Llawn is a free arts festival that celebrates and explores Llandudno through art, artefact, sound, comedy, performance and participation. This is its fifth successive year, and across the weekend visitors to the North Wales seaside resort can explore this work in unusual and surprising places, including baptist chapels, empty shops, shipping containers and even a set of Victorian bathing machines! Past Llawns have also featured work in the caves of the Great Orme, and on the roof of Venue Cymru!
So what has the arts festival weekend got up its sleeve for visitors this year? Curators Lisa Heledd Jones and John Rostron have lined up a plethora of stunning, inspiring and entertaining works. The fun kicks off on Friday, September 15th and continues throughout Saturday and Sunday too. Here’s a guide to some of the best, most unusual and exciting exhibits and presentations to catch:
Attend Friday’s Free Launch Event!
If you’re around on Friday evening, why not take part in the launch event of Llawn05, which takes you on a trail around the resort to see various artistic shows. It’s all free, and you don’t need an invite – just show up!
As a pre-launch teaser, between 4pm-6pm you can see the Welsh National Opera’s pioneering virtual reality experience Magic Butterfly on the promenade opposite Venue Cymru. You can literally step inside two of the WNO’s stunning operatic shows: using the VR headset provided, you can witness lion taming as Tamo from Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and then enjoy an exclusive performance of One Fine Day from Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly. The experience runs for eight minutes in total, but has to be seen to be believed, whether you’re a opera newcomer or veteran! Magic Butterfly can also be seen over the weekend between 10am-12.30pm and 2.30pm-5pm.
The official launch of the festival takes place at Mostyn Gallery on Vaughan Street at 6.30pm, with welcome drinks and speeches from contributors and organisers, as well as the winners of the Photomarathon project. This innovative project was launched in June and saw 75 participants exploring the streets of Llandudno looking for opportunities to take eight photos on eight different subjects over the course of eight hours. The winner – judged by Mostyn Director Alfredo Cramerotti, Oriel Colwyn curator Paul Sampson and Steve Morris, chairman of Llandudno Photographic Society – will be announced at the launch, and all 600 of the participants’ photos will be exhibited at Llawn’s hub at 10 Vaughan Street.
You also have the chance to browse two exhibitions at the gallery: Criw Clef’s I See a Creature showcase, created by some of North Wales’s most talented and able young artists; and Mostyn’s own 20th Open Exhibition, showcasing work by artists from as far flung places as Belgium, Holland, Italy, Germany, China, Switzerland… and the UK! The winner of the £10,000 Open 20 prize was Berliner Gernot Wieland’s video piece Thievery and Songs, which is inspired by Austrian dancer Hilde Holger, who in 1938 had to flee her homeland as an exile in Bombay because she was Jewish. You can see the full work at Mostyn, or a four-minute excerpt here.
At 7.30pm – once it’s got darker – there will be the launch of Gwyn Williams’s illuminating TONIGHT exhibit, which can be seen on the windows of Mostyn’s facade, bringing the front of the building to life as dusk falls. The project uses screen-recording software and will be accompanied by a conversation between artist Gwyn, and Mostyn’s visual arts programme curator Adam Carr.
Between 6pm-9pm you can also take a short walk to 23 Augusta Street for a private viewing of Emrys Williams and Gordon Dalton’s pop-up exhibition Paul Cezanne Painted Mount Snowdon from This Spot. The display imagines that the French Impressionist artist Cezanne visited North Wales to paint Mount Snowdon, but instead chose to paint Mount Provence in Aix, near Marseille. The show looks at mythology, hero worship, art history (both fact and fiction) and travelling to real and imagined places, and includes work from a number of artists, including Lara Davies, Ben Risk (whose work can be seen pictured here), Bruce Asbestos and Henny Acloque. If you can’t make the Friday preview, you can see the exhibition on both Saturday and Sunday between 12pm-5pm. There’s also an artists’ talk on the Saturday at 1pm.
Finally, take a walk along Mostyn Street – taking in Filthy Luker’s street art installation Art Attacks on the facade of the Victoria Shopping Centre – to the Tabernacl on Upper Mostyn Street, where at 9pm there will be a performance by up-and-coming singer Rhain, who recently released her debut EP Oscar November Echo. And if all that wasn’t enough, you can get involved with Synthphonia Cymru’s immersive event in which you can climb Mount Synth and discover the Musical Monster that lives at its peak. Delve into its belly and discover your vocodered roars, modulated manners, wild waveforms and arpeggiated anger in what is a unique and one-off performance from 10pm.
And that’s just the launch event! What other delights can you see over the weekend?
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Open Air Cinema (Sat, 8pm)
For one night only on the promenade, TAPE brings an open-air screening of J K Rowling’s blockbuster film, starring Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander in 1920s New York. The film is projected onto a giant inflatable screen, and is preceded (at 7.30pm) by a number of short films and singing. Bring warm clothes and a blanket in case it’s cold, but there will be refreshments available to warm you up, and if the weather is really bad, the screening will go ahead in the Tabernacl on Upper Mostyn Street.
