Patrick Widdess reports on The Past Present Future Space Time Festival at Wysing Arts Centre 10th September 2011

Wysing Arts Centre

The first thing to greet my eyes as the coach pulled into Wysing Arts Centre was a giant garden shed. It looked like a dozen sheds had been pulled apart and reassembled to construct this behemoth shack.  It was the Amphis Stage one of three specially constructed for the Past Present Future Space Time Festival. The plain wooden interior featured a balcony, stained glass windows and a floor that appeared to have been made of off-cuts from Ikea. It was an intimate performance space as unconventional as the line-up of musicians that played there during the one-day event.
    The opening act was local duo The Doozer. It’s hard to tell if their songs are sappy and cheerful or downright miserable but their distinct, slightly quirky guitar pop stylings went down well with the audience. Psychedelia was the loose theme for the festival and they obliged with an extended piece of droning guitar loops, Syd Barrett-esque vocals and ambient wailing.
    Other local acts included Pete Um, who after many years is still wrestling with malfunctioning mini disc players that provide the lo-fi electronic accompaniments to his deadpan beat poems. His set covered everything from joke teeth to space travel. Regular collaborators The Man From Uranus and Jellica improvised an extended piece on a variety of synths and noise making devices. ‘There was a lot of noodling,’ The Man From Uranus admitted, ‘but we had a few jazz moments where it all came together.’
    The festival showcased some unusual approaches to music making and performance. Preslav Literary School consisted of one man, Adam Thomas, who created pieces by mixing sounds from over twenty cassette tapes on seven cassette players. The Dead Rat Orchestra mixed traditional folk music with experimental electronic sounds whilst duo 666 6 delivered an intense live film soundtrack with guitar, electronics and spoken word.
    The compact site made it easy to move round and explore the full programme of films, DJs and live acts and good weather allowed audiences to enjoy music on two outdoor stages. People relaxed on the grass as summer sun mingled with autumn wind and the gentle sounds of the The Invisible Polytechnic Orchestra’s performance of Terry Riley’s experimental piece, In C emanated from The Boulder Stage which was constructed out of sheets of plywood and resembled a giant extra-terrestrial tortoise shell. This was followed by a performance at the other end of the field and the noise spectrum, as Japanese hardcore trio Devilman unleashed a ferocious storm of noise, bass and electronica.
    As night fell the site took on a new ambiance. Light glowed eerily from the Boulder Stage as performers Old Apparatus and Demdike Stare combined music and cinematography to create compelling audio-visual shows. The Amphis Stage took on the atmosphere of a haunted house during a multi-instrumental ambient set with psychedelic light show by Norwich band, Transept.
    In its second year the festival attracted an impressive turnout from the surrounding area and a coach load of attendees from London. It was well organised and family friendly with free workshops laid on including tie-dying, sand drawing and making spinning tops.
    The grounds of Wysing Arts Centre are a pleasant place to spend a day. Nestled in the countryside near the village of Bourn the grounds are an open air gallery where wooden horses graze in the woods and installations include a twelve foot beehive and a stone circle. Add to this an original line up of audio and visual entertainment and you have a wonderful event to close the summer festival season.

Review and photos: Patrick Widdess