Ian Martin curates this year’s Tamworth Popupalooza
MONDAY Excited to be curating this year’s Tamworth Popupalooza. It will be many things - an urban showcase, an indie artfest, a psychospatial experiment, a realtime craft fair, an intersectional nebulisation, a global inreaching, a vertical thinkathon, a cultural boot sale, an actual boot sale, a celebration of biversity, a festival of affirmation, a carnival of tolerance, a network of beer-and-vinyl boutiques, the location of Britain’s Biggest Conga, free all-day cycling and the Great Community Bake-Off.
But Popupalooza is not just about fun. It has a grimmer purpose. It is about restoring Tamworth as the capital city of Britain. By bloody insurrection if necessary.
TUESDAY This year’s Popupalooza will feature a specially created model village, ‘Popuppingham’. All thatch and whitewash, smelling of cut grass and fresh laundry.
It has been designed to feel exactly like a Leicestershire superhamlet, the sort of place high-earning professional people retreat to at weekends. We tireless campaigners, we Friends of Mercia, are simply making a point. ‘This is what we would have had within an hour and a half’s commute of Tamworth’ we are saying, ‘if only it had retained capital city status. ‘Instead, the title Capital of England was wrenched from us by dastardly Winchester in the ninth century, only to be snatched from THEM by suave, double-crossing London in the eleventh. As a consequence, nearly every wanker in a pink shirt lives in the South…’
These days, Tamworth’s notional commuter belt has one of the lowest densities of wankers in pink shirts in England. If there is anything positive to be taken from this underperformance it is that ‘WIPS’ belong in London, along with unpleasant wealthy foreigners, war criminals and charity beatboxers. When Tamworth rises again (inevitable, given global warming and the success of Game of Thrones) we will develop an entirely new dress code for wankers. Let’s draw a line under the pink shirt and move forward.
WEDNESDAY I’m with the rest of the judges in the secret judging marquee, shortlisting some architectural street food for Popupalooza. As is customary, we pause ever now and then to pull a ‘surprised’ face. Or squint uncertainly over glasses. Or laugh, gaily. A local string quartet is in the corner, playing generic pizzicato passages to keep us ‘in the mood’.
We like the look of the architectural kebabs. Mechanically-retrieved animal plasma dyed emerald green, shaped into little Monopoly houses, then skewered into terraces. There are New York ‘subways’ with edible signage; French versions with Art Nouveau stylings at either end. Impossible-to-eat deconstructivist ‘anti-pasties’. Ice cream cones in the shape of Shards. Exotic double-miniburgers with salad mezzanines.
Oh LOTS of salads of course, this food is architectural. Rewilded salads. Green roof salads. Salads like miniature rain forests. All great to look at but you wouldn’t want to eat any of it. Never buy street food in Mercia, everyone knows that.
THURSDAY Finalise arrangements for our ‘suburban beach’, a strip of sand with herbaceous borders and a big sign prohibiting ball games.
FRIDAY A cloudmapped social happening such as Popupalooza would be incomplete without installations all over the place, challenging everyone’s perceptions of what a cloudmapped social happening is. There’s some properly challenging stuff lined up. ‘Ha Ha Ha You Fucking Ants’ is a powerful installation by artists Con and Connie Connaught: 42 flags on the roof of the cider tent, ‘each one a command to passers-by to think a bit more about things for a change’. Questions range from the provocative (‘What are you looking at?’) to the oblique (‘How many pixels in a daydream?’)
Let’s hope it gets people thinking about how we can speed Mercian independence, crush the ancient kingdoms of Wessex and Anglia and reinstate Tamworth as the capital city, otherwise we risk getting a bit distracted.
SATURDAY Approve the planted wheelbarrow display. We’re using only flowers, vegetables and weeds that flourished, along with Offa’s Tamworth kingdom, in the eighth century. Hogstink. Deathpansy. Witchsnot. Arse-fennel. Gripeweed. Bloodturnip. Shitgrass. Bubbling Gashwort. Happy days.
SUNDAY Leisurely afternoon, reviewing Popupalooza progress reports in my eighth century Mercian recliner. It’s a reconstruction, fashioned from timber and clotted flax. Not very comfortable. But then the truth often hurts.
I smile grimly to myself and sketch out plans for a flooded Milton Keynes. In the era of New Mercian hegemony it will become a wet playground, the ‘Venice of the Upper North-West South East’.