Enchanted Parks event lights up Christmas

THE 12 days of Christmas may not officially kick off for a while yet.

THE 12 days of Christmas may not officially kick off for a while yet.

But a group of 14 artists have made sure the sentiment associated with the famously-festive song is alive, kicking, and literally in the spotlight on Tyneside.

Last night the finishing touches were being put to the third Enchanted Parks event in Gateshead’s Saltwell Park, which is set to make thousands of people smile through reddened cheeks in coming days.

Installations of light, sound, sculpture and performance are all to be found, and make sure that an after-dark meander through the park takes on a whole new meaning between now and Sunday.

Following the well-trodden success of the event during the past two years, it wasn’t surprising that all the free tickets for the guided tours around the park were snapped up before you could sing two turtle doves.

And, after enjoying a peek behind the event’s metaphorical modesty curtain last night, it’s clear there will be much to delight visitors of all ages.

The route, which takes you from one installation to the next, is punctuated by a variety of glittering pear-laden trees – each and every one attended by its own partridge of course, thanks to Ben Haig and the Northumbria Collective, who are also responsible for the bauble-laden arches representing the (altogether now) Five Go-o-o-ol-l-ld Rings.

Meanwhile the warmly up-lit branches of the trees you encounter as you walk around the park add nicely to the generally special atmosphere. Although part of the fun of Enchanted Parks is discovering the magic as you stumble upon it, there must be some special mentions offered for a selection of this year’s installations.

Gateshead-based artist Ira Lightman’s response to the Three French Hens element, entitled Trois Poules Francais, is simply delightful... and almost impossible to explain. There are three chicken coops. There are three hens projected onto screens. There are three soundtracks, featuring a variety of spoken word, choral notes and squawks (one of which is particularly ear-catching). Just make sure you see/hear/experience it.

The Eleven Ladies Dancing feature, which sees 11 ballerina silhouettes turning inside the bandstand to the tune of a music box; the Four Calling Birds experience in the Rose Garden and the Seven Swans installation, which finds swan-shaped paper lanterns lighting up the banks of the park’s brook, are also essentials to see.

And that’s to say nothing of the participatory theatre performance from Shams; Karen Monid’s Peace Garden, Kaspar Hansen’s Boats on the Lawn and Aether and Hemera’s 12 Days Star.

Part of Newcastle Gateshead’s world class programme of festivals and events, Enchanted Parks – even in a slightly scaled down form this year – has certainly retained the charm which has made it such a hot Christmas ticket... we’re looking forward to next year’s transformation already.

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