Twelfth night at the National Theatre – a student review

MA Arts and Cultural Management student Alex Talbott took in Simon Godwin’s production of Twelfth Night at the National Theatre. Here she offers her perspective on the latest production of this much loved play:

The dynamism of Godwin’s production was unfaltering. From the moment the show opened Soutra Gilrmour’s pyramidal set slipped seamlessly from shipwreck to backstreet to palace via a nippy sports car. Music accompanied, adding to a somewhat carnivalesque atmosphere, with musicians switching on and offstage. While this provided a captivating setting for the show, the real innovation lay in Godwin’s ability to shift the focus of Twelfth Night towards the usually secondary character of Malvolio – here Malvolia – played by Tamsin Greig. As Olivia’s rigidly humourless steward, in the first half of the show Malvolia – complete with angular fringe and black culottes – trails ‘her lady’ eradicating fun. Yet as the play goes on, Greig portrays the complexity of Malvolia through a tragically comedic performance. What begins as light hearted slapstick morphs into a moving portrayal of vulnerability, as Malvolia’s love for and desire to please Olivia leave her an object of ridicule rendered insane. The treatment of Malvolia in light of her sexuality too highlights a more serious and sobering point.

Doon Mackichan’s Feste stood out, with another gender twist, Mackichan brought an occasional gravitas to the comic role, moving the audience with melancholic song before switching back to sharp sarcasm and knowing comments. Intermittent moments of hilarity also came from Olivia’s drunken uncle Sir Toby played by Tim Mcmullan and his partner in crime the dimwitted Sir Andrew (Daniel Rigby) whose flourescent pink socks remain etched in my mind.

While I sometimes feel on seeing another advert on the tube for Macbeth, Hamlet or a Midsummer Night’s Dream Shakespeare’s hold over the capital is monotonous and staid, productions like Godwin’s continue to prove me wrong. In a sense this production seemed to be out of kilter for the Leading Culture participants, having travelled across the globe to discuss and debate the promise of culture in the 21st century, they were faced with the work of a celebrated 16th century male playwright – but really this is indicative of great culture’s promise. Under new direction works like this are open for reinvention, at the National Theatre just a few minutes stroll from the original location of Shakespeare’s Globe, this performance might just have sparked some ideas that could be hanging around a few more centuries down the line.

King’s College London are screening a National Theatre Live production of Twelfth Night at the Strand Campus on Wednesday 26 April

Wednesday 26 April 2017 at 19.00

Arthur & Paula Lucas Lecture Theatre (S-2.18), Strand campus

Tickets: £5 King’s students | £10 standard students | £12.50 King’s staff and alumni, Northbank Card holders | £15 standard  To book tickets click here

Discover, collaborate and revisit your academic practice through culture

Dr Barbara Bravi is a post-doctoral researcher in statistical mechanics and mathematical biology at École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne. She completed her PhD at King’s College London last year and, while studying, applied to the Innovation for Early Career Researchers Scheme. As part of the scheme she collaborated with one of the university’s cultural partners to produce a mobile app. Barbara then went onto become a Cultural Knowledge Exchange Associate at King’s. In this blog Barbara reflects on how and why she engaged with culture at the university.

Getting involved with King’s College London’s Cultural Institute was simply a great experience: the Cultural Institute is space for innovation and the mutual exchange of ideas across the university and the cultural sector. While focused on culture, it gave me the chance to grow, both as a scientist and as a person.

My first contact with cultural activity at the university came when I was awarded support to develop a cultural collaboration through the King’s Early Career Researchers scheme. Working with Design Science, NETADIS and other researchers, we created Random walks with pirate and parrot, an educational mobile app to help a young audience understand how mathematicians and physicists build models of the real world. Such experience was not only intellectually rewarding but, as I soon appreciated, the project had the potential to inform my academic practice.

Creating an artwork out of my research, through a collaboration with a cultural partner, made me simplify the language I use to communicate as well as changing my whole way of thinking. The need to express complex notions via graphics, rather than equations, and to appeal to the players’ intuition, rather than using technical jargon, shed new light on my ideas and made me find new ways to communicate my research.

Later, I had the honour to be recruited to the Cultural Knowledge Exchange Associate Network at King’s. Within this role, I followed the organisation of outreach projects, exhibitions, performances and alike. It turned out to be an opportunity of intense learning.

