The Enchanted Parks after dark adventure returns this week to Saltwell Park, with a new theme and artwork installations on display to experience and navigate your way through. Prior to this year I’d never been before, it always seems to sell out so quickly, so when I was offered tickets by Newcastle Gateshead I of course accepted. The concept this year is the House of Lost & Found, based on a fair of travelling people who are in some way lost, and come together to tell their stories. These mystical enchanting stories come to life as you weave your way through the park. Take a look…
Each individual that is part of this extended family has a different part to play in the fair, but they’re all telling the story of something lost or found through light, installations, objects and even fire.
As you arrive at the park and enter the trail through, the people of the fair are there to guide you through. In full character they let visitors through in stages, under the guise of telling their story and engaging with the kids. I wasn’t sure what was going on at first, I thought it was just an art and light display that you wander through but it’s so much more interactive than that.
The characters are great and are part of the whole idea, in full traveller dress and decorated in tiny fairy lights, they were delighting both kids and adults as you make your way through. ‘Peter’ is the man that leads the fair, and he is linked in some way to each of the artist creations and the story that unfolds.
The footpaths are lit, and as you follow it round you come to each section. Overall it takes about 45minutes to an hour to wander round, although I’d definitely say it took families with small kids a lot longer. As you walk you’re accompanied by the musical sounds created by Roma Yagnik, an outdoor events musician who also recently featured as part of the Great North Exhibition.
I won’t detail every section, just a few of my favourites…
The Lost & Found Tree, created by Dave Young, an artist that transforms found and used items into something new. The tree symbolises ‘Peter’ himself welcoming you to the House of Lost and Found.
Precious and Found by Helen Yates
Lots of lost objects are on display here, from a child’s lost teddy bear, to a boomerang that didn’t return to its thrower, and even a lost leg from a was soldier. Helen has found the objects and hung them all in bird cages in the trees. Take a closer look at each one to discover what stories they tell and how they we’re lost.
The Key to Her Heart by Albat Ross, University of Sunderland Student Commission
Peter seems to be quite the heartbreaker, because this piece is a pathway lined by old Victorian drains, and each one holds a coloured key to the hearts of all the women that tried to woo Peter. It appears though that none of them found Peter’s heart, and he continues to search for his true love.
The Little Legionnaires of Lost and Found by
This collection occurres a number of times throughout the trail, and are small displays in the trees showing the Little Legionaries. These are tiny people that are said to exist within our daily life collecting our thoughts and ideas to return to us when needed. These displays show them working hard in their sorting offices retrieving and sorting all the lost items. The little legionnaires are also known as Finders Keepers.
Lost for Words by Amy Lord
Another piece that appears throughout the trail is a series of overhead neon phrases, all of which relate to Peter’s story and the other installations. They give clues and cryptic hints on your quest for finding more about Peter.
Kaleidoscope by Rosie Power, University of Sunderland Student Commission
The giant kaleidoscope made of glass and ceramics reflects beautifully in the dark night with all the colours reflecting and glinting away. A throwback to childhood memories you might have forgotten?
Merry Glow Round by designers Ben and Mandy of And Now:
When I arrived at this one I was met by an old man, who was wandering the paths with his collection of lost luggage tags. Ever lost your bag while travelling? Chances are he has it so pay him a visit! He wanders around the garden of flickering flames which was one of the bigger pieces on the trail. I loved this one, a spread of fire lanterns across the grass create quite a sight. Among them are giant carousels that tell stories of lost and found against the fire lit backdrop.
The Garden of Lost and Found Voices by Aswarm
An impressive but rather more serious concept on the idea of lost and found, hanging between the trees at this installation are floating umbrellas, each one with a speaker attached playing recordings of those telling the story of those who may have briefly lost their voice, or are trying to be heard. Imagine feeling like you can’t tell someone something, especially if it’s something awful that’s happened to you? Very relatable to current times with the MeToo movement and women speaking out in Hollywood, this one gives those people a voice. You can even add your own on the night the unmistakable local accents can be heard clearly.
Lullaby of Lost Teeth by Georgia Robinson, University of Sunderland Student Commission
I found this one a bit creepy, a collection of teeth in a babies cot. When I looked more into it and read the info it gets you to consider that this could be the tooth fairies collection of teeth children have lost, and they’re so big because that’s how they appear to the tiny fairy.
Smoke and Mirrors by Molly
The phrase ‘it’s all done with smoke and mirrors’ hands above this section of the path that’s lined with giant distorting mirrors, eerie music playing and the smoke from the fire lanterns there too. This is the final section of the trail through Saltwell Park and aims to show Peter running through but disappearing among the mirrors, as you do when you walk through. Is it all an illusion? In the dark it’s hard to tell!
While some one of the displays were for viewing only, there were a number of points where you could interact which families seemed to really enjoy. You could open drawers to see what came out, write on neon graffiti boards, and get your photo taken in front of a big screen that captured your shadow and turned it into a moving coloured display. This really reminded me of Peter Pan, so maybe that’s who Peter is. After all he did lose his shadow…
If you’re visiting Enchanted Parks over the next few days then you are in for an entertaining night. I went not really knowing what to expect and was a bit unsure at first if it would be a bit scary, certainly when I got there in the dark with all the tree shadows.
Having wandered through and learned more about each bit I did really enjoy it, it’s definitely not scary, and when I thought about the best way to describe the characters that are brought to life and the pretty displays using light and fire, it really is quite enchanting..
Disclaimer: I was gifted my ticket for this experience. Adult tickets are £9