Back To Childhood

This is the second in a series of detailed posts about my artistic responses to former Scarborough attractions.

To see the first – The Making of a Chairlift – please click here.

Although I still regularly visit Scarborough as an adult, and am moving to the town this summer, most of my most enduring memories are of childhood visits during the late 1980s and early to mid 1990s.

kinderland6

Above: In Kinderland (from the author’s personal collection)

As an artist who wears costumes and performs characters – it made sense that I should create a child character for Stories From Scarborough. Indeed, the imagined rider of my chairlift costume is a child:

Above: As shown in the previous post (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

The pigtails, dungarees and frilly collar are references to a childhood outfit I often wore. However, I wanted to design something slightly different for the adult ‘me’ – still dungarees, but white or gingham ones with patches; worn with a t-shirt, pumps and frilly white socks.

The first step was to design some memory-inspired patches for my costume – I combined existing images, my own drawings and photos to create a series of digital patterns inspired by Marvel’s Amusement Park and its predecessor Scarborough Zoo.

Above: One of a series of Marvel’s memory patches (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

Below: Combined patterns (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

If you look closely you can see chairlifts, promotional material from Marvel’s and references to Scarborough Zoo. From a distance I imagined a series of these patterns resembling red gingham. I wondered whether they should cover the dungarees or not.

Above: Dungaree pattern superimposed over a template (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

But more importantly, was I to make the dungarees from scratch, or to buy a plain white pair to experiment with? In the end I found an affordable pair of white builders’ dungarees on eBay, with a handy pouch in the front. I also paired them with a cheap red t-shirt and summery pumps, similar to those I sometimes wore as a child during the summer.

Above: Costume paired with a handmade sign (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

Even just wearing these new clothes made me feel like a child again – my whole body language changed. The handmade sign is a nod to the Kinderland March – I decided that Marvel’s deserved a protest against closure, even over a decade after the occasion!

So what about the memory patches?

Well, after making the digital design I printed an acetate positive to create a screenprint of the pattern onto a cut up white cotton bedsheet. Not all of the prints turned out quite right though:

Above: An artistically imperfect print! Oops! (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

Nonetheless, I got enough decent patches to sew some onto the dungarees – I opted against completely covering the white, instead settling for a series of strategically placed samples.

Above: Costume plus patches but minus pigtails (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

I was very happy with how it turned out and even customised the costume with a handmade badge or two:

Above: Dungarees with badges and memory patch (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

And some more:

Above: More badges (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

This character will be hoping to have some adventures in Scarborough this summer and beyond, and she might be doing a sneaky preview performance in Manchester before I leave. Watch this space!

The Making of a Chairlift

When I started planning Stories From Scarborough, back in late 2013, one of the first ideas I had was to make a wearable chairlift.

Above: Design for a wearable chairlift (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

The bright red chairlifts, that took passengers from Scarborough North Bay to Marvel’s Amusement Park in the 1980s and 1990s (and to Scarborough Zoo in the 1970s), remain vividly in my memory. As a child, it was incredibly thrilling to travel at what then seemed like a great height towards an exciting-looking fairground.

Above: Family photograph of the chairlift (from the author’s personal collection)

However, constructing such a structure is by no means a straightforward task, especially for someone with little expertise in making big 3D objects.

My first task was to understand the shape.

Above: Drawing the chairlift (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

I made lots of drawings – at the time I didn’t have any red pens or pencils to hand, so used some red electrical tape that I happened to come across.

Fortunately the colour was just right!

After making the drawings I constructed some crude models using cardboard, tape, wire – any materials I could find really. Following considerable frustration and research I decided to make the frame using withies – often used in the construction of lanterns. I wanted something that was lightweight and malleable, but also reasonably strong.

The original chairlifts would likely have been made from fibreglass or something similarly robust. Alas, my budget does not allow for such extravagant spending! Nor will my chairlift be required to carry passengers at great heights.

Above: Withies, masking tape, wire and string (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

Rather than attempt the complex shape of the top from the outset, I settled for a simple cone-like form, over which I could then add further layers. Following this I covered the form in newspaper to get a better sense of the shape.

Above: The top – with newspaper (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

With a better sense of the shape I added a thin layer of modroc, more newspaper and then, in a surprising twist, red electrical tape!

Above: Adding the tape (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

After the serendipitous success of the tape on my drawings, I saw no reason why I shouldn’t use the tape to create an interesting cover to my chairlift. 100% accuracy was never my aim in making this object – I simply wanted to create a likeness, with my own weird creative stamp on it.

Above: The two halves (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

Many rolls of red tape later, I had two halves of a chairlift. Using garden canes attached to the bottom, I created a frame onto which the top could sit. Trouble was, the top didn’t want to sit in place – I spent a great deal of time messing with parcel tape (my newest solution to securing fragile joins) and pulling pieces apart before deciding to keep the top and bottom separate for transport purposes – I’m in Manchester right now and need to get this thing to Scarborough somehow this summer. And I don’t own a car.

Above: Trying out the costume (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

Luckily I could hold the whole thing up as a costume without too much difficulty. All that remained was a great deal of tidying up, taping and securing bits and pieces. In the meantime I was also thinking about other uses for the chairlift (besides the costume idea).

Above: A new idea? (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

I imagined suspending the chairlift somewhere as an exhibition piece/sculpture – I could attach things to it, like memories of Marvel’s or references to former use of the site (it was once a zoo, and before that tennis courts…I’ve also heard rumours of a roller skating area).

Above: The chairlift as a sculpture/exhibition piece (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

In the end I attached balloons to the top. Just because.

I’ll be exhibiting a version of this in Manchester this June, as a sort of public introduction to the project.

When I arrive in Scarborough I hope to do this with it:

To see more of my art work, including previous projects, please visit my website and art blog.