I learned how the synergy between computer algorithms and piano players can shape unprecedented Soundscapes, I reflected upon the recent ‘big data’ explosion and how it can be explored through an interactive art installation. I discovered more about the properties of colour and light with glass artworks explained by a physicist. During an exhibition I found out about the ‘utopian’ features of non-equilibrium phenomena and tissue engineering.

Furthermore, supporting the promotion of these events helped me establish a stronger connection with the protagonists of ‘culture’ – from art to science and technology – at King’s and more generally in London. Through this, I acquired an expertise important for my future. Representing the Cultural Institute and its interdisciplinary, collaborative spirit led me to build a new awareness of my academic profile and to revisit it under a new perspective.

Being a Knowledge Exchange Associate was also personally challenging because we constantly tried to answer the questions: what is ‘culture’ for King’s students and staff? How can we improve their experience of culture? Working with people who are extremely committed to this effort of building bridges between academia and the ‘cultural’ world was personally motivating as well.

Last but not least, working with the Cultural Institute team was fun: the discovery and contamination of practices were such an amusing yet constructive way of complementing my duties as a researcher at King’s. I am enormously grateful for this enriching, beneficial experience.

Artist Dave Farnham: 3D printing, medical data and art

Lungs front‘One thing I would like to come out of this show is for someone to contact me and say, “I’ve got a set of dodgy lungs, would you like to 3D print them?!” That would be quite cool.’ Morbid curiosity is too strong an expression to describe Dave Farnham, but there is a subtle humour to this artist.

Previously known for his dazzling photography, where he used pyrotechnic fuse wire and toy soldiers to recreate battle scenes in his series ‘Dulce Decorum Est’, his 2015 work, combining medical data and 3D printing, made it to the finals of the Wellcome Trust Image Awards and brought him to the attention of Space to Breathe producers, Shrinking Space.

Lungs is a series inspired from very personal experience, as Dave explained:

‘A friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer and I wanted to make a piece of artwork that represented her journey and she was good enough to allow me access to her medical data. From that I was able to print pretty much any part of her body, but I chose her lungs. Fortunately, she likes the artwork!’

The sculptures will next be shown at Somerset House as part of the weekend festival exploring air pollution in the capital, which over the past week has seen a ‘very high’ warning issued for the first time.

Although other artists who will exhibit at Space to Breathe work more closely on environmental matters, there is a beautiful utopian element about Lungs, ‘I quite like the fact that I put a set of lungs that are healthy into the exhibition.’

For Dave, air pollution is a new but pressing concern: ‘I hadn’t really thought about it much myself until I had kids and then you think, “Actually we live in quite a dirty city, with diesel cars constantly chugging up the road.” His immediate solution? ‘I guess move to the country?!’

If the longer commute does not appeal, the philosophy of beauty in Dave’s work might. When creating Lungs he was adamant that the cancer should not eclipse his friend, Caroline.

lungs side 2

‘I never wanted to print anything related to the cancer; I wanted to move away from it and make it a bit more beautiful for her. But now, since doing the 3D prints and discovering the medical advantages it offers, I would love to start printing things that are about lungs with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) or lung cancer; maybe try and put some of that medical stuff into the art work.’

‘But then you get the risk that it’s either too medical or it’s too arty because there’s a fine line between what is simply medically advanced and what is simply too arty.’ Although pleased to have mastered the use of the medical software to built the prints of body parts, he does not believe he would be ready to operate on people…yet!

With this boundary in mind, what does he think of the marriage between arts and science? ‘I think it’s great, but since doing these 3D prints I’ve realised I am going to have to accept being asked medical questions. I do research but mainly I come from an aesthetic point of view, and it just happens that every time I get new medical data the person I am dealing with is quite ill because you don’t usually get a CT scan of your head or your lungs if you’re healthy!’

Beyond Space to Breathe the view is busy, if not entirely bright: ‘A friend of mine had a brain tumour, so I have been doing some 3D prints of his head with the tumour in it, and I am also going to talk about my practise of using medical data in 3D printing on the weekend that the show opens. At the moment I am not trying to move away from the medical stuff but it is quite hard to get hold of medical data because you can’t get hold of people’s personal records.’

lungs side 1

Keen for more volunteers to provide data, in exchange he hopes people take a simple message about ‘the fragility of life’ from Space to Breathe, ‘Because I suppose I didn’t really question it until my close family and friends start getting affected by these things.’