Mr and Mrs Clark – Electioneering (Sat, 12pm, 1.30pm & 3pm; Sun, 11.30am, 1pm & 2.30pm)
Performance artists Mr and Mrs Clark have already showcased this bonkers show during July’s Circus Feast at Bangor’s Pontio, and bring it to Llandudno promenade with just as much raucous gusto. It is semi-immersive in that, after 15 minutes of trying to woo onlookers to vote for them, Mr Clark and Mrs Clark then ask you to choose who you’ll support – but are you voting based upon outward appearances, or their actual policies? It’s great, silly fun, and there are plenty of chances to catch it, so don’t miss out! If you’re lucky, you’ll get an electioneering badge like I did!
Lookout (Sat, 11.30am to Sun, 4pm)
Primary school children from Llandudno’s Ysgol Morfa Rhianedd joined forces with Andy Field to create this delightful one-on-one encounter between adult and child. It takes place at the top of Hill Terrace, high up above the resort where, together, performer and audience member look out over the town and imagine its future. They share a quiet conversation about the past, present and future of Llandudno guided by the streets and landmarks laid out before them. It’s an exchange between two people who might not normally meet, but to take part, you’ll need to book in advance. Contact the Festival Hub in person during the weekend, or book online here (each experience lasts 30 minutes). Must be 15 or over.
It’s Always Right Now, Until It’s Later (Sun, 7pm-9pm)
Several years ago Daniel Kitson wrote and performed this show and staged it at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and then in New York, London and Manchester. Towards the end of the Manchester run, he filmed the show and it is presented here in its entirety, complete with a filmed introduction from Daniel himself. It tells the story of two lives: one of William Rivington and one of Caroline Carpenter; one from death to birth, the other from birth to death. The film lasts 95 minutes, but allow a couple of hours in all (at the Tabernacl).
Our Carnal Hearts (Sat, 6pm; Sun, 2pm)
What impact do social media, capitalism, and consumerism have on our feelings, and more specifically on our envy? With a raucous chorus of original music, theatre maker Rachel Mars and four belting female singers bring you a gleeful, dark show about the hidden workings of envy. Part symphony, part exorcism, Our Carnal Hearts is a thrilling and murky celebration of desire, competition and all the times we screw each other over. A cross between theatre, comedy and singing session, the show constantly takes you from laughter to dead seriousness. Performed in the Embassy Ballroom at the Queens Hotel with a surround-sound choral score. To reserve a seat, contact the Festival Hub in person during the weekend, or book online here (each show lasts an hour).
The Hair Show (Sat, 6pm; Sun, 2pm)
A comedy/ theatre/ spoken word show about hair and hairs. This show is suitable for people who have, or have had, hair and hairs. Every year for the past six years Rob Auton has written an hour long show about a specific subject. He has written shows on the colour yellow, the sky, faces, water, sleep… and now hair. So, you get the gist! The show is performed at Clinton James hairdressers on the corner of Vaughan Street. To reserve a seat, contact the Festival Hub in person during the weekend, or book online here (each show lasts an hour; suitable for 14+).
True Stories Live (Fri, 8pm)
A night of intimate, anecdotal storytelling from performers and non-performers alike at Dylan’s Restaurant on the promenade (the former Washington nightclub). Eight speakers will tell personal, true stories on the theme of “lost and found”. Unscripted and unpolished, True Stories Live events are funny, surprising, heart-warming and life-affirming. To reserve a seat, contact the Festival Hub in person during the weekend, or book online here (the show lasts two hours with an interval).
Car Crash Wedding (Sat, 1pm & 3.15pm; Sun, 12pm & 3pm)
If there’s anything I recommend from the Llawn05 line-up it’s Gary and Pel’s hilarious, surreal Car Crash Wedding. Gary and Pel have just said “I Do” and are driving off into the sunset. It’s the happiest day of their lives, until their celebration takes a turn for the worse as their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. What will the bizarre newlyweds do next? Expect wedding bells, chaos and laughter. A 10-minute live action cartoon escapade for all ages to enjoy, featuring slapstick humour and dynamic dance. I’ve seen Gary and Pel’s work before, and trust me – it’s fabulously silly and entertaining! Catch it on the promenade throughout the festival.
Society of Audio Chronologists (Fri (sunset) to Sun)
Host/ Operator is a sound performance project that uses intuitive sound performance to address the mental and physical space we occupy when engaging with the creative process. This “performative state” is a singular moment that you inhabit when performing. It involves living in the moment, allowing us the freedom to act without hesitation and intrusion. Host/ Operator has completed a definitive historical record of Llandudno using the newly discovered science of Audio Chronology, a form of sonic archaeology. Charles Gershom and Reverend Tate will embark on a two-day procession through the town, performing live at pre-determined locations.
