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I spoke to Kate back in the winter and she was really unsure what Art in the Park was going to look like and if it could even go ahead. We chatted about ideas like ticketing to reduce numbers or counting people in. Without knowing what the restrictions were going to be it was impossible to know what form Art in the Park was going to take this year.

The first weekend of August came and there was no restrictions in place! The festival went ahead and felt very much like it had in the past, no need for tickets or counting. I think we were a bit more spread out than previous years, this didn’t change the feel of the festival. As the festival was outside many people chose to not wear masks which made it feel even more like it had before.

This year I created Laughing Lollies. We had originally chatted about making a piece of work in response to Covid back in September 2020 but as Easter came and Covid was still a big deal we decided we wanted to make something that make people laugh instead and that gave them a moment of joy. What could be more joyful than five giant lollipops in bright colours that are super shiny telling jokes. They were incredibly popular with 7,500 people interacting with them over the two days. The jokes were infectious, children would repeat the ones they’d heard to their parents and people would share jokes they new. I hope the jokes created a catalyst, I like to imagine that people went to work on Monday and shared the jokes they learnt and then that person sharing ti when they got home.

Laughing Lollies is my first touch-free interactive artwork. They work really well, you walk past them and the amazing Letitia George from BBC Coventry & Warwickshire radio will tell you a joke and laugh along with you. The lollipops work with a motion sensor and have a Adafruit sound card, amplifier and 5v speakers in built into them. They really isn’t any need to touch them.

To my surprise everyone touched them! They touched and touched and touched them. Some people thought the motion sensors were buttons which explains some of the touching but when I added a label saying ‘motion sensor’ people still touched them. I don’t understand! Pre-covid it would be really normal for people to want to touch my work outside of a gallery and I would actively encourage them to. To keep them safe I made something they didn’t need to touch but still did – one child even licked them! I thought after people wouldn’t want to touch things any more, I’d go as far to say it’s unfashionable to touch things in public now but it’s seemed to not have effected the people of Leamington. I’m double jabbed and I still don’t want to touch anything, perhaps I need to relax a bit and I am trying too.

The lollipops are off to MK Gallery and will be in their outside space for the bank holiday weekend. The gallery are supervising them, I won’t see people interacting but I will ask the gallery for feedback on the touching situation to see if it’s common.

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