers and traders at the Fishmarket for making my time so rewarding.



Leave a comment

Filed under Contemporary Art, Fishmarket, Music

Preparations – Part 1.

The art is up on the walls, the shows have finally opened and we’re all collectively reeling from the exertion.

It’s been an exciting couple of weeks. We’ve had a magnificent time and made friends with some great people. A huge thank you to everyone involved, your input has been greatly appreciated.

The organisation and installation of the two current exhibitions has been a long process. In an attempt to avoid being tedious I’ll be dividing my account of the past few weeks into four posts which I intend to add over the next few days.

It all started a fortnight ago with Stephen Mathewson’s arrival from Vienna.

To our relief, Steve had brought some large-scale works on canvas along with a huge selection of drawings stuffed into his suitcase. After our problems with the shipping of the larger paintings we weren’t certain whether the work would arrive in time for the opening…

Unpacking the paintings.

After a weekend of settling in with Paul and Sophie Williams (who have both been invaluable help over the past fortnight) Steve and I met at the gallery to decide on the hang of the show. Worryingly, the work had still not turned up from Austria so we had to map out the show on paper.

Normally I would set aside a few days for myself and the artist to move work about the gallery to help decide how the exhibition best fits together. Unfortunately that wasn’t a luxury available to us. Steve needed to start making work directly on the walls, but without the work in the gallery it ws impossible to know which wall would be available. Time was not on our side.

When the package from Austria finally arrived at the gallery our worries transformed into unbridled excitement.

Stephen Mathewson reunited with his art.

The fact that we’d made the best of our time without the work in the gallery turned out to have been an advantage. We knew exactly where everything needed to go. Once the work arrived we had the paintings on the walls within the day.

As with all show hangs there were extended white-knuckle rides in the rafters of the gallery! Steve is a braver man than I.

White knuckle picture hanging.

Luckily the bulk of the show was up in time for the arrival of the rest of Steve’s band “Brain Managerz” who were more than willing to help with the preparations for the show. You can find out more about them here.

Below you can see three of the five band members painting TV’s on the wall of our cinema. This was in preparation for the children’s workshop we hosted on the Saturday after the opening. They are as an impressive and charming bunch of people as you’d ever hope to meet – more about them in the next post!

Dieter Preisl, Franziska Abgottsponn and David Quigley paint televisions.

Alan Fentiman, the man we have charged with interviewing the artists and documenting the shows arrived shortly after the band to witness an artistic epiphany. The results of which can be seen below.

The Magic Flute by Stephen Mathewson from Alan Fentiman on Vimeo.

Teasers from his film about our exhibition “Feast of Fools can be seen here and here.

In the midst of all of this mayhem, I made the time to prepare the title wall for Mark ‘s show in gallery two and hang his exhibition of exquisite Abstructavist drawings. Pictures of how that turned out in my next post!


Leave a comment

Filed under Contemporary Art, Fishmarket, Music

Short Break

The feast of fools show has finally come down.

Well, most of it. For a couple of weeks you will be able to see Maxwell Attenborough’s glowing “Meteorb”, and Chris Davies’ colossal “Banjo Playing Tree Frog” from the doors of the gallery. After that we move on to our much-anticipated new programme! All will be revealed on my return.

I’m going on holiday to France for a couple of weeks armed with my lovely wife, a hearty appetite and a copy of this. Happy days!

I’ll not be posting for a while, for the time being I’ll leave you with a selection of images from the Feast of Fools exhibition.

Feast of Fools Opening - Zoe Plummer

Feast of Fools Opening - Sarah Kay

Chris Davies' Banjo Playing Tree Frog

Leave a comment

Filed under Contemporary Art, Fishmarket

More Don letts

Great to see we have some positive coverage from the BBC for our recent evening with Don Letts. The article can be found here.

Don Letts - Chris Davies

Don Letts pictured in front of Christopher Davies' painting "Restoration".

Leave a comment

Filed under Fishmarket

Why Feast of Fools?

Visitors to the gallery have been asking about the title of our latest show “Feast of Fools” in particular where it comes from and how it’s relevant to the exhibition. Let me tell you.


Before I started selecting work and contacting artists there were a number of issues that needed consideration.

Earlier in 2009 we were facing closure and for six months we were unable to stage exhibitions. We’ve now turned a corner and not only have funds secured for the building, we have arts council funding up to the end of 2011. So the tone needs to be celebratory.

The Fishmarket is a cold place, too cold for us in fact, so we’ll be closed over January and February. In order to keep up momentum elements of the show need to be visible while the building is closed – e.g. lights that can be seen from outside the building, large-scale sculpture that can be seen from the front doors.

For 6 months this year we’ve not been in a position to host exhibitions so it’s important the new programme of exhibitions has a spectacular start and sets a positive tone for the future.


With these considerations in mind I wanted to put together a show that acts as a secular alternative to the usual Christmas celebrations on the high street. I was keen for the gallery to feel a bit like a deranged Santa’s Grotto.

The most pressing task was to find a context in which I could select and place the work. Through a bit of research I discovered a historical precedent for our Christmas time excess in the Roman festival of Saturnalia – “the most popular (of) Roman festivals. It was marked by tomfoolery and reversal of social roles, in which slaves and masters ostensibly switched places, with expectedly humourous results.” Click the quote for more.

This idea of the festival as a suspension of normality got me thinking about the history of the carnival and the carnivalesque, and while researching the Carnival I came across the Feast of Fools festival – more here.

I particularly liked the idea that the medieval feast of fools and the modern carnival are similar in that they are (or were) much-needed opportunities for social satire through the suspension and subversion of normal social order. The defining characteristics of the carnival being the combination of political and social satire and lots of fun. These were qualities that I was hoping to bring to the exhibition.

Hopefully that answers the question.

Interested in the painting below? Find out more here.

Pieter Bruegel, The Fight Between Carnival and Lent 1559

Leave a comment

Filed under Contemporary Art, Fishmarket

Don Letts

We are very pleased to be co-hosting with Northampton Carnival Arts Consortium an evening with legendary film-maker, broadcaster and musician Don Letts. Don will be giving us a talk followed by a screening of “Carnival!” his documentary about the Notting Hill carnival. Places are VERY limited so contact the Fishmarket office for further details.

For those of you not familiar with the work of Mr Letts – a few interesting links:-

Don Letts’ 6Music Pages can be found here, and a brief Bio is here.

Make friends with Don at his Myspace page here.

Still curious? You can purchase Don’s autobiography here!

This video is an interesting taster:-

Leave a comment

Filed under Fishmarket

The Great Darkness

I’ve not said enough about Stella Capes.

We are very pleased to be showing Stella’s 2005 piece “The Great Darkness” in our new cinema space. Visitors over the summer will remember the space as a children’s theatre.

I’ve always admired the mixture of humour and pathos in Stella’s work and was very keen to get her involved in this exhibition. The star of “The Great Darkness” is a professional clown who battles through his routine without the comfort of makeup or props. It strikes me as being almost “anti-carnival”, I like the idea that for the Fishmarket’s version of the feast of fools even the clown’s role is reversed as he becomes a frustrated everyman.

In Stella’s own words:-

“Taking its title from a line in John Osbournes’ The Entertainer, ‘The Great Darkness’, refers to the audience from the viewpoint of a stage performer. Shot as a single, continuous take, the static camera scrutinises the gruelling performance of a professional clown, struggling to improvise without the use of his oversized props and ludicrous costume.”

Stella Capes' "The Great Darkness" shown at the Fishmarket.

The Great Darkness (2005), Still from 30min video and installation.

Leave a comment

Filed under Fishmarket