Pink Floyd co-founder Syd Barrett would have been 70 this year if he hadn't succumbed to pancreatic cancer a decade ago. To commemorate his birthday and the tenth anniversary of his death, his hometown presented a series of Barrett-related programs last week in Cambridge, UK. Syd Barrett – A Celebration culminated with the unveiling of an artwork titled Coda, created in his honor.
Designed by Clare Palmier and Spadge Hopkins, and fabricated by Cory Burr, Coda is comprised of reflective surfaces, bike parts, and a spinning wheel that reveals LED images of Barrett as well as his lyrics. Cambridge Live commissioned the piece of public art with Barrett's family last year, and with funding from Cambridge City Council, it's now permanently installed at the Cambridge Corn Exchange.
"The piece aims to evoke the adventure, wistfulness, and ethereal quality of Syd Barrett, as well as the feelings of excitement and opportunity that he represents through a contemporary work,” Neil Jones, Operations Director at Cambridge Live, tells The Creators Project. He adds that it "reflect[s] Barrett's surreal spirit, individuality, and approach to life through the use of materials, color, movement, patterns, and humor."
The rest of Syd Barrett – A Celebration grew from plans to unveil Coda at the site where Barrett played his final public performance as part of the band Stars in February 1972. "After commissioning artists, we were approached by a band from Sweden called Men on the Border — a reference to a lyric in Syd’s song ‘Octopus,'" Jones says. "Men on the Border are the only band in the world dedicated to performing the solo music of Syd Barrett. They were performing a one-off concert in their hometown of Sandviken with their local orchestra and suggested that we stage a second concert in Cambridge to follow on from the unveiling of the public art."
In conjunction with the 36th Cambridge Film Festival, Cambridge Live also showcased a film night full of rare, Barrett-related music promos, interviews, and films, including the world-premiere of Get All That, Ant? by Barrett's art school classmate Anthony Stern.
"Syd Barrett, at a time when he was clearly breaking down, having been brutally rejected by his band, used to visit me quite regularly at the flat where I lived with my wife and child in Battersea," Stern says. “It was a longish walk from Earl's Court, and these pilgrimages seemed to both me and my wife to be a kind of search for his own memories of his life in Cambridge."
Stern says this period bears directly on his own films, especially a discussion he had with Barrett over how boring most commercial films were back then. "So the big question was: What kind of film could one watch over and over again and never get bored? To put it another way, what kind of film could [look] different every time one watched it? My film Get All That, Ant? is saved from the conventional theatricality of having the dread voice of the commentator whose anesthetizing TV voice tells us what to think about what we are looking at. In this way, it's not about the sixties — it IS the sixties," Stern says.
Syd Barrett – A Celebration is the first celebration in Cambridge in eight years to honor Barrett's legacy. In 2008, the city hosted a ten-day multi-activity celebration of Barrett's work called The City Wakes.
To learn more about Syd Barrett, visit his official website here.