Apocalypse Bournemouth: Carabosse Fire Gardens at Arts By the Sea Festival 2014

Carabosse Fire Gardens scultpture outside Pavilion Dance in Bournemouth

Somehow I always knew Bournemouth had the potential to erupt into incendiary civil unrest. It all came to a head at the opening of the Arts By The Sea festival, when French installation artists Compagnie Carabosse rolled into town, and started setting fire to the Lower Gardens…

Carabosse Fire Gardens, Arts by the Sea Festival 2014

Carabosse Fire Gardens - musician performing in Bournemouth Gardens, lit by fire

This was an experience which engaged all the senses. It combined intense heat, light and movement from the flames; the smell and taste of smoke in the air; and hypnotic ambient music played by mysterious shadowy men in black hats. In fact my favourite aspect of the event was this musician, playing alone with a crazy eclectic mash-up of instruments and electronic effects, singing unintelligible lyrics surrounded by flaming light bulbs. (I think I just described my dream job).

(video from YouTube – I think this must have been taken at a similar event in France. Here’s another.)

Flames poured down chutes running through the river; rose slowly into the air on metallic octopus tentacles and exploded in showers of sparks; and revolved in vast three-dimensional globes and spirals. Metal balls hung from trees, glowing blue, and sending gently twinkling embers into the air. And a penguin in aviator’s goggles was suspended above a bizarre metal contraption which it would be pointless for me to try to describe.

Penguin in aviators goggles

Carabosse Fire Gardens - weird penguin sculpture? Bournemouth Arts by the Sea Festival 2014.

I seem to recall that there was a river of fire running around this thing, come nightfall, and that the penguin slowly revolved…

Wandering around the gardens before the event started, while these obscure ‘machines’ were being unpacked and assembled, gave me a chance to marvel at the ingenuity of it all – at the way different shapes and movement were incorporated into the sculptures, and how it was all created from scrap metal. And vests.

Vests? Carabosse Fire Gardens, Arts by the Sea Festival 2014

These looked a lot cooler once there were flames inside them.

Yes, flaming vests suspended above the Pine Walk, some with the M&S tags still visible.

The large crowds that turned up to watch the displays were remarkably well-behaved – aided, I think, by the unobtrusive but visible security presence (I watched one security guard help rescue a baby squirrel that had strayed on to the path. Bless). This was a well-run event, and a real credit to the town. But it still had the inherent DANGER of LIVE FIRE! Making Bournemouth cool again, if only for the duration of the arts festival.

Bournemouth's hot air balloon suspended above the gardens, lit by fire installations

Night photography is difficult for me. #blurry

Next on the blog, I’ll profile some of the other fantastic arts events on offer at the 2014 Arts by the Sea Festival, and reveal how the Carabosse fire gardens had an unexpected influence on my own preparations for Halloween 2014…!