Words: Lindsay Cessford (images: as per credit)
Chapter 1: The Accidental Artist
It’s hard to explain how I am feeling right now, however I am a woman of words so I am sure I will find my way. For those of you who were following my posts last year you will know that I was the Project Manager for SKOP IV, Nathan Honey’s build. Those of you who didn’t know, well, I was Project Manager for Nathan Honey’s SKOP IV build last year.
Unfortunately due to a series events, I decided to leave the project early. This was not a decision that came lightly. It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make. You see it wasn’t just about walking away from Nathan, the build and the great crew that had become family. There was a huge risk that this would also cost me “my” build.
You see as none of you were or are aware, I wasn’t just there as Project Manager. I had been invited over from the UK by Artcom to work as an apprentice to Nathan in order to gain valuable build experience after submitting an idea for AB2018’s Clan, which by some miracle had got down to the final three.
When I answered the call out for the Clan email back in August 2017 I had no idea then that it would lead me here.
Let me explain.
I don’t know the exact date, however I do remember the exact moment. I had been working late and was too tired to sleep. So I decided to catch up on some of my emails and messages before turning off my lamp. I saw an email from Baardskeerder entitled “Clan 2018 Callout”. I read the brief and instantly an image popped into my head. A weird and wacky idea, or whimsical in the words of one of the art committee.
Now for those of you who don’t really know me. I am not an artist, a sculpture, a painter or even an architect. I can’t even draw. I am the worst and most frustrated type of creative. Beautiful images in my head that I can never depict on paper. However, that night I had an idea, a dream if you like. Of creating something beautiful and magical. A grand masterpiece to wow and inspire and bring people together. That night I came up with a concept for the Clan that came deep from within and focussed on what my beliefs are of what AfrikaBurn is about. To me AfrikaBurn is a place that people dream to go, dream to return and dream they could stay forever. A place where beautiful friendships are made and a place where we all dream that life outside the burn could be as harmonious as within. A world we dream to continue after we leave.
So I did some dodgy sketches sitting in my bed that night and was in two minds if I should pursue this crazy path. After all I’m not an artist – what chance did I stand? The following week the idea started to grow and flourish in my head. Every day I thought of something new that could make the art more interactive and quirky. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I couldn’t decide if my idea was genius or I had completely lost the plot (that I suppose will be for you to decide). So I thought “What have I got to lose?”. Plus, I had loads of time. The deadline for submissions wasn’t until the end of October. So I enjoyed the rest of my summer in Portugal where I base myself most of the year. Telling the odd person about my crazy idea, but mainly I forgot about it as I was far too busy enjoying my summer wakeboarding and paddle boarding. Plus I had decided that I would do the submission when I went back to the UK to visit my parents at the end of the season where there would be no distractions.
So I returned to the the UK at the beginning of October and decided since I can’t draw I would write, what I personally thought was a beautiful brief. So the brief was written and I decided since drawing wasn’t my forte maybe I’d make a model (turns out model making isn’t my forte either) but that’s another story.
So the brief was written and I was doing some last minute research as I wanted to make sure I had covered everything that had been asked for when disaster struck. I clicked through to the page on the website and it said in bold letters, I could actually hear the words screaming off the screen at me “CLAN SUBMISSIONS CLOSED” I felt sick, had my dream just been shot down in flames before they even had time to ignite? I was gutted, panic ran over my body and until that point I hadn’t realised how much I wanted this. So not one to be defeated I sent the following email:
On 5 October 2017 at 17:27, Lindsay Cessford <[email protected]> wrote:
I hope this email finds you well.
I was really disappointed to literally just see that you have changed the date of the Clan proposal submissions.
I sat down this evening to start finalising my proposal and when looking for some information noticed that you had closed submissions. When I was I working towards the original deadline date of 31 October as per the email below.
“Deadline? Your final proposal has to be in on 31st of October at midnight – but don’t leave it for the last minute, as then we will not be able to assist you developing your idea if needed, and we might just be missing out on the most spectacular Clan ever!”
I have written my proposal and was going to do a 3D model. However, as it is now closed I wanted to send you what I have and hope that it is enough to get considered.
Please find attached a written brief and some very, very rough images. As I said I was hoping to work more on the images and also on a model but here goes nothing.
Thanks in advance for your consideration.
Luckily for me this then arrived…
On 6 October 2017 at 09:36, Travis Lyle <[email protected]> wrote:
Morning Lindsay –
Apologies on the date change, and thanks very much for sending your proposal through.
Chances are good that our Art Dept will still consider your design. I’ve copied them here so they’re able to look it over and respond.
