Once a Games Maker…

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Fran Hegyi, Cultural Enquiry Project Director, who is leading the College’s work on culture and major events, talks about the latest developments in the project


Last Saturday I donned my weekend clothes and made my way to the supermarket in East London. On my travels that morning I drew the odd admiring glance and knowing look – aimed not at me per se but at the pair of grey trainers with red laces I was wearing.

Image © Ilan Srinu

Image © Ilan Srinu

They weren’t new – over two years old now – but as those people who recognised them knew, they were far more than just a pair of old shoes. They were my Games Maker trainers and probably one of the most obvious legacies of the summer of 2012 and of my time working at the Organising Committee in the seven year lead-up to the Games.

The more intangible legacies of the knowledge and skills that people like me – and the thousands of people who worked on the Games – acquired are the focus of a new programme of work here at King’s.

At the end of 2013 we published a report as part of our first Cultural Enquiry, Beyond Performance, which explored the role that arts and culture play in adding value to major sporting and national events. The potential for culture to enhance events was obvious with the Cultural Olympiad, and we’ve seen it more recently with Culture and Festival 2014 as part of the Commonwealth Games.

Image © Mayor of London

Image © Mayor of London

However, the process of integrating a major cultural festival with a major sporting event is not always an easy or straightforward one, with the different languages, priorities and ways of working presenting some interesting challenges, as those of us working on the Cultural Olympiad within the Organising Committee will remember. With that in mind, the King’s enquiry made the case for a programme of work to explore ways to tackle those challenges through a consortium approach and earlier this year, thanks to funding from Legacy Trust UK, we started work.

As part of this, Culture at King’s has commissioned a public tracking study with Nielsen, which will act as a barometer for attitudes to culture in the UK generally and within the context of major events. The results of the first wave make for some thought-provoking reading – for example, as many younger people (16–29) consider themselves an ‘arty person’ as a ‘sporty person’ (49% vs 51%). This raises interesting issues for policy makers, funders, sponsors and businesses.

We are also about to embark upon a series of case studies that will explore in some depth a variety of the issues raised as part of the enquiry – from the bidding process to how to deliver benefits across the whole country.

Finally, at the end of this year we are aiming to share our findings at a seminar with colleagues invited from future host cities such as Tokyo, in order to share the experience gained as part of that extraordinary experience of staging the London Games and to help ensure that the inclusion of culture into major events is a given and not an add on. Not time to take the trainers off just yet…

For more information, see www.kcl.ac.uk/cultural or check #culturetracker on Twitter

Image © Legacy Trust UK

Image © Legacy Trust UK

Smoke and mirrors

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Alison Duthie, Director of the Cultural Institute, reflects on the current exhibition Art & Life: The Paintings of Beryl Bainbridge in the Inigo Rooms, Somerset House East Wing


When you go into the last room in Art & Life, a re-imagining of one of Beryl Bainbridge’s rooms from her legendary home in Albert Street, which includes her stuffed animals and beloved chaise longue, you can almost smell the cigarette smoke hanging in time, and in fact we were tempted to create a sensory space with tobacco aromas thrown in.

Aaron and Jojo, 1960s © the Estate of Beryl Bainbridge

From touching portraits of her children to compellingly surreal images of Beryl Bainbridge’s bohemian coterie, this exhibition in the Inigo Rooms has proved Beryl’s enduring pulling power, with over 5,000 members of the public visiting the Inigo Rooms in the last ten weeks to explore the eccentric nooks and crannies of her life and work, as curated by Dr Susie Christensen from the Department of English at King’s.

Research, deep knowledge and intellectual curiosity, combined with the generosity and support of Beryl’s close family and friends, and a partnership with the British Library, who hold the Bainbridge archive, have created the heart of this exhibition, which uses Beryl’s less known visual art as a starting point for a journey through her creative life. The very nature of this extraordinary artist’s work, which saw her creative work peppered with characters from her personal life and from history, meant that we could use the physical layout of the Inigo Rooms to interesting narrative effect, in essence telling the story of her life, and creating elements of theatre through film and design.

Boarding the Titanic, 1992 © the Estate of Beryl Bainbridge

The feedback from our audiences has been enthusiastic – they’ve been engaged and fascinated by the approach and content of the show. At the same time as applying her research background, partnering with the British Library and Bainbridge’s close friend and biographer Psiche Hughes, has allowed Christensen to explore the work through a new lens, and bring real depth and resonance to the subject.

This isn’t just about the paintings, films and manuscripts – it’s about how you communicate the essence of someone’s creative life, and the ways in which this translated into child care, friendship, parties and art, as made in Beryl’s kitchen while cooking up spaghetti for her children. It’s inspiring stuff, and we will be taking lessons from this into future exhibitions and projects being developed by the Cultural Institute.

The Inigo Rooms at King’s are an interface between the rich tapestry of academic research and knowledge at King’s, and this wonderful location in the heart of the West End, facing onto the teeming Somerset House public spaces. Over the last two years we’ve shown ten exhibitions and installations in these spaces, and they’re only a subset of the outcomes of a range of cultural and academic collaborations that are running across King’s every year. It’s wonderful to invite audiences into these projects, and as we go forward we anticipate creating more opportunities for the public to directly interact with and begin to inform research practice, as our very active partners.

The exhibition runs until 19 October and we still have some events coming up with a group of Beryl aficionados – see www.kcl.ac.uk/cultural for more details.

Still from film showing Charlie and Beryl © Charlie Russell