N is for NILK

Are you going to Nilk? This was a question I asked a number of people this summer and on the most part the response was resoundingly YES! With just a few queries of – what is Nilk? So for the uninitiated – Nilk is a micro music festival that combines music, film and art and is held at Dundee’s Botanic Gardens.

Organisers (Paul Gault and Craig Gallacher) teamed up with the Rusty Hip Collective (an exciting new collective championing Dundee’s live music scene) and Ickle Film Festival (an independent, artist led short film festival in Dundee) to ensure 2013’s festival bounced back with a bang!

This combination meant that they welcomed a few hundred people to a truly unique event to enjoy a carefully curated selection of electronic music, live bands and fascinating films – all with the added extra that it didn’t rain a drop!


I respect the way Nilk Festival manages to maintain a unique balance with the space it inhabits. This not to be sniffed at – even if the attendee numbers are much smaller than large festivals – the atmosphere at Nilk encouraged people to explore the beautiful surrounds of the stunning botanic gardens rather than trash them.

nilk, festival, scotland, dundee, 2013, micro festival, uk

Perhaps it was the addition of this colourful (and indestructible) Pinnata by artist Camila Richardson that ensured any tension could be taken out on it! I also liked the addition of the other striking N’s that populated the site – this one below was illustrated N by Jen Collins and there was another floating structure crafted by Roy Shearer.

Nilk, Dundee, Festival, 2013, Scotland, Dundee, music, rusty hip collective, ickle film festival

I am definitely no expert when it comes to discussing the musical content…

However, the highlights for me this year were definitely Golden Teacher, their energy was infectious and I loved their eclectic mix of acoustic and electronic sounds. They also did a brilliant job of working through a minor electrical black-out with rogue phone strobe lights, their bongos and their energy to keep the crowd entertained until the boys managed to re-wire a plug fuse in the dark! They have just released their second 12” on Glasgow’s Optimo Music label and they are definitely a group I would like to see live again.

nilk, dundee, festival, scotland, uk, 2013, micro festival, nilk festival

I caught just a little of The Strangers Almanac in The Rusty Hip cabin, but I really like the sounds this duo create and I must admit that Ten Feet Tall has been featuring regularly on my playlist for over a month now… I love the part when the sound of the strings kick in.

There was also a ton of other good music being played during the day, but my memory wanes and I won’t go into detail about them all.

Other fun highlights included the awesome motion graphics by Duncan Barton.

nilk, dundee, festival, scotland, 2013, micro festival, nilkfestival

Infusing balloons with LEDs and hanging them from the trees in the afternoon…

nilk, dundee, festival, scotland, 2013, micro festival, nilkfestival

nilk, dundee, festival, scotland, 2013, micro festival, nilkfestival

and subsequently watching their glow emerge from the darkness as the evening progressed!

N is for Nilk

What a lovely way to spend a Saturday in September. I hope they do it again next year!

+ Nilk Festival

+ Rusty Hip Collective

+ Ickle Film Festival

Words & Images © Hazel Saunderson

Taking A Chance In Dundee

I was walking down the street on my way to work the other morning when I spotted this simple a4 sheet stuck on a lamp post. It was typed in a really simple font, just black on white, but it was the words that jumped out at me – they said:

Please take at least one

Then there was a number of tear-off slips that said:

A chance

I have to admit that my first reaction was to take a photograph, but on realising that I didn’t have my camera – I pulled off a chance slip, took a mental photograph of it and subsequently sketched this out quickly later. I was pleased to see that when I walked home that evening that I discovered the posters were actually up on three or four lamposts, yet in fact all the chances had been taken that day!

I will add that this was situated outside an art school, so it could have been a simple experiment, part of a larger art or design project or just a bit of fun. However, I was impressed that it managed to capture my attention whilst rushing to work on a route that I rush down everyday – so it shows the value of choosing clever words that capture both people’s attention, but also their imagination. Secondly, I enjoyed that people had obviously reacted to it and torn the scraps of paper off so quickly – which made me wonder if the people of Dundee took any more chances than usual that day. I like to think that they did and I wonder what they may have been.

Words & Images © Hazel Saunderson

Linotype: The Film

I recently watched the Linotype documentary. This feature length was released in 2012 and is essentially a film about the linotype machine. In fact, the director and producer Doug Wilson did a great job of ensuring this film was also very much about the fascinating stories of the people who know how to work this machine – the operators.

It was an education for me. The Linotype was called the “Eighth Wonder of the World” by Thomas Edison, it revolutionised printing and society. However, I didn’t really know what the linotype was before I watched the film, but by the end of the film I wanted to own one!

Just brilliant and I would encourage all designers to watch it. It gave a real insight into the history, the craft and the beauty of the linotyping machine.

