As a total sucker for saying yes whenever anyone asks for help and any opportunity for a creative project, I volunteered to help design/decorate the Studenterhus Aarhus bar that was featuring at Northside Festival. The festival has this great system where sports teams and student associations can man bars in return for free tickets and exposure for their causes and they of course get free labour. On the food side of things, local restaurants and caterers provided the food, leading to fierce competition for the best food. So much deliciousness, hands down beating any festival food I have ever encountered.
The theme of the festival was sustainability, and Studenterhus wanted their bar to reflect that. One of the other great aspects of the festival was that there were a whole bunch of activities and initiatives throughout the whole area, not simply music and drinking. From the University having a tent promoting innovation and business ideas, to novel seating areas, to art projects, to Ping Pong tables from by favourite bar, Shen Mao. So of course they were being all very Danish and promoting sustainability.
My original proposal was to have the bar covered in grass – a really bright, visible way to promote the bar and the green theme and a relatively simple way to decorate it. What was a simple idea quickly became the kind of occasion where sayings like “a horse is a camel designed by committee” come from. From the festival continually changing how the bars were to be set up and all the measurements, to being accused of greenwashing and having to go through a process of investigating using real grass, to brewery reps who shat themselves the day before because they didn’t have enough visible branding, to having to include the city’s branded “with us” campaign.
Some of the inspiration:
The main issue was the sustainability/greenwashing one. Initially I had thought that a sustainability theme at a music festival was more a talking point than actually making the entire festival an environmentally friendly one. As it turned out, they did make a huge effort to have as many cups/bottles etc recyclable, though I’m not sure they could do much about food production, power usage etc. So the grass covered bar turned to investigating “environmental grafiti” – where you make a moss mixture and it grows exactly where you paint it. Unfortunately timing and logistics meant that one didn’t work either. I would still love to do something with it though!
Finally, with the help of the University gardener, we discovered the ivy that grows all over the main campus buildings was about to be cut down from one of the buildings and we could use some of that. Perfect! It was also fitting that being the University student bar, we would then be covering it with the University’s iconic ivy. So the day before we spent an hour or two hacking away at one of the buildings, and attached the ivy to chicken wire that was around the tent poles. When getting hardware materials we came across some grassy carpet that we used to cover the front of the bar (as instructed by the festival organisers), only to have a Royal Brewery Rep have a giant tantrum over covering their logo. Some quick thinking managed to smooth over that problem and we were good to go! The final touch was a hefty dosage of fairy lights, and I must say, we definitely had the best looking bar at the festival! And as predicted, everyone was too busy drinking and enjoying the music to care what materials it was made of. Nonetheless, I had a lot of fun, from coming up with the idea, dealing with all the various interests to come up with something that worked and actually installing it, despite it being quite different from the original vision.