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Gavin Turk - The House of Fairy Tales

Deborah Curtis, artist Gavin Turk's wife, discusses The House of Fairy Tales

Guest editing Dazed Digital this week is a man whose name is now synonymous with ‘Outsider Art’. Having achieved fame in the early nineties for a self-emblazoned blue heritage plaque that warranted disqualification from his degree course, Gavin Turk has since gone on to explore notions of identity, authorship and our relationship to institutions.

Famed for visual puns that often include self-portraiture, or at least, the iconic Turk tag, he continues to question industry ideals by embarking on a series of collaborative ventures and work that engages with its audience, necessitating participation and in many cases, a sense of humour. 

Included in this is The House of Fairy Tales; a charity headed-up by his wife and fellow artist, Deborah. We caught up with her for the first installment of Gavin’s Dazed Digital takeover ahead of the charity’s show at the Edinburgh Festival this month.

Dazed Digital: What is the House of Fairy Tales and how did it first come to life?

Deborah Curtis: It started as a Travelling Art Circus producing events with an average of over 300 artists, performers, magicians and storytellers. We have evolved into a fully-fledged production company that produces exhibitions, adventure trails, products and publications. It began in a festival rhododendron garden as a tribute tent to our friend, the late Jago Eliot, who founded the Port Eliot festival.

DD: What are you doing in Edinburgh?

Deborah Curtis: We are publishing the HoFT Examiner - a paper made by and for children. We are working with the children and families of Edinburgh through our Newsroom above the White Stuff shop at 89 George St and have designed a children's adventure, called The Magnificent Edinburgh Escapade. If creative adults want to come and get involved then they should get in touch via our website.

DD: So the charity seeks to engage adults and children. How does that work?

Deborah Curtis: This comes naturally to us because we don't really like stuff that is produced just for children. We don't find it visually sophisticated or engaging: often a bit patronising. Children are naturally curious, playful and non cynical. But there is a child existing in every adult. Our contemporary society is quite juvenile because the adults are attempting to retreat to their childhood instead of living out the playful and curious adult.

DD: Is this an artistic venture or is it charity? How do you distinguish between the two?

Deborah Curtis: It is definitely both - we put lots of our own money towards it to ensure it remains free and accessible and also of the best quality, involving the most brilliant creative minds. Recently we have started to target the outreach element through trust funding such as our recent grant from Paul Hamlyn foundation, which has enabled us to engage with over 50 schools, mostly from disadvantaged communities.

DD: You have cited the Situationists as inspiration for the charity. What did they do and how has it impacted the House of Fairy Tales?

Deborah Curtis: Children learn best through doing. This is about the process, not about the right or wrong answer, which is an idea at the heart of the Situationists’ own subversive approach.

DD: What is your favourite fairy tale and why?

Deborah Curtis: Hansel and Gretal because the idea of innocent children lost in a cruel adult world has a real, resounding significance (and it has several strong female characters - including Gretal who kills the witch and rescues her brother).

Gavin Turk will be guest editing Dazed Digital all week. To find out more about the House of Fairy Tales or to contact the team about being involved visit the website.

Read more from our Summer Takeover HERE