I am a lover of food. My scales will confirm this. My love is for GOOD food though, not junk. I would say Olive oil is my major cholesterol weakness and I blame much of that on Jamie Oliver. And so I approached the Conwy Feast food festival on Friday night, tingling in anticipation of not only the endless miles stalls of delicious stalls from which to grab taster after taster, but also the acclaimed Blinc digital arts show taking place in the evening.
My first foray into the festival was up at the True Taste tent by the city wall, where my sister Denise (Moel Faban Secret Supper Club) was demonstrating her exemplary skills at both fruit and vegetable jam making. Flanked by Rhun ap Iorwerth as commentator, she squeezed, stirred, pulped and boiled her way to culinary god-like-genius status, as people drifted rapidly in to the space, rendered powerless by the sweet aromas wafting through the tents.
Following her successful exhibit and the ensuing mass crush to experience the intriguing tomato jam, we ventured down to the harbour towards the oyster cocktail bar. Having had a not-so-pleasant experience with oysters once before (including significant expulsion of said oyster) I was understandably dubious about setting myself up for a similar situation. But watching my 10 year old nephew happily glug one down I felt the family not-so-peer pressure was imminent and so ensued my second sea-bogey foray. Aside from the look and texture, oysters are not repulsive in taste (if you like salty sea taste, that is, which fortunately I kind of do) They are constantly overrated though, in my humble opinion. As with many ‘delicacies’, just because you can eat something which is primarily a challenge, does not necessarily make it actually worth eating. Snails are my chief example. No matter how orgasmically sumptuous the sauce in which they are cooked, they are essentially just slugs with a shell. Which taste like slugs from a shell. Whoever originally managed to convince people they somehow had any worthy qualities in either flavour or texture was clearly a very impressive practical joker.
Anyhow, I digress. The oyster stayed happily southward bound and we continued to wander around the harbour, in and out of tents and amongst piles of hypnotising goodies intent on sending me home with an extra chin. From cheeses to wines to pickles to cakes to ale to oil and even retro shots tasting like skittles (which really did!) we eventually emerged to the biting winds of the North Walean coast. Heads and bellies spinning, we felt in need of refuge in a pub but of course, this being Conwy Feast weekend, the only table free was in the restaurant thus forcing us to eat yet more food! Well, if fate insists, who am I to disagree? After a brief respite – cue both elderly and youthful power naps – we wound our way to the beer tent to watch the light parade. The culmination of frantic lantern-making workshops taking place the week before the festival, the parade starts at dusk. Headed by groups of wide-grinning children and parents, proudly holding aloft their handiwork, it builds to a drum-assisted crescendo with huge glowing creatures built from timber and translucent paper.
Standing in the throng which unsurprisingly surrounded the beer tent, I suddenly caught a glimpse of flashes of light in the distance. Turning to look towards the estuary, my attention was caught by a laser display, sweeping in bursts across the bay like morse code and illuminating darkened areas of the water. But this was merely an understated prologue. We were soon standing mesmerised as huge projections swarmed the facade of the castle; poetry (written and spoken), illustration, kaleidoscopic shapes, dance, still life. Each projected back at the audience a link, a connection with the building. Using the walls as canvas, the works brought the castle to life. Somewhat unexpectedly, the spectacle allowed me to see the building more than I had before. As with an object such as a mirror, for example, combining the artwork with a canvas which can itself change, distort and amend the image, you will undoubtedly end up with a fused piece. The canvas becomes part of the work in a pro-active way. Had the same projection been shown on a screen shortly afterwards, it would have invoked an entirely separate and probably very different, response. The town was alive. As the castle had been the fusion object at first, now the whole town performed the same function, scaled up. Crowds of families, teenagers, couples, friends, marched around the centre of Conwy, stopping at every new installation discovered. Sometimes bordering on trippy, sometimes unsettling and usually just downright beautiful, the projections at the old chapel and Plas Mawr, amongst others, had most of us ooohing and ahhhing as if it were already Guy Fawkes Night.