The History of Festival Sticker Art or Concrete Opera


Phase 1 – “Art” in the London Community

Pre-emergent gestation and catastrophe-filtered evolution of the form in a political/social/economic vortex. 1974 – 79 Concrete Opera was a component in London community arts, social direct action and social crafts. It contributes among others to:

Brecknock Community Association (Concrete Boot and other events), Islington Bus Company, Interaction, Islington Play Association, Highbury Community Association, Intergalactic Art, Intermediate treatment, Action Space, Islington Squatters, All London Squatters (The Notting Hill LEB Occupation) and various street festivals.

Phase 2 – Plaster Casters

Clay and plaster in a community festival/play setting. To get free entry to the amazing British festivals of the late seventies and early eighties, I interpreted Concrete opera as Plaster Casters, making beautiful as possible plaster casts of people’s hands. This appealed to all age groups, and kept me and my helpers very busy. Whilst customers were waiting for their casts to set, they were given lumps of clay to make things for the gallery. As the festival progressed a wonderland of sculptures in clay would grow next to the casting area, which was much visited and admired, and became a relaxed meeting and dwelling space. We provided a much needed, safe, happy, creative (if dirty), place for children at festivals, but adults and teenagers were just as likely to take part and contribute. Many parents had a rare opportunity to play with their children in a mutually satisfying way. Quality time all round!

Plaster Casters at Cropredy festival 1999 - Philly, Rory and Felix Plaster Casters at Cropredy festival 1999 – Philly, Rory and Felix

Glastonbury Festival 1980, Albion Fairs from 1979 to 1983, Green Fair, The Elephant Fair, The Green Gathering, Groundwell Farm, etc. I also did a performance at the Alternative Miss World at Olympia in 1983 (I think), and prop making with the European Theatre of War, and several small private venues.

Phase 3 – Cropredy Fairport Festivals

RobotInvited to take part in the Cropredy Festival Children’s area by Les Bicyclettes (formerly The European Theatre of War) we restarted plaster casters. Three years ago Jet Set Jackie complained about the mess, so I looked for an alternative activity, that would involve more people for less effort and money. I wanted to do 3D work at the festival, I like to be socio-political and arty crafty, so hit on using ends-of-rolls from high volume self-adhesive label factories and paper from high volume quality printers. Goldcrest and Buckingham Colour Press (now known as bcq Print) were particularly generous, and thanks to them.


The photos show how much pleasure their waste products have given to hundreds of people. I’m not sure what the manufacturers of the products feel about this use of their graphic products, but I guess it works to their benefit as free publicity, recycling and community support.

The first year I did Sticker Sculpture (2002) I was amazed by the positive response. Whole families would sit for hours making hats, flags, sculptures of all sorts, shoes, masks, festival clothing. The works ranged from first attempts at sticking by two year olds, to sophisticated works from mature artists with nothing better to do. It looks therapeutic. From a youth and community point of view it is extraordinary how all age groups are equally attracted to the event, and everybody gets on, and how committed all participants are. Discovering an activity that keeps all ages of people from 0 to 100 totally absorbed for such long times (and coming back for more) is an important discovery. It is more or less self-organising – people have so much fun they spontaneously help with the cleaning up! It is a magnet for photographers, and creative people of all sorts. Just give people the tools and the right environment and there is no limit to what people can achieve.

One years theme was “Under the Sea” so we had a lot of imagery from “Finding Nemo”. We had good helpers as well – and we got paid more than last year! (Thanks to Robbo and Jackie). We were sited next to the Face Painting queue, so people had something to do whilst waiting for the face painting. All around us were the story tellers, circus skills work shops from Les Bicyclette Theatre and their friends and the ambience of one of the friendliest of the British festivals.

Theoretical Links and influences from the Work of other Artists:

Marcel Duchamp, Joseph Beuys, Andy Warhol, Kurt Schwitters, Jeremy Sandford, Gilbert and George, Cornelia Parker, I Made Djimat, Sarah Lucas, Andy Goldsworthy, Christo, Bruce & Jill Lacey, Peter Kennard, Giuseppi Verdi, Roland Shannon, Felicity Summers, Dave Seddon, Claes Oldenberg, Andrew Logan, Doug Selway and all flavours of environmental art.

I would like to see the creative communicant atmosphere we have created at Cropredy spread through Art Galleries of the world: more fun for children and artists. We have now done 2 art galleries, and it worked very well: The Gallery, Stratford on Avon, and The northern Gallery for Contempoary Art in Sunderland.

Written by Alex Eve 11 Sept 2004/2013