Scroll through the comments section of any post by the local newspaper on Facebook and you’re sure to be informed that the CBD is dead. Shopfronts are vacant, there’s nothing to do – oh, and ‘The new stadium will do nothing, there’s nowhere to park! But also I haven’t ventured further than my local Woollies since last year’s trip to Bali so have no idea what’s actually in the city anyway!’
For 10 days this August, colour and creativity will brighten many more windows along Flinders and Sturt Streets, as Umbrella Studio contemporary arts’ incredibly successful Pop Up North Queensland Festival (PUNQ) returns for its second year.
PUNQ, which first activated our CBD during the 2017 Strand Ephemera, invites selected local and visiting artists to make spaces in the city their own – featuring everything from pop up craft stores to sketching workshops, classic film cafes, artist talks, and more.
Local potter Fiona Banner was one of the exhibiting artists in the inaugural Festival.
“I was involved in the 2017 PUNQ Festival through the North Queensland Potters’ Association and we did incredibly well selling our work through our pop up shop there,” Fiona said.
“The Potters’ Association had their own shopfront in the CBD for about 25 years – it would move around between buildings, but it was there. It got to the stage where regular visitors to Townsville would come looking for us, which was lovely and you’d see repeat customers from even outside of the city because a pottery shop is something different, and people would want to see what was new.
“That’s what I think is missing in the city now and why we’re so grateful PUNQ is back – even if it’s just for 10 days!”
Fiona will have her work on display and will hold pottery and mosaic workshops as part of the 2019 PUNQ Festival, sharing a space with several other creatives from The Hub Creative Space.
“This year, I’ll be with a collection of women who are part of the Hub: Erin [Ricardo] who does all forms of printmaking, Donna [Stark] who is a seamstress and can sew anything, and Sue [Bright] who owns the Hub.
“Between us, we’ll be running printmaking, sewing, pottery, and mosaic workshops for anyone who wants to try, and all have some of our own bits and pieces for sale.”
2019 will be the first time Magnetic Island artists Karen Williams and Kirsten Colvin are involved in PUNQ.
“We will be creating a fantastical, whimsical wonderland where we invite you to explore and get creative in our evolving installation with ongoing workshops and drop-in craft sessions throughout the Festival,” Karen said.
“My work uses colourful bricolage, recycled and found materials – objects that come inherent with stories. I began creating miniature worlds or kooky dioramas a couple of years ago, so for PUNQ I am creating a large-scale immersive version.
“Within it I will reference cultural history, nature, gender, work, play, dreams, memories, and life in tropical North Queensland. It was paradise, where I grew up: a North Queensland island resort. The Great Barrier Reef in the 1970s; with idyllic enhanced reef imagery and fluoro painted reef dioramas, it was kind of tacky the whole construction of ‘paradise’ on our island – but I loved it.
“Ultimately though it’s a celebration of life, material culture, growth, transformation, and creative joy.”
Kirsten said visitors to their PUNQ space should expect to see it evolve throughout the 10-day Festival.
“My current passion is making larger-than-life sculptures and 3D artworks – I love a visual pun and works that surprise, delight or unsettle the viewer,” Kirsten said.
“Inspiration comes from Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali and the surreal landscape of Magnetic Island, where I’m lucky enough to live. Expect giant eggs, coral made from plastic monsters and a colourful light installation that will evolve during the 10 days the space is open to the public.”
Kirsten said the space would not just be for visitors to look at, but to interact with.
“Along with our crazy sculpture wonderland we’ll be playing with animation and light to bring a little more magic to the space, and have a big craft table where we invite you to come and play or try out animation.
“Being showcased as part of PUNQ is a great opportunity to show people that artists can make money (we get paid to participate), make the most of our training, and show off the diversity of the Arts in Townsville.”
The Festival not only activates the CBD but is a chance for artists to network and appreciate one another’s craft.
“Normally we’re all busy in our own little bubbles, they say artists all sort of keep to themselves – but it’s because we’re all just working at the same time,” Fiona said. “This is a great chance to chill out and see what everyone else is doing. That’s the part I loved most about the last PUNQ, dropping into different pop ups and trying everyone’s different workshops.”
While PUNQ runs for 10 days, Fiona said there’s opportunities for people to participate in the workshops and classes on offer all year round if people take the time to look.
“The workshops we’re running at the Hub’s pop up will be a lot of fun, and we’re hoping people will realise they can find us teaching similar classes at the Hub after the Festival.
“We can’t wait to meet everyone who drops in during the Festival, and to see what all the other artists are showcasing.”