“We believe in the power of art to transform people’s lives” – advent festival opens a daily door on culture

Date: 11/12/2020

What’s behind the door on your advent calendar today? A tile of waxy chocolate? A plastic trinket? Perhaps you’ve gone traditional and found an image of three blokes staring at a star? While the idea is appealing, the reality is frequently a little disappointing. But what if your advent calendar rewarded you – starved of culture (if not cocoa mass) – with a brand new artistic treat every day?

Covid has put a brake on a plenty of art festivals and community projects around the world, as well as preventing artists from collaborating. But artists are nothing if not adaptable – and Liverpool-based artist Claire Stringer her sister Emily, based in Somerset, have has found a festive solution in the shape of the Winter Doors Festival: an online advent calendar that, throughout December, will showcase a new artist or artwork each day, with the added option to donate to the Mind UK mental health charity.

Musicians, artists, sculptors, writers – the festival offers a smorgasbord of cultural offerings – one day at a time.

Claire says: “Winter Doors is an online festival which works like an alternative advent calendar, but each door will reveal an artist at work rather than a religious message or chocolate.

“My sister Emily had the idea while waiting at home for essential spinal surgery, which has been continually delayed due to Covid 19. Like many other people this year, her door to the world has been through social media and the internet.”

For Claire, this project is something entirely new: “I haven’t worked on anything quite like this before, in that it is entirely online and voluntary. However it links to many of my previous projects, such as Walk the Plank’s Manchester Day, and The Lantern Company’s Halloween events, in that it aims to promote community engagement with the arts.”

Well aware of the impact that Covid can have, Claire is determined that it won’t take its toll on the local art scene, despite a difficult time in 2020.

“I am a self-employed artist, and a large part of my work for the last 13 years has been going to conferences and capturing the content using illustration (Visual Minute), then producing the artwork together within a team of artists. Other work I do includes taking giant puppets to festivals and outdoor events.

“In March this year during a couple of days I lost all my work that had been lined up for the year. It was incredibly unsettling and made me feel very vulnerable and anxious. However, I have been incredibly lucky as since then my work has gradually picked up and I am now busy again.

“I have adapted the way I work, so it is all on my own, rather than a team of artists, and any Visual Minute work has been done online.”

December 14th will also have a special surprise: an original piece of art by Liverpool-based artist Julian Taylor of Snake Wallahs (pictued below), who created the iconic Liverpool Superlambanana and the Hillsborough 25-year memorial sculpture.

Claire said: “Julian had the idea of making an artwork, a snowflake, which could then be sold at auction to raise more money for Mind. We have filmed the making process, which I’m editing together. That will be the video for his door.”

In times like these it’s fortunate there are so many artists working on projects like this in order to feed themselves and help those struggling around them, and Claire says it’s important to use art in order to remain hopeful.

“We believe in the power of art to transform people’s lives and to support and enhance our roles in society.”

Winter Doors Festival
Until 24 December

Written by Jamie Tichborne