A mermaid beckons you. Held in a golden current, she glistens in the sunlight. Although her twirling hands are distracting, you cannot miss the entrance to the festival. The trees arch revealing the entrance to LOST.

Unlike many independent events, LOST is ambitious. The organisers aimed to redefine the gallery experience by making art more accessible, and more appealing, to a wider audience - they cut down and altered the surrounding woodland to enable them to curate a truly immersive experience. Although it is the first time LOST festival has been put on, they managed to sell out of tickets which probably made the organizer's month of living in the woods seem a little bit more bearable.


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The festival founder, Jodie, explains how the concept of LOST came from her preparation for her degree show. At Edinburgh, she studied fine art but rather than restricting her practice to canvas her work became 'more like a live event'. At first, she was interested in body painting but then this developed as she sought new ways to interact with her audience culminating with her making a space that she describes as a "3D blank canvas."


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Not only is the space totally transformed by the arrival of a variety of artists and installations, the LOST team ask the festival goers to leave their phones at home. After turning in your phone to a festival volunteer, you are ushered onto a coach to a secret location... with the windows blacked out. The intention being that attendees get to really engage with the creative process, speak to new people and absorb the atmosphere of the festival. In return, LOST promises to provide all sorts of things to entertain you. Teasingly, I ask Jodie if the festival had to be compared to an artwork what would it be. "Oooh," she laughs at me, "I think I would have to compare it to the work by Kusama. She did an exhibition at the Hayward a few years ago. Her work is amazing and very interactive. She did an exhibition in a surreal living room with all these luminous dots... I think one of her pieces - colourful, interactive and simple but effective."


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One of the highlights of LOST was a beautiful piece made by Alice Kilkenny (featured below). Alice's artist practice is shaped by science-fiction literature. Unlike the piece she created for LOST, her usual medium involves coding, computing and information platforms. According to Alice, as her inspiration was drawn from the mental phantoms of futuristic dystopias and technological marvels, her attraction to new media was an almost forgone conclusion. Despite the fact her piece for LOST wasn't built from new technologies, it was still inspired by them. Although the shiny material certainly gave her piece a new age feel, it was interestingly inspired by Alice's love for gaming culture.


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In Alice's own words, "my pieces are largely influenced by the concept of the open-world game, in which parameters are set by the game's maker but the participant's actions are unpredictable, self-determined, and limited only by the conditions of the virtual environment." However, for this particular piece, Alice also drew on her experience as a lighting designer that utilities the changing light over a 24-hour period - the results were astonishing.


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But the weirdest, and most wonderful, marvel of them all was Shotgun Carousel. Laura, the troupes founder, spoke so passionately about immersive theatre that is hardly surprising Shotgun Carousel's performers exude vibrance. Laura, quite correctly, touches upon how 'immersive' is the new it word in creative industries with directors, artists and musicians all attempting to engage their audiences in new ways. However, she thought that there was too much emphasis being placed on scale to the detriment of the performance. So, instead, Shotgun Carousel focuses on human interaction and seeks to explore the relationship between the audience and performers. Although their costumes were original and captivating, it was the movement and their proud looks that enticed the crowds at LOST - people were unable to take their eyes off them.


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Aside from the performers, there were paints for anyone to pick up and use. Stalls with henna, food and amazingly crafted clothing lined the woodland grove but there was no shopping frenzy. The boundary between the creators and attendees was so dissolved that people felt comfortable to barter and discuss how certain items were created whilst others exchanged food for photography. Moreover, the artists spoke very fondly of Jodie and suggested that she was able to create such a collaborative atmosphere because she was 'a true artist' who was capable of understanding what people needed to have their creativity brought out of them.


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Another comment that was made by several of the artists involved was that it was rare to go to a festival that cared about the art, as much if not more, than the music. The DJs and musicians at the festival were certainly capable of getting the people on their feet but the attention to detail and decoration, for example the CDs and artwork hidden in the trees, meant the LOST experience was more atmospheric than feeling as if a London club had just been transported to a field.


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LOST almost perfectly fulfils its aim of reclaiming the gallery experience. Rather than awkwardly shuffling around an artwork, people pulled, played, moved and touched the artistic creations. Nor were the artists isolated and absent, they were there explaining their vision to the participants which removed the distance one feels when wandering around a stark white gallery space. Additionally, they seemed very happy to be there. Jodie mentioned how after a couple of events she began to get approached by artists who wanted to collaborate and work on the festival with her and her co-founder, Oli. In a moment where the meagre funding for the arts is being eroded, it is promising that festivals like LOST can draw together a crowd of people who are happy to share their creative energies amongst one another.


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shotguncarousel.co.uk
alicekilkenny.net
lostfestival.co.uk