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Vicarious pleasures make journeys of a lifetime

Verity-Jane Keefe

No need to feel trapped at home – start puzzling and take yourself somewhere else and free your mind

Credit: iStock Julesinski

The crowd pours in through the entrance gates, a temporary structure designed to look like a castle entrance with a psychedelic sign saying Festival. It’s incredibly confusing to look at. I lose myself in this. Who designed this? It looks badly made but in a good way, not a dangerous way, more creative let’s say than a slick temporary pop-up structure. Who came up with it – putting a ticket booth in a fake stone castle gate support? It reminds me of other tourist experiences I’ve had over the years, a souvenir kiosk in a giant fibreglass rock, a sweet stall in a column and – the most enjoyable – temporary toilets where you step through a constructed facade of a cave. Back to the festival. A city of tents and marquees dominate the scene. Beer stalls, main stage, small stage, t-shirt stand and then hundreds of small tents in a field in the distance. There’s a huge crowd, a rush from the tent to the outside stage. I stop and stare at the scene piecing together in front of me. Why is there no other reference to the castle? Was that a theme, a leftover from another festival? I’m thinking about the Zaha Hadid Serpentine Pavilion-come-events space at Flambards Theme Park in Cornwall. So extraordinarily out of place, yet making perfect sense. Temporary spaces transported into other space, fictional and real.

The Festival continues for two days, it’s a challenge and the architecture – the overall design vision – does start to become a little clearer and then I’m done. I break up the jigsaw puzzle and put it back in the box, sellotaped back up with my review written in the lid for the next pre-covid-life-searching-tourist that buys it from the charity shop. ‘The Dutch Architect of the POP FESTIVAL1000 PIECES has a vivid imagination and is clearly a fan of temporary structures and details. The VIP and RIP spots are a lovely detail, the castle – confusing, but it did take me away for two days. Enjoy!’.

There’s a huge crowd, a rush from the tent to the outside stage. I stop and stare at the scene piecing together in front of me

I give myself a day to recover. And then move on for a much more ambitious trip, less niche, more global, historical. I am a cartographer’s granddaughter. Nova totivs terrarvm orbis geographica ac hydrographica tabvla, a new complete map of the geography of the earth and oceans begins to unfold. I visit continents drawn in the past at snail pace, piecing the equator together across my table-cloth, joined by earth, wind, fire and water, flanking the two spheres of the Atlas, with Julius Cesar, Claudius Ptolemy, Gerard Mercator and Jodocus Hondius looking hand drawn yet refined in each corner. I’m on the boat chopping through the North Pacific heading towards San Diego, I jump ship and look for one much closer to home, tracing the Tropic of Cancer with my fingers, skipping over gaps. Walking through places, broken up on trays across my living room floor and in my mind, thinking about when it might be possible to be in other places, carefree. Not quite world tour via boat, but I’d take a multiple county drift, a music festival, an underwhelming biennale filled with temporary pavilions or permanent, tent or building, baroque cartography or cartoon escapism. I’ll take any of it in. I’ll take all of it.

I tend to loathe rituals and routine, preferring a muddled through and spontaneous approach, but the annual festive jigsaw bender is one that I carry with me. A year of visiting places via streetview and youtube finished off with a lost weekend at a Dutch festival. What a trip. I’ll have most likely broken all of my new year’s resolutions by the time you read this, apart from one: never take for granted moving, and being in different places again. And to never feign an excuse to not go somewhere, or worry I really shouldn’t because I’ve got X, Y, Z on. For now, I have the two package holidays in their boxes, let me know if anyone fancies 1000-2000 jigsaw pieced tourism and I’ll pass them over.


We can often be found soaring over the Galápagos Islands on google earth or walking through Becontree on streetview on my sofa. For the ultimate dose of escapism, an obvious one but really perfect for these times, lose yourselves between Oslo and Bergen at real time. A seven-hour orgy of slowness. You’re welcome.

Verity-Jane Keefe is a visual artist