Worm Festival Brings Rotterdam Artistic Anarchy to British City of Culture

Posted on July 7, 2017


Rotterdam’s Worm collective was born in the freedom of squat culture, so when it swung over the North Sea into Hull – UK City of Culture – there was a piratical vibe of humour, protest, sex and rock ‘n’ roll.

Worm is unlike any other arts organisation. It runs on the energy of Dada, punk, Fluxus and hacktivism. So for its three day collaboration with the City of Culture it brought music, spoken word, writing, drawing and collage to the Humber Street Gallery. Central to its aim was to involve the entire community in an orgy of cut-up art and confrontational performance.

Walking into Worm’s headquarters in the first floor gallery at Humber Street was disorienting. Large tables piled high with magazines, books and photocopies were being turned into collages and stuck to the walls. There was a record player and sound recording set up with one of Worm’s artists sitting underneath the table reciting words from superhero comics, fire safety booklets and instruction manuals, like it was poetry. Everything was in the process of being re-recorded, stored, archived, cut-up, rehashed, created and re-created.

Worm works by creating culture clashes. Worm in the Boxing Ring brought together professional boxers with artists, poets and schoolchildren to create a live installation and performance each day. While we were there a poet gave a superb performance from the centre of the artist-built boxing ring. She spoke about our ability to ignore the homeless and people begging on the streets, saying ‘I have no change’ when really we have more than enough to spare. Eloquent and piercing in its simplicity.

All around the ring are placards and posters with rhymes, slogans and drawings, telling people to get involved. We are invited to use Worm’s ‘zine and music archive to create our own works of art. Nothing is left to become dusty in Worm’s world, it is all re-absorbed so that magazines, books, pictures are all copied, cut out and collaged to create an entirely new archive. The entire event is audio recorded and released as a CD at the end of the festival. Everyone is so friendly and they gently encourage all-comers to get involved and make their own DIY art.

Poem by Rich Sharp Wilson and Xav

Barriers, borders and lines in the sand
Symptoms of a sickness scaring the land
Marks on a map drawn by effete hand
Flags planted in the scorched earth of a stolen homeland

Carving the earth up for resources and riches
People as no more than statistical glitches
Manageable risks to those Blackrock bitches
A tap on a screen decides which of you the system ditches

Erased, deleted, put out with the trash
Amounting to nothing if you ain’t got a stash
Unless it’s to blame you for a financial crash
Not buying their made-up shit, with their made-up cash

Fuelled by debt, drive by greed
But don’t you fret, they know what you need
You need a threat from which to be freed
They want to make you sweat, before they make you bleed

Our blood stains the hands of the one percent
Wiping us out with our complicit consent
We are the many, why don’t we dissent?
Not politely applause after a poetic vent.


After Hours

Late nights at the gallery were packed with live performances and Worm’s “infamous 360 degree” stage/bar” – with a platform in the centre to stage its cast of ‘colourful characters’. We wandered in on Saturday night to catch the end of a frenetic drum and bass set, followed by a noisy garage band playing rough punked out blues. Then the striking master of ceremonies – wearing what I can only describe as a Carmen Miranda-inspired fruity looking wig – led out a rather athletic nude blonde to the stage.

She proceeded to apply ‘Butter Me Up’ to her naked body and then poured a generous dusting of ‘chip spice’ over herself, before offering fingers and toes to people standing nearest to the bar to taste the concoction. A hard act to follow. But Madame von Klaus tried her best. Dressed in a sheet with holes for eyes, ears and nose and singing yowling operatics, she punctuated the action by scampering round the floor on all fours and chasing the crowd into the corners of the room.

We missed The Pirate Bay’s experimental RADAR-love marathon, but I don’t think it really mattered.

Flaming Lips Alive

We were in Hull for The Flaming Lips performance at Zebedee’s Yard. There is no situation that Wayne Coyne and Co can’t improve by a live show, being one of the most surprising and innovative acts of the past 30 years. Pirates at heart – Coyne sported an eye patch throughout and a glitter gun to pepper the audience – they ran through a greatest hits set that included a couple of songs from their most recent LP ‘Oczy Mlody‘ (the crunching pop psychedelia of ‘How’ and a lilting ‘There Should Be Unicorns’).

For ‘Unicorns’ Coyne sported multicoloured light-up angel wings and rode through the crowd on an illuminated unicorn. Is there anything better than that? Not really. Check it out below. I won’t do a full review of the show, but it included an incredible opening ‘Race For The Prize’, several of ‘Yoshimi’s greatest hits, ‘She Don’t Use Jelly’, ‘The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song’ and ‘A Spoonful Weighs a Ton’. Magical.

Posted in: Art, Festival, Music