…is an artist hoping the slammer won’t drop it before they get off stage.
Behold, this year’s Glastonbury Poetry Slam trophy and she’s a beauty. This proud, rearing mare awaits she or he who holds their nerve and delivers the most powerful poetry performance at this year’s Poetry Slam.
This wonderful work of unsubtlety was created, as always by the poet and visual artist, Peter Hunter. I asked Pete recently about his involvement with Poetry&Words over the years and his inspiration for this year’s piece.
Peter Hunter – artist & P&W unsung hero
You’ve had a long history of creating the prestigious Glastonbury Slam trophy. How did you get involved in the first place?
I met Helen Johnson (then Gregory) when she started performing at an open mic I was running in Bristol many moons ago. We became friends and were involved in several projects with other poets over the years. When Helen inherited the Poetry&Words stage, she invited me to help out. As part of this I volunteered what skills I had, other than poetry and hosting, in trying to find a revamped identity for Poetry&Words, this included the stage props and backdrop, various sorts of signage, redesigning the Poetry&Words poster each year, the introduction of the mini-programme and of course a glamorous trophy for the slam winners to receive in recognition of their poetic derring-do.
Tell us about your background as a sculptor and visual artist.
I have always had an aptitude for visual arts, it was the thing I most liked doing at school, and I was fortunate enough to study (study being a loose term) Fine Art at Falmouth School of Art back in the days when going to college didn’t leave you with crippling debt afterwards.
After that, for some reason, I became a ceramicist (making things out of clay, rather than sitting at a potter’s wheel making ‘pots’ and being a potter) and had a studio in central Bristol where I didn’t quite scrape enough money together to earn a proper living. I also did a short stint at an animation company making plasticine puppets for TV shows (to this day you can find some of my work on Youtube – I made the mouths for the animated Elton John in the Stars in Their Eyes titles from the 90’s). I had some of my work featured on TV as an April Fools – fossils of fairies found on the banks of the river Severn – and at one point a woman came to my studio claiming to be the aunt of Robert Downey Jnr and bought him some chop-stick holders that I’d made that looked like little reclining people. (‘He’ll just love them!’)
In 2007 I managed to combine both my sculpting and poeting skills for Bristol Poetry Festival by creating a faux contemporary art exhibition at Arnolfini (Bristol’s main contemporary art gallery) which I then critiqued in rhyme. It was a controversial piece that didn’t go down very well with contemporay fine artists but apparently the volunteer staff liked it. Also the Arnolfini had to call me in because one of my ‘exhibits’ was starting to rot and the smell was getting into the air conditioning and begining to stink out the whole building, which I thought was a nice, if unplanned, touch. There’s a (poor quality) vid of the piece here if you’re interested:
This year’s effort is quite special, having departed from your usual convention of a mic with embellishments to the radical creation of a rearing unicorn with a logo on its butt. Can you tell us your inspiration for this?
I try and make something unique and relatively different each year. It’s an opportunity for me to try out ideas within a loose theme. Usually the ideas are a reflection of what I’m generally interested in, or whatever pops into my head when I’m soaking in the bath.
Last year’s 3D pop-up book trophy was because I was wandering around charity shops and there seemed to be a lot of pop-up books and I thought I’d give it a go – it also meant that the trophy was relatively safe to transport when the book was closed.
Previously I’ve got hold of a microphone and, as you say, embellished it – once as a space ship, once as a towering sculpture over a festival site diarama. There is always an element of tongue-in-cheek about the trophy and this year I thought I’d push it a little further by creating this grand rampant golden unicorn with the microphone carried in it’s mouth, as if the unicorn represented the poets’ magical transformation from slam hopeful to slam champion! Or something.
I also like the trophy’s to have some sort of interactive element if possible. The spaceship one was also a bedside light, the book was pop-up and this years unicorn is a pencil sharpener. I’ll leave that to your imagination.
Which of the trophies you’ve created do you have the most fondness for?
Obviously the latest one is the best one, but I do have a fondness for the spaceship trophy – I think that was for the 2010 slam – it seemed to tick many fun design boxes for me.
I used the mic for the spaceship body with the rounded head of the mic being the ‘front end’ with the jack-plug attached for a point. Then I added 3 tail-fins like a 1950’s style rocket – the sort you might see on the cover of an old sci-fi comic – but what I was most pleased with, was that I found a ceiling light that was slightly domed, and when it was turned upside down (so the dome faced up) it was curved like the surface of a planet and I stuck the mic-rocket onto that, as if it had landed – and the best thing was,
if you pushed the rocket down, the planet lit up! It was brilliant!
I still have a love for the trophy I won from the Bristol Slam of 2002 which you made (which was kind of a gold brick with an etching of the UK on it) How far back does your slam trophy creation go?
I think you have the first slam trophy I made (nice one for getting your City of Culture Slam win into the interview, Scott)*. That didn’t quite turn out as planned. I had intended it to be all sharp edged and geometic and professional-looking, it even has a real gold-leaf coating. But I left it late and the material I made it out of didn’t set properly, so it’s a bit rough around the edges and the varnish I used took the glister off the gold. I seem to remember you refering to it at the time as ‘a golden brick’. Still, I’m glad it has a homely charm. 😉
*Well, why not? it’s not like I brought up the Ant-Slam ceramic fish I won recently, Or the Great Northern Slam microphone, Or the Apples&Snakes Poetry Boxing belt, Or the Belfast Intercity Slam glass bowl… 😉
What are you working on at the moment?
I don’t have a studio at the moment – haven’t for a few years now – so everyhting I do sculpture-wise is restricted to being small enough to fit on my desk.
I’ve been making some props for the local youth theatre production of His Dark Materials and I amuse myself by gluing stuff together to see what happens (the neighbours cat will never be the same again) I’ve also been working on some small lino-prints and then there’s a bigger project in the pipeline that I can’t say too much about, but it’s working with a local arts group and I’m hoping they’ll allow me to make a full-sized mock-up space cargo transporter. All being well…
What advice would you give the winner of this year’s trophy regarding a) taking care of it b) the best room/setting to display it?
Having won the trophy, the next problem is getting it home in one piece (it’s not that delicate, but it may not withstand being worn as a hat in the dance tent untill 4am) If possible, hire a couple of security guards to stand over it for the Sunday evening and then order a helicopter to airlift it off site and back home.
Once there I’d suggest, if they don’t already have a trophy room, maybe try the traditional pride-of-place on the mantlepiece – somewhere that’s in full view to everyone who comes into the house, so they can marvel at it. Or, for a fee, I can build a wall-mounted, climate controlled, plexi-glass fronted, fully alarmed, trophy cabinet. Get in touch with me via Glastonbury Poetry…
If you wish to be in with a chance to be the owner a beautiful gold unicorn chewing a microphone, the Glastonbury Poetry Slam will take place on Sunday 28th at 5pm at the Poetry&Words tent.
If you wish to sign up for either the Poetry Slam or an Open Mic spot (which takes place Saturday 27th at 12.50pm) come as early as possible to the Poetry&Words tent and approach one of the MC’s to put your name down.
Coming up next…an interview with last year’s Slam winner, Erin Bolens.