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Making & Writing: Sun, Sea, & Synthesis in Magenta Monocle’s Magical Masquerade

Blog by Martin Palmer

I’m sure you’ll agree that the title of this blog throws up a few questions. We are going to ignore many of them!

Magenta Monocole’s Magical Masquerade has been, and continues to be, a wonderful coming together of local artists from various disciplines to produce an accessible, interactive, and submersive experience - for free to the public - deliverable as a facet of the Creative West End’s ‘More Than a Market’ events.

What does that mean? It means that local artist Magenta Monocle (who can just about turn her hand to anything, but for the purposes of this project has been working in and around costumes, which has seen her work with different materials, from fabrics to foam, and different ways of forming and reforming them), local photographers Nick Hellier and Amy Bee (who also use a variety of methods of capture, from digital cameras to the classic polaroid style), and local writers Jim Lupton and Martin Palmer of The Nib Crib (who have worked on pantomimes and plays in the area before) all teamed up to provide ‘happenings’ for June and August’s ‘More Than a Market’. We wanted to synthesise the supreme hands-on creative talents of Magenta Monocle with the enchanting narratives that Jim and Martin have been known to produce, and the idea quickly came up about escapism through dress-up. ‘A bit like [David McKee’s] Mr Benn’, we kept telling everyone when we were explaining it. For those not of a certain generation, that means we wanted to provide people with the option to explore creativity and identity by having a load of costumes to wear, mixing and matching them, and some prompts to encourage thinking about new characters and narratives.

Image 1: Dress up box. Courtesy of Jim Lupton.

Image 2: Mural background by Rosanna Macari.

Image 3: Diver helmet in production by Wendy O'Hara.

Image 4: Space cat head by Wendy O'Hara been worn at #morethanamarket. Photo by Debbie Yare. Image 5: Leaf cape and umberella being worn at #morethanamarket Photo by Debbie Yare.

Image 6: Finished Diver helmet. Photo by Debbie yare.

Image 7: Head-dress costume worn at #MoreThanAMarket. Photo by Debbie Yare.

Image 8: Dress-up tent at #morethanamarket with Nib Crib host Martin Palmer

Image 9: The Nib Crib's Geoffrey North. Photo by Sarah Hewitt.

We trialled the idea at May’s NetWork party at More Music, and were happy with the excitement we generated. To see Magenta Monocle’s fabulous creations in person really stirred people’s imaginations. They wanted to put on the costumes, pick up the props, and you immediately saw them looking in the mirror at something/someone new, and either dwelling a while on that possibility, or searching for something else that they preferred. The prompts we gave out to people yielded some wonderfully quirky characters, such as a DJ-ing cat, and a detective called Sherlock Bones. The power of creativity inside people never ceases to amaze me, and people can wear the same hat and come up with a whole plethora of different characters and ideas in response.

Come June, we arrived at our More Than a Market tent feeling that more of an emphasis on the experiential, rather than the writing, was a good idea. We had such lovely sun, and this brought out a big audience of all ages who were keen to try on Magenta’s wares - from a diving helmet to a mushroom hat to a clown suit - and items sourced by Jim, Martin, and a host of generous West Enders. We had devil masks, sombreros, horse heads - oh, you name it! Many of the participants explored their characters by standing in front of wonderful backdrops realised by Rosanna Forte. A real touch of magic was added by Nick Hellier, who, amazingly [says this wizened old writer…], was introducing some of the younger kids to their first polaroid photos. The young and the old kids were so pleased to be given a lovingly-packaged physical memento of their day, which saw them transformed into someone new - somewhere else. But all back to normal in time for tea.

You can read more about the project and check out more of Nick's fantastic photos direct on his website:

The good times don’t end there, however.

Come along to #MoreThanAMarket Saturday 12th August on Morecambe Prom starting at 3pm for the debut performance at the picture frame that this has all been building towards. Jim and Martin’s script will bring together a few veteran Nib Cribbers and a whole menagerie of West End volunteers who have all agreed to try and help save our fabled Westendia from a terrible menace.

It will be another success if we make people laugh and think about the power of creativity within us all to help us in what are, let’s face it, difficult times.

Please come down, enjoy the market, and get involved in our show, which will feature a fantastic musical finale from Rosanna, and the Deccan Traps.

See you there!

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1 Comment

Jul 31, 2023

Love this writing, it really celebrates all he hard work and is well written too.

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