SPILL Festival of Performance 2016

Hey there everybody! Sammi throwing up hands and waving them in the air!

The excitement of the SPILL Festival of Performance held in Ipswich this year is too contagious and the energy is so empowering that I am still jumping around the office.

SPILL was originally created in 2007 by performance maker Robert Pacitti of Pacitti Company and is an internationally recognised artist-led festival of radical live work. It presents installations by creative people from around the world.


This was the eighth edition of the programme, which has previously been held in London. For five days in October, it brought over 100 events of live performance, workshops, gigs, film, discussions and parties to Ipswich. So, if you were around and didn’t notice the buzz, then you must have been asleep. In which case, you well and truly missed out on an amazing experience. There was something for everyone in over 20 venues, with an impressive dome installed beside the famous Willis building, housing daily entertainment of music and art.

There were installations at all the Ipswich Museum sites. These included a recorded audio tour of Ipswich Museum by Justin Hopper + Scanner, performances at Ipswich Art School Gallery by Emily Godden, Moa Johansson and a psychologically unnerving piece by Shaun Caton with items loaned from the Museum’s taxidermy collections. Chloe Smith performed at Christchurch Mansion, channelling in to her sorrow and grievance and inviting the audience to join in on a ritual of death and disappearing. Links to some of the performances can be seen here:

If I haven’t quite captured your full attention after all that interesting information, there is more exciting news to come. For months I have been working with artist in residence, Shabnam Shabazi on a SPILL commissioned piece, presented in partnership with Colchester + Ipswich Museums. Her work is phenomenal and further details regarding her creations can be found on her website.

The project ‘Terra Nullius’ combined a series of different interventions around the museum galleries. The piece was based on the translation of those words, which mean ‘Nobody’s Land’. As with all art, it is up for personal interpretation. The artist however, described it as “a piece exploring things being taken out of their natural environment, cast adrift, lost at sea, journeys, forgotten places, chartering into the merciless realm of Placelessness...”

A team from diverse backgrounds were brought together to bring the audience a sensational atmosphere in the museum at night. Anton Roberts (Learning Museum Trainee 2015-16) worked in collaboration with Chris and Somaye on a spoken word piece, while Nqobile and Otto filled the open spaces with divine music using African instruments and singing. Local artist, Loleitha provided a sculpture and work relating to her personally, which was located in the Egypt Gallery. She was also there on the night to engage with visitors. Shabnam herself was based in the Geology Gallery, being tattooed by Claire, an artist from Luton. Collection and Information team members, Izzy and Caleb were in the Roman Gallery working on documentation. There couldn’t have possibly been a moment when visitors weren’t engaged.

My role was to set up a human shrine. This came from discussions of culture, heritage and my work on the Chinese displays in the World Cultures Gallery. On the night, a magical piece was created in front of the African section of the gallery. Actress/artist, Cath was wrapped in fragile tape and settled in position for 3 hours, whilst I placed objects belonging to Shabnam on and around her. For the performance, I invited the audience to take an item away with them. The response was magnificent, with comments such as, “I’ve never been to a museum where I could take objects away“. Cath was so still that she shocked visitors when they realised that she was a real person. The performance lasted 2 hours, with items such as a mega phone, cassette player, vinyls, books and ornaments disappearing from sight. Courtesy of SPILL Festival, there is a film of the performance.


I attended a selection of performances and events surrounding the festival and thoroughly enjoyed the positive vibes it brought to the area. I met lots of inspirational and passionate people. It has opened up my eyes and mind to a different perspective into contemporary art. My contribution to ‘Terra Nullius’ was very much ‘non-existence’, as the focus was on the shrine. I really cannot believe that I was ever a part of a performance art piece, it feels like it was all a dream.

When I do feel like I am awake again, I will be back to update you on the usual museum routine. Until then, why not let us know if you attended any SPILL performances and your views on the spectacular festival. We would love to hear from you.

Sammi 🙂

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