Space to Breathe is a free-to-visit weekend of installations, talks, workshops and creative action in response to London’s air pollution crisis. Hosted at Somerset House, Space to Breathe is curated by Cape Farewell and Shrinking Space, in partnership with King’s College London’s Environmental Research Group.

Space to Breathe

Dates:  28 -29 January 27
Open: 12.00 – 18.00
Tickets: Free, drop-in
Address:  River Rooms, New Wing, Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 1LA

To find out more about Dave Farnham or to volunteer your medical data for use in his work, visit his website here

Supported by: Arts Council England, The Physiological Society, King’s College London’s Environmental Research Group and Somerset House Trust. 

Interview by Ottilie Thornhill, Masters Student, King’s College London.

Social media and the arts

I am a self-confessed social media addict. The very first thing I do every morning is check my Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram, looking to see what I missed out on in the past few hours, checking to see what’s going on. This routine is also the last thing I do at night, and something I do throughout the day probably more times than I would care to admit.

For all its downsides, (it’s made master procrastinators out of us all), social media has changed the way we communicate, and changed the face of marketing, allowing companies to reach ever greater audiences. It’s where I find out my news, where I find out about events that are going on in London, and where I like or follow the pages of my favourite theatres, museums and galleries to find out about their latest productions and exhibitions. Put simply, social media is where I find the majority of my information about what’s going on around me.

So I was pretty dumbstruck when I read that the ‘2014 Digital Culture survey reported that 51 per cent of arts and culture organisations said that digital technologies were important or essential to their business models’. This meant that 49% of organisations had not thought that digital technologies were important for their business model. In 2014!

I decided to test my assumptions about the importance of such technologies for arts and cultural organisations with data from the Nielsen tracker, a survey of around 2000 people, being conducted twice each year since 2014 and commissioned by King’s College London. The data justified my surprise. It found that 39% of the population say that they use social media several times per day. The young are overall, much more frequent users, with the figure leaping to 60% when we consider just those aged 16-29, which stands in comparison to only 20% of those aged 55 and over accessing social media several times per day. Large numbers of us are using social media an awful lot, and it is an important channel for reaching the younger generation in particular.

There are disparities between what different age groups use social media for, but evidence enough to suggest that social media can act as an important marketing tool for arts and cultural organisations. For example, 21% of those aged 16-29 say they use social media to get information about arts events in particular, but this is compared to just 13% of those aged 55 and over. So, in addition to frequenting social media platforms in high numbers, we are also using it not just to chat, and share content, but to find out what is going on and to find information about arts events.

The data also shows that those who are frequent social media users are more likely to regularly attend live arts and cultural events. Those who are less frequent users of social media are also less frequent attendees at live arts events. This all confirms that social media has the potential to be utilized to help increase engagement and attendance for arts and cultural organisations and specifically for trying to draw in new and younger audiences.

Figure 1 - social meida acess

Source: Nielsen Tracker 2014-15 (n=204 and n=2279)

In light of this, organisations might want to take note of which social media platforms are the most popular, and the Nielsen tracker reveals that overall Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are the most accessed, respectively. Facebook was the most used platform across all age groups, with 84% of 16-29 year olds reporting accessing the social media platform in the last 12 months, whilst 57% of those aged 55 and over said they had also done so. For an organisation specifically in the business of targeting younger groups, it may be worth noting the rise of other social media platforms, particularly more visual ones, which are especially popular with them. Instagram, for example, was used by only 2% of 55s and overs, 6% of those aged 45-54, but by a much higher percentage of young people, with 41% of 16-29yr olds using the platform.

Figure 2 - instagram ages

Source: Nielsen Tracker 2014-15 (n=645)

Many arts organisations have already thrown themselves head-on into attempts to draw new, young audiences and engage with them online. For example, The Royal Opera House, for example, as well as having official Facebook, Twitter and Youtube accounts, manages social media that appeals especially to young people, such as Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest and Tumblr, and has distinct ‘ROH Students’ social media pages.

Here, they urge followers to share selfies from their events – taking selfies, of course, being the favourite pastime of young people. The Royal Opera House has fully understood that the young are their future audiences, essential to their future success, and that courting them is therefore key to their business model. They have understood, as the data suggests, that social media is fast becoming the most effective way to reach this generation, and they have understood exactly how they must do this, mastering the necessarily playful, personal and visual interaction.

