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PECT Green Festival 2016 – Featured Artist

Seven artists have been commissioned to transform Peterborough city centre into a showcase for environmental art at this year’s PECT Green Festival, which returns with a Launch Day on Saturday 13th August and Fringe Events through till 21st August.

From a three-metre long papier-mâché stag beetle to an origami boat-walking trail, the artworks promise to spark debate about sustainable living and encourage residents to take positive action for the local and global environment.

Organised by the charity Peterborough Environment City Trust (PECT), the Festival brings together community groups, charities and businesses in an annual celebration of ‘green’ initiatives in the city. The Festival aims to encourage local people to live sustainably and develop long-term behaviour change, by exploring themes such as sustainable transport, recycling, local and sustainable food and biodiversity.

For the second year running PECT have commissioned artists to support and create new artwork specifically for the festival. They will exhibit their works and run interactive activities at the 2016 event.

In lead up to the Peterborough Green Festival Idea1 will release an interview with each of the 7 artists. A chance to get a taster of what to expect at this years Green Fest and get to know the artists. Introducing the sixth Green Festival artist, Douglas Thompson.


Artist: Douglas Thompson

Art Work: Trees of Life

Artist Douglas Thompson is returning to his home town to create six artworks inspired by trees found in the city centre. A giant paper-cut collage of oaks, beech and willow will be brought to life by story-telling tree spirit performers, while the public will be able to add a leaf to the ‘tree of promises’. Thompson is passionate about both Peterborough and the natural world, saying: “We need to re-amaze and reacquaint ourselves with nature – especially since we are very much in danger of losing so much of it.”


Tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m Douglas Thompson. I’m a fine artist and performer. I grew up in Westwood in Peterborough but after many adventures I now live in Harrogate North Yorkshire. I make paper-cut collages, I run theatre workshops for the West Yorkshire Playhouse and have been a professional artist for 16 years.


Could you describe your art practice?

Multidisciplinary: Special effects makeup, paper-cuts, theatrical masks, plays, photography, film; my next project is a 3D shadow puppet show for Leeds Light Night Light Festival. For me there are no boundaries between art forms apart from those that are self-imposed. We are all creative souls and we must not let the ‘I am not’ or the ‘I cannot’ stop self-expression. I am intrigued by appearance and reality and looking deeper into things to see the often strange and contradictory network of meanings that lie beneath. I am a trickster.


What will you be creating as part of your Green Festival Commission?

I have been spending lots of time observing and researching six special trees common to the UK: the weeping willow, the horse chestnut, the oak, the London plain, the lime (or Linden) tree and the beech. I have distilled what I have learnt into delicate freehand paper cuts, done on small scale, which will be printed on giant boards and displayed in the grounds around Peterborough Cathedral. Central to the work has been the discovery of the boundary-less nature of trees – so many of the trees which we see as ironically British have far more interesting roots …


How can the public get involved with your artwork?

I shall be there on the day with my company talking to people about the six trees and the wonderful things we have learned about their history and origins during the making and research processes that went into the six tree designs. We will be asking people to think about a promise they can make involving nature or humanity – and those willing will write their names on beautiful cut-out paper leaves to hang on a sculpture created by Jim Tovey in the grounds of Peterborough Cathedral. We shall be wearing green – come and find us near the large works of art!


What is your art piece about? How does it tie in with the themes of Green Festival? 

In my paper-cut designs I have captured the essence of six trees that we encounter on a daily basis. I want to show you the shapes, the form and the structure and also tell you something you probably don’t know about these trees that will, if you take the time to consider, make you think about your own cultural relationship with these giants that stand silently in our parks and on our streets. I want people to really look at the nature that surrounds them, to understand how it got there and how we are inseparable from it.


What have been your challenges whilst creating this work?

Accuracy, botanical accuracy! Taxonomy! I now realise that these are art and politics as well as the science. Some trees have many common names and even many scientific names, some of which may be contested.


Are there any specific ways that you would like the public to interact with your piece?

I want the public to respond to the work after viewing the 6 trees by making a promise, any promise, on a leaf and hanging it up on our tree sculpture during the day of the festival. I hope that my work will take them on a similar journey to the one I have undergone …


The Green Festival is getting bigger and better each year, with the integration of artists in last year only being an added element, how would you like to see The Green Festival progress? 

I’ve seen some fantastic examples of artists like Philippa Phillips working with community groups making hundreds of beautiful flowers from up-cycled cans and also Artists like Jay Gearing shut themselves up with nothing but pure inspiration to devise something astounding for the festival audience. Its strength is in the variety of approaches and I’d say pursue those opposites as the mix of approaches bring dynamism to the day. I’d add that next year it would be great to have perhaps an international artist responding to Peterborough.


Do you think it is important that art is integrated into The Green Festival and what benefit do you think it has?

Yes! Art engages audiences and is accessible to all. The arts’ creative and experimental nature can find new ways of approaching environmental issues and provide a forum to discuss and educate.


When and where can we see your piece at Green Festival?

Cathedral Square and the Cathedral grounds on Saturday 13th August. We’ll be wearing our dashing green garb, handing out leaves and taking promises all day.


Douglas Thompson

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