A project that takes place in the atrium space at Mostyn gallery, Day sees artist Nicola Dale present The Act of Reading (seen right), for which she imitates a series of poses derived from art historical depictions of women reading. This references Mostyn’s origin as a temporary home for exhibitions by the Gwynedd Ladies’ Art Society.
Drawing Light (Sat, 11am-4pm)
Megan Broadmeadow is an artist who produces installations that combine video projection, sculpture, illusions and soundscapes. In her most recent work she has been exploring the possibilities of video installation using split-screen videos, projection mapped objects and environments and utilising moving head projectors. She has created immersive installations across many different locations, ranging from traditional gallery spaces to nature reserves, town centres and even underwater! For Llawn05 she will work with Helfa Gelf artists to create an installation utilising drawing and light in an empty building in James Street.
Pin, Curl and Dyesome (Sat, 12.30pm & 2.45pm; Sun, 12.30pm & 3.30pm)
Hijinx is one of those theatre companies that thinks outside the box and often presents some innovative or forward-thinking ideas and themes through the familiar art forms of puppetry, masks or straightforward performance art. Pin, Curl and Dyesome is a strolling salon where you can get yourself a “new do”, pins, perms, curls and colours, and is an entertaining comedy mask theatre piece on the move along the promenade!
(T)HERE (Sat, 10am-5pm; Sun, 11am-4.30pm)
A screen-based drawing by Ronan Devlin and Michael Flueckiger which came from a habit both artist have of using meditative distraction to find ideas and solve work-related problems. The resulting work is built from footage of wanderings in rural Wales interwoven with software-generated drawings which, breaking mathematical predictability, meander across the screen, masking and revealing layers of film. You can see the film at Unit 29 in the Victoria Centre.
Colours of Llandudno (Sat & Sun)
Artist Jenny Cashmore has developed a Llandudno palette of colours reflecting the town’s natural and built environments. She will be constructing a nail bar social space within a bathing machine on the promenade, offering manicures inspired by this colour scheme. Everyone is welcome, so do pop in for a chat and an exclusive Llandudno manicure!
Who Are We Here Now? (Sat & Sun)
Artists Becca Thomas and Clare Charles invite you to make your own screen-printed postcard of Llandudno, and on its back answer the question: “Who are we here now?”… or rather, “Who are you here?” You’ll be invited to take a fresh look at Llandudno, whether you’re a resident or visitor, and consider your relationship to the town, its best bits and those not so good – and how you think it should be represented. Catch this inside one of the promenade bathing machines.
Looking Forward (Sat & Sun)
An installation created by many which explores our individuality and creativity. This piece is being created in the build-up to an exciting new Arts Prize for young Welsh artists (NOVA). Weather permitting, there will be an opportunity for you to add to this piece too. Check it out in one of the promenade bathing machines.
Hidden Hospitality (Sat & Sun)
The hidden stories behind the people who welcome you to Llandudno, Hidden Hospitality showcases the hard-working B&B/ guesthouse owners of the resort. You can get to know the people behind the welcoming smiles, and reveal stories from the industry and memories from the town. Photographs by Lauren Macabee of Glascoed Guest House, Adcote House, Oasis B&B, Mulberry House and Bryn Derwen B&B will be exhibited in promenade bathing machines, accompanied by audio recordings by Alan Whitfield.
Octopus Attacks (Fri to Sun)
A street art installation by Filthy Luker and Pedro Estrellas. Giant cartoon-like tentacles burst out of a building creating the sense that a monstrous kraken or Lovecraftian horror is trapped inside! These playful inflatable installations are well known internationally, and Luker and Estrellas are renowned for their commissions for Cirque du Soleil, as well as the life-size sperm whale covered in a thousand twinkling star-lights which you may have seen paraded at the Paralympic Games opening ceremony in London in 2012. See the amazing spectacle at the Victoria Centre on Mostyn Street.
Games on the Llawn (Sat & Sun, 10.30am-4pm)
Scrabble, Jenga, Hungry Hippos, Stay Alive, Bananagrams, Risk, Pictionary, Monopoly, Settlers of Catan, Sushi Go… you name it, they’ll game it! There will be bags and bags of Scrabble tiles, racks and boards, pencils and paper for scoring and dictionaries to resolve any arguments! And there’ll be plenty of other games to play if words aren’t your thing – play with your family, your friends, or make some new mates. They will have blankets and boards, on land near the Cenotaph; all you need to take is you!
That’s just a healthy selection of the activities going on in and around the town centre between Friday, September 15th and Sunday, September 17th. There’s loads more art exhibitions, workshops and even a brass band, so check out Llawn05’s website for more, or pick up a free leaflet on site – http://www.llawn.org/
And remember – it’s all free of charge! You might need to book some events, but they’re still free, so have a great time exploring Llawn05’s colourful, madcap, enthralling spectacles!