INTERVIEW: Base Camp | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Artwork by Bettie Hope, Slutmouth

As lockdown eases many people in Teesside are looking towards Middlesbrough’s DIY events space, Base Camp, to see what happens next, and true to form they’ve been busy. As a recipient of the Arts Council’s COVID-19 Emergency funding, at the forefront of their plans are new artist collaborations as the venue continues its mission to reconcile the disparate elements of the creative arts. The venue had already built a reputation for live gigs, independent cinema, art exhibitions and social events, and has now reinvented itself with a range of site-specific commissions by Teesside artists.

The project has evolved into something as avant-garde as you’d expect, and features the work of artists such as Niall Kitching, aka Kitch 22, whose artwork has reimagined the vast porch. Working with Base Camp has thrown up some of the most diverse and intriguing projects I have ever worked on,” he says of his contribution. Keavey Gamwell (ItsKeavs) has created a logo and mural wall for the new rehearsal space and Slutmouth’s Bettie Hope has turned the old post office’s imposing double front doors into something of a psychedelic invitation. She told me of the project: “I wanted to capture the colourful, creative and kooky energy of the venue and staff, and thus, Charlene was born. Charlene enjoys long, slow, shoeless walks in the desert searching for the perfect San Pedro cactus to brew into mescaline for her local community that reside in the Golden Sunset trailer park.” Quite. But very Base Camp.

It already naturally has that DIY Berlin-type feel and we wanted to build on that by commissioning some one-off artworks. It felt like a forward-looking move at a time of uncertainty, and a good way to support some of the amazing freelancers we’ve met along the way

Also a new addition to the Middlesbrough venue, the Sidecar Rehearsal Rooms project is run by Sad For Life’s Aaron Lythe. Previously occupied by Llovers, Cape Cub, Travis Shaw and Swears, I have fully renovated the room, everything from paint to a new back line. Alongside the practice space, I’m putting together a hang-out for the bands that use our space. Something that in time I hope can be used for networking events, quizzes and smaller scale social events for the musicians of Teesside in an attempt to create a new cornerstone for music in the North East that brings the community together more frequently.” Meanwhile, Graham Ramsay from Ten Feet Tall, who manage the venue, was excited about the future and the venue’s plans for an outdoor performance space and courtyard. “We’ve got acres of space and a range of different sized rooms. The layout has sometimes caused us headaches, but now with social distancing we can actually make it work to our advantage. We’ve also got a brand-new outside space called Concrete Garden.

Those first few weeks of the world standing still really allowed us the time to step back and think about what we wanted from the building. It already naturally has that DIY Berlin-type feel and we wanted to build on that by commissioning some one-off artworks. It felt like a forward-looking move at a time of uncertainty, and a good way to support some of the amazing freelancers we’ve met along the way.”

Of course, this all depends on government legislation and guidelines which now seem to be moving at speed after months of stagnation and Graham is suitably upbeat. “We’re just putting the finishing touches to the place, including a raft of safety measures to protect staff and customers, then we’ll be back open.” With classes, workshops and plenty more still in the pipeline and to be confirmed expect a busy autumn at Base Camp as they seek to embrace and define the new normal.

Base Camp is located at Exchange Square, Middlesbrough

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