This is ultimately what this is all about: realising, or perhaps accepting, that the audiences of tomorrow will overwhelmingly be dedicated social media users, who daily scroll through Twitter and Instagram feeds rather than read the newspaper. More visual forms of social media, like Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and Youtube will be increasingly key to reaching this group, as well as sharing visual content and being interactive on the more traditional social media sites. To refuse to exploit these things will be to waste the opportunity to reach increasingly large numbers of people.

Many have already, like the Royal Opera House, learned these lessons and acknowledged the trends that the Nielsen data confirms. Yet there remains that stubborn 49%, who, for their own sake, must follow in their footsteps.

Words by Georgina Chapman, undergraduate, Department of Liberal Arts, King’s College London. Georgina worked with the Culture teams at King’s to analyse and reflect on the results of the Nielsen public opinions tracker, a survey of 2000 people that is conducted twice each year and has been running since 2014. The tracker survey is commissioned by King’s College London.

Inequality in arts consumption related to income

There’s a story that makes its rounds on the internet that when Churchill was implored to cut arts funding for the war effort, his response was to ask, ‘Then what are we fighting for?’

A lovely story, and an admirable Churchillian response, except he never actually said it, or, at least, it seems difficult to find any proof that he did. Wherever the words have come from though, the impulse to continue circulating them in ‘Churchill packaging’ speaks volumes, as they tap into wider feelings about the importance of the arts. From Picasso lauding the benefits of art for the soul, to Ken Danby declaring that ‘Art is a necessity – an essential part of our enlightenment process’ and Bobby Jindal maintaining that culture is ‘vital to uniting us as a nation’, there is a clear sentiment, no matter our inability to articulate by what means, that arts and culture are powerful, and good for the individual and for society as a whole. But for all we shout about these benefits, we should ask ourselves what the real value is if they are reaped by only a select group? For society to truly profit, surely we must see equal levels of participation across its strata. The problem, of course, is that currently, this is not reality.

Using data from the government’s Taking Part Survey, Dr Aaron Reeves, Research Associate at the University of Cambridge, highlighted that active involvement in arts (for example, actually doing a singing class, rather than going to the opera) was strongly correlated with education, not class. But data from the Nielsen tracker, a survey of 2000 people, conducted twice each year since 2014 and commissioned by the Culture and Major Events Consortium at King’s, lends itself more to tracking passive arts consumption (watching the opera rather than actually taking a singing class) in asking participants how often they attend live events. The data shows how this kind of consumption remains strongly correlated with levels of income, highlighting vast inequalities.

Nielsen shows that those who have lower incomes are much less likely to attend arts events as frequently as higher earners. For example, 32% of those who earn between £0 and £6500 per annum attend live arts and cultural events at least several times each year. But this figures stands at 47% amongst those earning £37001 – £50000 and rises again to 52% for those who earn over £50000 per year. The pattern works in reverse when we look at those who say that they never attend live arts and cultural events. Only 11% of those earning over £50000 say that they never attend such events, but 19% of those earning £22001 – £37000 say the same and this jumps to just over a quarter (26%) of those who earn £0 – £6500 each year.

1 attended several times per year

Source: Nielsen Tracker 2014-15 (n=2391)

2 never attends

Source: Nielsen Tracker 2014-15 (n=1322)

Asking respondents why they do not attend arts and cultural events more often, further underlines the inaccessibility of such events for those with lower incomes, with 59% of those earning £0 – £6500 saying that it is too expensive for them to do so. Half of people earning £6501 – £22000 also give this reason, in comparison to just over a third (36%) of those who earn between £37001 and £50000.

All this is set against the government’s cuts and although the Chancellor of the Exchequer has assured the Arts Council and our national galleries and museums that their funding will remain the same in cash terms until 2019-20, local government funding will have seen cuts of over £6 billion by the end of the parliament. This means local authorities prioritising more money on core services and less money for the arts. When The Stage newspaper contacted a spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government for comment on the cuts, he declared that ‘councils have to play their part in tackling the deficit’. The results of all of this will be the hiking of ticket prices, less varied programmes and those organisations with fewer wealthy patrons finding it increasingly difficult to get by, further limiting accessibility for the least economically advantaged.

All the while, the government, in their Culture White Paper are extolling the value of arts and culture for everyone, announcing, ‘we will ensure that children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are inspired by and have new meaningful relationships with culture’. There are lots of vague statements in this paper; lots of promises and wants, and most of the explanations of how they will achieve these things are just as woolly – ‘To deliver this we need strong leadership and better collaboration’.

