Southampton’s Portland Street was taken over by creatives from around the city, in a bid to bring life back to the historic street. The free community event was curated by the Mu Collective team to explore the themes of time, memories and history.
At the street opening visitors were greeted by a monumental cardboard griffin, commissioned by David McDiarmid, before being guided along the length of the street, where they were encouraged to get involved with a range of workshops, experiences and performance arts.
Joss Lopez, a resident artist at Arches Studios, demonstrated how you can effectively use bleach, chlorine and water as mediums to create paintings focusing on chiaroscuro. Joss explained how he likened the process to a photographer using a darkroom, “it’s like you must teach your mind to see your work in negative”.
Whilst he worked, he spoke to me about his enthusiasm for learning new crafts and developing older ones and his excitement regarding the life drawing class that he runs at The Art House on Above Bar Street. Slowly but surely, the piece started to take shape and I was quickly surprised as to how Joss was able to use such simple materials to create something so beautiful.
This quickly became something that I noticed throughout the day; how all of these experiences seemed relatively simple, but once you immersed yourself, you gained much more than you would have expected from it. A particular pair of individuals certainly left that impression loud and clear. Panda-monium. Damian and Syd are at first glance, two ordinary middle-aged men, both interested in poetry and music. However, as soon as they slip into their panda costumes they quickly become something else entirely. With a mixture of self-penned songs and surprising covers, the pair injected a huge dose of jubilance to anyone listening. Which by mid-way through the first verse is everyone.
As you work your way through the new sights of the street, you inevitably end up walking through the doors of MuTrend Lab itself, into a gold mine of handcrafted gifts and unique creations. The owner of the store, Sai Harrod, is ready and waiting to greet visitors and seemed energised whilst discussing the days’ events. Yellow arrows laid-out along the floor gave direction towards the buildings’ basement, where visual artists from Southampton’s Keepers Collective were presenting their installations.
The video installations on display were the work of artists Juilen Masson, Kye Wilson and James Paddock. With their exhibition running continuously throughout the day, there were plenty of chances for visitors to appreciate the hard work and skill that has been applied. There was the opportunity to speak to the artists themselves, to gain insight into the passion behind this project and learning a little more about the Keepers Collective and the work they are doing within the city.
Back outside of Sai’s store, Portland Street seemed an endless flow of new faces. Children were playing with the oversized street games, whilst their parents were able to chat to representatives from different independent businesses, find some new clothes at the Clothes Swap, and even create their own postcards with Eva Huang at the pop-up Post Office.
After spending the day meeting many enthusiastic and creative minds, it was difficult to leave Portland Street with anything other than excitement for the next event that Sai and her team will host. Southampton definitely has a creative hub that needs more support and recognition, so that events like this can thrive and continue to bring people from across the city together.
Photography: Georgina Smith – https://georginasmith1998.wixsite.com/photography