I think watching it re-affirmed a few things for me:

  1. It is important to collect the stories of people and things. To be able to ensure that items that had/have a massive impact on the way the world works don’t disappear from history without a reasonable record of how they existed. BUT it is important to do this in a captivating way, that excites people about the past and doesn’t bore.

  2. Some people have incredible minds. Minds that can create incredible things. This film made me wonder in awe at the brilliance of the brains and engineers that created these incredible machines – that mechanically look like one of the most complicated machines ever.

  3. You have to believe in your ideas. It took the inventor, the German clockmaker Ottmar Mergenthaler, 10 years of extremely hard work and a number of attempts to build a linotype machine that worked. However, it revolutionised the printing industry. Not only that, but it went on to change the literacy rates in America and change the way that people consumed information forever.

I think the most poignant scene for me was near the end. When the owner of a linotype machine, Joel, who had been a linotyper had to get rid of his machine. After failing to find a museum who wanted to house it or anyone else to take it in – he had to take it to the scrap yard. So Joel stands in front talking about the machine, whilst the brutal force of the bulldozer crunches this beautifully crafted machine in to lots of little bits behind him, until it no longer resembles the brilliance that it once was. All the importance of the machine that is built up over the course of the film, all the value of these machines is crushed before you – as their value in current day is more easily found by the mass weight of their scrap metal. Somehow you have to laugh at this scene, otherwise I think it might make you cry.

Today, very few machines are still in existence. As I write this on a computer, in Google Drive no less, I am all too aware of the reasoning behind this loss in value. The speed at which technology (and our consumption of it) is moving at such a pace – it is often incredibly hard to keep up. Let alone, to take the time to reminisce in the craft of these machines.

However, there is some incredible beauty in the industrial heaviness of these Linotype printers and the skill it took for the people to power them. People who didn’t master how to use the machines until they had worked with them for years and years. It is an impressive kind of dedication.

Farewell etaoin shrdlu

+ Linotype: The Film

PARKing Day in Dundee 2013

Can a parking space in a city really only be used by a car? A good question to consider. If you pay the parking meter – can you just take over the space?

In San Francisco in 2005 Rebar Studio set up a single parking space as a park for a day. This has now evolved into a global movement – PARK(ing) Day – where thousands of artists, activists, designers and citizens temporarily transform city parking spaces to show how ordinary public spaces can easily be re-imagined. On the 20th September 2013 Dundee joined a host of cities worldwide in a celebration of the city space, when students from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design designed a number of installations for PARK(ing) Day. So carry on reading to explore the fun areas that popped up in Dundee.

Parking day, dundee, 2013, scotland, city, spaces, design,

Play Don’t Park crafted a space for people to play! Their motivational signage ‘PLAY’ was salvaged from a recently closed swimming pool and their installation of play cubes were covered in colourful doodles & drawings from the days visitors. Continue reading “PARKing Day in Dundee 2013”

Interview – Gary Hustwit

Earlier this year I completed an interview for Port Magazine with Gary Hustwit, an independent filmmaker who produced and directed what has become known as the Design Trilogy films. Gary spoke to me about how Helvetica (2007), Objectified (2009) and Urbanized (2011) enabled him to meet his heroes, and how crowd-funding helped to complete the project. You can read the full interview over on Port Magazine. It is worth a read – he really is a fascinating guy.

This quick writing project highlighted to me the need for us all to ask more questions, to reach out to different communities, engage with the city environment and make art and design accessible to all. The film that struck me the most in the trilogy was Urbanized; it highlights so many things that can be planned into cities, which have the potential to make a huge impact on the way people live. So I would urge you to watch it – you can start with the trailer below.

The Urbanized papercut image above was an image I created for day 16 of a Fun a Day project to reflect having completed the interview with Gary that day. Continue reading “Interview – Gary Hustwit”

Having Fun A Day in Dundee

Towards the end of 2012 I saw a wacky poster advertising something called Fun a Day in Dundee. It was bright and colourful and unlike most other graphics that I had seen floating around. The poster encouraged me to think of a creative project that I could do every day in January and join a pop up exhibition – I promptly emailed the organiser Morgan to let her know I would like to join the fun. I decided to cut one word from paper each day – real crazy fun that would allow me to explore paper cutting a little.

Fun - Day 2

At first I hadn’t really made any specification for choosing what the word would be each day and words came easily for the first few days (although they were pretty simple), day one was fun and day two was sunshine. I quickly discovered that one of the nicest elements of paper cutting was the increased potential they had when photographed with light directed at them. Light made the paper glow, shadows loom, negatives became positive and spaces filled with light. So quite quickly the daily process became more than just a paper cut…

Fun - Day 4

Continue reading “Having Fun A Day in Dundee”