Last year the Winchester-based arts and education charity, Play to the Crowd, began a partnership with the University of Southampton to give one student per year the opportunity to work with the charity's creative learning and community engagement team, Playmakers, on a project for that summer's Hat Fair Outdoor Arts festival, which the charity is also responsible for. This year's student was Manjira who is studying for an MA in Fine Art and while with the charity, worked with local community members to make a Junk Giant puppet to be worn during the Hat Fair Carnival, plus mini puppets and junk instruments to be played and showcased during the Carnival.
Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?
Hello, I am Manjira Mazumdar. I am currently pursuing an MA in Fine Art at the University of Southampton / Winchester School of Art and had the opportunity to undertake an internship at Play to the Crowd – the arts and education charity that runs Theatre Royal Winchester, Hat Fair Outdoor Arts festival and Playmakers creative community engagement.
What does your job involve? What happens on a typical day?
The title of my role is Carnival Artist Intern. This role primarily involves preparing, organising, and sourcing materials for art-making workshops and then delivering these workshops to a diverse range of groups. A typical day would start around 10am, when I would organise the activities and gather all the sourced materials for the workshops. Each session is designed and altered as per the time available, keeping in mind all accessible needs for the group. My internship role is primarily designed to work under the charity’s Engagement Producer helping groups to produce work inspired by and for the Hat Fair Carnival. However, I also had the opportunity to assist the Youth Theatre Producer for multiple sessions.
What’s great about what you do?
The best part about this role is that it is very hands-on and on-site, and even the tasks behind a desk are directly related to the fun bits. As an art and performance enthusiast, this is an exciting place to be.
What are the toughest parts of your job?
Since each session and each day are different, one may not completely know what to expect. There is always an array of things that could change or go wrong at the last minute, which also adds more life and energy to the job.
What are the highlights of your creative career/studies to date?
I have always been an enthusiastic event coordinator since school, taking in all the backstage and onstage chaos like a champ. Gathering my peers and starting a virtual student collective during COVID-19 is definitely a highlight of my career. The collective collaborated with researchers and students from other universities and conducted multiple presentation sessions as well as virtual exhibitions.
What's been the biggest challenge so far in your career/studies? How did you overcome it?
As a practise-based student, the COVID-19 restrictions were a major setback to my existing art practise. Altering my work and medium to the changing times to fit the work-from-home situation and making the most out of it not just for myself but exploring possibilities for my peers as well.
What was your career path into this job? Have you also worked outside the arts?
My years in the arts are quite young. However, I have been very grateful to have had the opportunity to find most of my work in the arts. Since I am interested in various forms of art, I have had the possibility to be involved in more than one way. It is very important to have a proactive approach and seize every opportunity that one finds to sustain oneself in the arts.
How has your background, upbringing and education had an impact on your artistic career?
My first ever formal art learning experience began under an empathetic art teacher who worked with various mediums of arts and crafts. I later took up fine art as a course during high school or the 11th standard in 2015. There has been no looking back since then, and I only wish for more growth and learning in my career.
Do you have any advice for young people interested in your field?
It is very important to actively develop and focus one's practise and also build relations with other forms of art in your community. Best wishes, I'm still trying to crack the code.
Where can people find you and your work online?
Making Space was a project led by Alastair Easles with the Trinity Art Group (TAG) – the homeless charity Trinity Winchester’s community art group – which was exhibited at Southampton City Art Gallery.
https://www.hatfair.co.uk/ I worked with the UK's longest running festival of Outdoor Arts in 2023.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQ82Nqd57hE I had the opportunity to create and inaugurate a virtual art and talk series with my peers while studying BFA (Graphic Art and Printmaking).
https://www.instagram.com/justjira_01/ One could easily find me on instagram and reach out to brainstorm and collaborate on DIY projects and otherwise.