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Your Space Or Mine

Grief powers The Fandangoe Kid in beautiful and unexpected ways, including her latest invention with Carly Attridge of The Loss Project: the Grief Rave

Annie Nicholson, aka The Fandangoe Kid, is a visual artist whose bright patterns and colourful approach speak to her unique take on a universal subject matter – that of grief. It’s a subject she’s explored in myriad ways, including a pamphlet ‘Tender Hearted Bold Moves’ (Rough Trade Books, 2020), a film ‘Into Your Light’, an ice cream van that she parked up in New York on the site of the Twin Towers and a monthly Grief Mixtape that she hosts on Soho Radio, among other things.

The Londoner – who recently joined the ranks of post-Brexit Irish citizens – knows about the subject first hand. She went through major family bereavements including the death of her sister in an accident in New York in 2011, and of both parents.  

Grief and loss of all kinds have become a powerful force in her work, including most recently, the Grief Rave. This latest project is a collaboration with The Loss Project founded by Carly Attridge, and the Street Soundsystem, creating dance spaces where bereaved people can dance it out.

Her billboard artwork for Your Space Or Mine tells a story about music and movement in bold primary colours, evoking the ways that the dancefloor can bring us together with loved ones – even those who aren’t with us any more. “I want people to feel the warmth of togetherness,” she says. “We know that can’t happen in this world – we can’t bring our living and our dead together – but we can cultivate that feeling. We can carry those we have loved and lost with us through life, with our feet and our moves and our bodies.” The accompanying words come courtesy of writer Lara Haworth


Words by Emma Warren

Tender Hearted Bold Moves
Fandangoe Whip

There’s a line in your film, ‘Into Your Light’ where you say that dancing became your ‘ritual for survival’. I remember you describing how you coped with your own big bereavements by dancing it out. Can you tell us a bit more about that? 

I made that film about when my sister died. When my dad was dying, the weekend before he died, I really wanted to go out and dance. One of my friends was DJing at The Pickle Factory. I told her I didn’t want to talk to anyone, I just want to come in and out. They let me in through the back and put me by a speaker. I had this massive dance by the speaker and then left. I was so grateful for it. It really prepared me to go and see my dad in hospital, the last time I saw him. It was a cathartic, necessary shake out. It was like my feet led me there. My body led me there and I’m really glad I listened to it. I really enjoyed the non-verbal release and the physicality of it. 

What do you think is going on when we dance it out? 

In some moments I have very strong pictures of being with my sister and catching each other’s eyes across the room. I associate dancing with being together, being safe, where all the complicated parts of your life can come together more seamlessly, more fluidly. There’s a real peace in that which I don’t always find in other parts of my life. Everything comes down, simplified. 

Into Your Light - Photogarphy by Tara Darby

How are you approaching the billboard you’re doing with BUILDHOLLYWOOD? 

I’m really excited about this. I had a dream not that long ago where I was in this bar in London, that really felt like old London. I was in the thick of a big crowd and I realised it was all my dead and all my living – all my people. Some of them hadn’t met before. I could see my dad working the room, so thrilled to be there, almost ecstatic with the joy of having all his kid’s friends in one space. I saw people’s faces crumple with joy that the living and the dead were together. That nanosecond when you realise that you’re seeing someone you haven’t seen in the longest time and your face just breaks, in the most beautiful way. I thought – how can I put that into a billboard series? Basically it tells the story: imagine a dancefloor full of all your living and all your dead. Lara my partner has this great phrase, ‘dancing to your past and back again’. That’s what I’m hoping to put in there. 

I hadn’t really clocked that dancing connects across time, with those who are alive now and with those who’ve gone before… 

I found it the most comforting thing. Dancing is like a phone call to the depths.

How do these new billboards relate to any other pieces you’ve made?  

It does relate to ‘Tender Hearted Bold Moves’ and ’Into Your Lightin that it’s a kind of ever continuing narrative around dancing and connecting worlds, bringing all your love down to one space and sharing it and cultivating more, more safe spaces to exist together. Music and dancing is, and will always be, a direct line to my sister Sonia and in a wider sense, everyone else I’m really close to has an essence of the same thing, that total spirit of togetherness. We wanted to tell a story and evoke, as always, the safety and joy of the dancefloor.  

What’s the feeling behind your use of colour?  

I love a bold ‘70s palette at the moment and I really enjoy the momentum of these forms on the page, and how one connects to the next (hopefully) taking you on a bit of a journey, like you would on the dancefloor if this happened, and all your worlds met, all your living and your dead.

What environments are good for dancing it out? I love a dark, loud basement where your visual sense is turned off – but your dancing spaces are really bright and beautiful. Tell me about the visual aspect you’re bringing.  