Head of Communications
Radio Free Tankwa plays 24/7/365
And then this…
On 6 Oct 2017 9:13 a.m., “Isa Marques” <[email protected]> wrote:
Thank you for sending your proposal.
The Clan Committee hasn’t met yet, so we can still add it for consideration.
Happy Friday to you,
Phew, the dream was still alive.
So, I submitted my brief and thought, well that was that. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Then I forgot about it. For a few days that was anyway. In all honesty I really didn’t think I would hear anything, so you can imagine my surprise when exactly a week later I received this on 13th October 2017 at exactly 18:29.
ArtCom loved your Clan proposal!
And we would like to discuss it further with you. Would you be available to meet us Thursday (19-Oct)? What time would be best for you?
Or what day and time would it suit you better?
WTF, I mean WTAF. I remember running into the living room where my parents were and shouting “they love my idea, they love my idea” and my parents going who, oh that African thing you’ve been going on about. Yes, that African thing I’ve been going on about.
And this is where the adventure truly began.
I had a Skype meeting with Monique and Isa who are responsible for curating all the beautiful artworks that we are lucky to see on the playa. We chatted in detail my concept and they asked me to submit some further information, a mood board and what the hell, I even offered to submit a model. Which I made out of lined paper from a notepad, two empty toilet rolls, a cardboard box that Mum had had some flowers delivered in and whatever else I could find in my parents recycling bin. It wasn’t in proportion or even the right shape, it was just meant as a reference of how the Clan could work.
It looked ridiculous, but I didn’t care I was so excited, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I was going to do everything in my power to make it happen. However after a number of Skype calls, emails, art grant applications (have you ever tried to fill in one of those things? Hard enough at the best of times, but bearing in mind I was in Nepal at this point rebuilding a school with the slowest internet in the world, so what should have taken 20 minutes ended up taking four hours, it was a nightmare – but I was determined!) I sent in my final submission and I waited and waited and waited…
It took ages to get the final decision. Or what felt like ages, in fact it was about three weeks. After numerous unanswered emails (OK it was two), but it felt like more. I had resigned myself to the fact that this weird little adventure was over and that my idea had been forgotten and my dream of creating something big and beautiful that I could eventually set on fire was over and then…
On 9 Nov 2017 3:25 p.m., <[email protected]> wrote:
Thanks so much for the developed ideas that you sent after our Skype meeting.
So ClanCom met on Tuesday evening to evaluate the three shortlisted proposals.
We have decided to go with a large and static wooden structure for the 2018 event and not the XXXXClan which is being designed by a long time contributor Simon Dunckley who has designed a more classic Clan structure.
Bla bla bla bla bla…..
Obviously she said a lot more than that and a lot of great and positive things, but at that very moment in time all I could see was bla bla bla bla bla and I burst into tears.
So after the tears, I decided to actually read the rest of the email and to my surprise it did say a hell of a lot more than just bla bla bla bla bla.
They offered me the opportunity to come and work with an artist so I could get some experience in order that one day I could maybe build my Clan and even though I was at home helping take care of my Mum who has cancer. After a family discussion, we decided this this is the stuff dreams are made of and an opportunity not to be missed.
So I looked at the two options presented to me which gave me the option to work on either the Clan build with Mike Rule or SKOP IV with Nathan Honey. After some extensive research, which in the end proved to be useless. I chose Nathan’s build. Which you can read all about in my previous posts.
So here we are, catapulted back to AB2019. AB2018 came with many challenges, but the best thing to come out of last year’s burn was meeting Mike Rule and his team. Which meant when re-submitting for this year I had a strong build team behind me..
So if you hadn’t guessed already, I got the gig!
That’s right – I am this year’s Clan concept designer! The accidental artist, the first international (and I think the first solo female to be chosen). But I am certainly not alone. I chose well with my build team. Approaching Mike Rule to run the build after meeting him last year in the desert and seeing what a tight ship he ran while building Simon Dunckleys beautiful Clan. Which I think you will all agree it was a very impressive Clan, so no pressure, eh. I also have the support of some other amazing people. Especially Monique Schiess (one of AfrikaBurn’s co-founders and Directors), Thomas Steiner and his crew (who are looking after the magnificent lighting feature that is a big part of this year’s Clan) and Steve Martin who is taking care of all the technical specs and making the pictures in my head become a reality.
So here we go guys, game on. It’s going to be a busy few weeks for me, only 71 days until the Clan burns. Oh and did I mention my involvement with the return of the Spirit Train. I didn’t, did I? That one will have to wait until next time.