Step inside Grue, Scarborough's fantastical immersive experience made from recycled cardboard

Sustainable immersive experience Grue returns to Scarborough for a third year, and it's bigger and better than ever. We caught up with the project's designer Steve Wintercroft, to learn more about how the fantastical world was made from cardboard and what surprises visitors can expect.

Running until 23 December at Scarborough Library, Grue is a welcoming wintry experience that transports visitors into a magical world made entirely of recycled cardboard. Produced by Arcade and created with the help of over 500 volunteers, the family-friendly installation has now become a well-established seasonal tradition.

A key creative behind the project is Scarborough artist Steve Wintercroft. His iconic designs have played key roles in progressive conservation campaigns, making the designer and visual artist perfectly suited to the project.

Speaking to Creative Boom, Steve says that the team behind Grue constantly learns each year as the project develops, with each iteration becoming more sophisticated. "Our first year was very experimental; we had no idea how much we could build or what level of complexity was achievable," he reveals.

"Also, Grue has an embedded environmental message that takes subtlety to balance in a way that allows discussion without shouting a message. Although the project advances in its ambition each year, it deliberately retains a feeling of being something you could make for yourself at home."

As an overall project, Steve explains that Grue emerged in response to a series of opportunities, restrictions and goals. "Arcade's Rach Drew and I had been offered the gallery space at the Old Parcel Office Scarborough in the weeks running up to Christmas 2021," he says.

"In the shadow of COVID-19 restrictions, we had a vast empty gallery, a short development window and limited resources. So, we created a flexible experimental project that could make the most of our available resources."

At the same time, Grue had to answer three aspirational questions. These included whether or not cardboard could be used to transform a space that transported people away from their everyday experience, whether it could bring the community together and teach new skills, and whether it could raise waste and recycling issues.

Of course, Grue answered all of these queries well and truly to deliver an experience like no other. "Grue remains a flexible, ever-changing idea that we can mould to fill most locations with cardboard wonder," Steve adds.

As for where all the cardboard comes from, Steve says that local businesses and individuals donate it. "For the past two years, local paper specialist G.F. Smith has donated off cuts and waste, which has given us access to some beautiful coloured cards and paper."

When it comes to recycling and repurposing all of this cardboard, roughly 520 people cut, folded and glued Grue together in free papercraft workshops, which were run in the months leading up to the installation. "This year, we held workshops in Scarborough Library and went to schools, Guides and Grownie groups to run workshops with them," Steve adds.

"We want anyone to be able to get involved, so the objects we build range in complexity from simple cut-out shapes to intricate sculptural pieces. Depending on their available time and experience, people can take part by making a feather or designing and building an entire cardboard office.

"Making is unique. Transforming one thing into another, imparting value into waste. Each year, we start with a pile of cardboard and an empty room; seeing the space transform feels like some form of magic. I've met so many amazing people through this project and am always grateful for the opportunity to sit and chat and make with them."

There's still just shy of two weeks to head over and visit Grue. And this year, it's not only the location that has changed. "We've pushed further with the complexity of the sculptures and narrative, then added live actors to greet visitors and guide them through the experience," Steve concludes.

"The response so far has been fantastic, and we look forward to welcoming many more explorers in the run-up to Christmas."


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