We wanted to make spaces that communicate to communities more broadly. You can be alone together on a dancefloor space. With the Fandangoe DISCOTECA project there’s an interior and exterior way of dancing it out. I like to connect all those senses. There’s a simple, childlike joy there.  

How have you been organising the Grief Raves? 

So far they’ve been quite organic and we’ve become really good at holding space for each other. We’ve heard so many stories of loss and being able to hold that together has been really meaningful. The next one is at [east London bar] Portuguese Love Affair. We wanted something outdoors, in the day. I’ve known the people there for ten years, it’s like stepping into my family living room or kitchen. It’s still small and organic, like an extended family.

Who is in the family? 

Our friend Nick brings his Street Soundsystem. He’s been building it meticulously for the last few years. It’s like his child. I’ve hosted the Soundsystem overnight and he’s given me instructions on how to look after it – it’s like having a guest stay over. He’s really good at inviting people into a space and facilitating conversations, so people can talk to each other. Carly [Attridge], from The Loss Project. Nothing fazes her at all. The trio really works.  

Describe a picture of what happens at a Grief Rave. 

We had one in Greenwich Peninsula. People want to ask what’s going on – they’re intrigued – but they’re nervous. As soon as one person engages, it opens up the possibility of something happening. Some people want to talk about what happened grief-wise or break up wise. Some people don’t want to verbalise it, they just want to dance it out. People who knew about the event bring down some vinyl or a tape – Nick’s Soundsystem plays all of that – and there’s a little microphone and you can dedicate the song to the person you’ve lost, or tell a story about them. People bring political grief or climate grief. Then you have people who’ve just lost a parent or a child, people who are literally falling apart with grief. The confidence grows collectively. The experience has always been one of deep community and facilitating release. 

Grief Rave

You’ve said that there’s always a therapeutic practitioner on hand and that it’s family friendly. How so?   

It’s family friendly because it’s in the daytime, on the weekend, and it’s free. There aren’t any particular ways you have to grieve, it’s just a way to shake out some feelings, you don’t have to explicitly mention them. Carly has all the training from The Loss Project and years of experience.  

How have institutions or landowners or landlords responded to a request to run a Grief Rave? 

I think the words ‘grief’ and ‘rave’ together terrify people. It’s something we’re constantly bashing against. We have made great efforts to try and explain or justify the choice of words. We even thought we should change it to ‘Grief Moves’ but then we were like no: it works because it speaks to people. It works because there’s such a taboo around the subject. Some people in the establishment are scared of the word ‘rave’ so the combination is mind-blowing. We agreed we’d stick to our guns. We know what we’re doing. 

The Hope Garden
The Hope Garden

Who is Saša Mächtig and what is the K67 Kiosk?  

Saša is in his 80s. He’s Slovenian and he designed the modular kiosk in the Soviet Bloc and they were placed all around Eastern Bloc cities in the 1960s. They were used for newsstands, coffee shops. You still see them in cities like Belgrade. They’ve become part of that nostalgia in some ways. There’s a company in Berlin that restores them and maintains the legacy. Apparently Saša really loves dancing and really loves this project – and wants to come to London when it opens. We are likely to have the DISCOTECA in Berlin at Potsdamer Platz through June. 

Imagine I know nothing and tell me a bit more about the Fandangoe DISCOTECA… 

We’re using the K67 booth. It’s a 1960s kiosk that looks like a bubble: a formica modular booth. It’s built in Berlin and we are going to decorate it with some quite bold patterns. You can dance inside and outside. It’s a space to shake out your grief of all kinds, including political grief and Brexit grief. It feels very European and it’s coming over to our little island. It’s an opportunity to shake things out. There are intersections of grief. You might be carrying a bereavement which might intersect with a break-up or climate angst. We’re not assuming that any of it is isolated. We all live in the world and all of these things speak to each other. It’s also a time when they’re really speaking to each other, and this is a chance to shake it out in multiple forms.


That’s a fabulous bit of language – intersections of grief. What’s the capacity of the DISCOTECA? 

They tell me you can get eight or nine people inside. It’ll arrive in July, we’ve got one commission in Canary Wharf 25 July – 5 August, but we’re crowdfunding to take it to other places. 

What’s your preferred soundtrack? Why? 

I imagine Italo Disco in there. My sister who I lost was half Italian. All her family are from Naples and I have this 1980s Italo Disco mix in my mind. I’ve been listening to Roberto Ferrante ‘Come On Closer’ 

What’s the purpose of your current DISCOTECA crowdfunder? 

Getting a kiosk from Berlin to London is quite expensive because of Brexit. We’re really determined to make it happen. The deep European history is really important and we want that narrative running through. The aim is to cover transport, production, all the last things we need to manage to get it over. It’s a 30 day crowdfunder. I kind of hate doing them, I find them really tiring, but somehow end up getting involved in one almost every year. I hope we can make it. It’s a labour of love.

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