The reality of all the cuts to local government and subsequently to arts funding, is that more private funding will be required and as they say, he who pays the piper calls the tune. It’s hard to see how this will have any effect other than ensuring that those at the top are increasingly the ones shaping the tone and the narrative of artistic production. The data already shows that 40% of those who earn more than £50000 say that they are very or extremely interested in the arts, compared to just 26% of those who earn between £0 and £6500, and perhaps this is telling us something about the relatability of much artistic production for many from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Actors like Octavia Spencer and Will Smith have highlighted the importance of people being able to see representations of themselves in creative ventures, and it’s often suggested that we look to find ourselves in art. But with more private funding and even more of the agenda set by the people with the ‘big bucks’, those whose participation we seek to increase are unlikely to be able to find themselves. Participation with arts and cultural events, as the data shows, is already characterised by inequalities, stratified by income, and with more cuts on the way, this is only likely to get worse.

Words by Georgina Chapman, undergraduate, Department of Liberal Arts, King’s College London. Georgina worked with the Culture teams at King’s to analyse and reflect on the results of the Nielsen public opinions tracker, a survey of 2000 people that is conducted twice each year and has been running since 2014. The tracker survey is commissioned by King’s College London. 

Mapping international cultural partnerships at King’s

King’s Undergraduate Research Fellowships gives undergraduate students the unique opportunity to learn alongside leading King’s academics and experts. This blog, written by undergraduate International Literature student Natasha Daix, reflects on the experience of working alongside the Culture teams to map and explore King’s international cultural collaborations.

As a King’s Undergraduate Research Fellow (KURF) working with Ruth Hogarth, Director of Cultural Partnerships & Enquiry at King’s, my role was to explore the landscape of the university’s international cultural collaborations. This entailed mostly desk research: I was to comb through the King’s website and promotional materials to catalogue all of the university’s international partner HEIs and record them in an Excel table, labelling their department, global region and the type of partnership they had with King’s (such as student exchange, research, joint teaching etc). Once this was done, I selected a few other UK universities and rummaged through their websites to find information about their cultural partnerships. The end goal was to find partnerships that King’s could either learn from, or potentially participate in.

The result is quite satisfying. It was quickly visible that King’s has more substantial partnerships with Asian, American and Australian universities, a multitude of smaller partnerships with European HEIs, and only few partnerships within South America and Africa. Furthermore, information on other universities’ international cultural collaborations was hard to find. My finding suggest that, amongst its closest competitors, King’s is the only university to have such a developed infrastructure around the production of culture and partnerships. Or, perhaps, King’s is the most transparent about its cultural collaborations.

I was attracted to this KURF assignment because of the international and cultural aspects of the project. Being a student of International Literature, it was interesting to find out about King’s involvement with international universities through its exchange programs and joint teaching. It was also exciting to imagine ways King’s could be involved with international universities culturally in the future, because these partnerships have the potential to directly impact on students’ experience of higher education.

However, for me, working in the Inigo Rooms in Somerset House East Wing was one of the best parts of the Fellowship. Every time I walked out of the office, a new addition had been made to the gallery space, bringing together, piece by piece, King’s recent exhibition, Paths to Utopia. We watched a black and white painting full of strange mythological creatures cover the walls of a neighbouring room and the creation of an immersive cave-like structure containing deformed mirrors popped up in the corridor space. Truly here the worlds of artists, academics and policy makers collide, sometimes quite literally because of all the construction.

As an admirer of visual arts, I could not hope for a better place to work during a month of my summer break. The experience has sparked my interest in a sector I was barely aware of until now, and that I would like to be more involved in.

The Fellowship was greatly enhanced by the bright, passionate people I worked with in the office. I enjoyed their live commentary on the recent Referendum and it was lovely to have Ruth as a supervisor, as she was always encouraging and trusted my decisions. The autonomy I was given felt very empowering. Overall, it was a great first experience in the working world, which has had a powerful impact on my outlook. Indeed, even as I meet students on my Summer Abroad Program in Shanghai I am thankful to King’s – I cannot help but catalogue all the HEIs Fudan University is partnering with! Perhaps they could be interested in future partnerships with King’s.

Words by Natasha Daix.


Reducing stigma around Autism Spectrum Disorder

Hidden challenges: a day in the life of a young person with Autism Spectrum Disorder is a project that aims to improve public understanding of autism spectrum disorder in young people by producing engaging visual illustrations to depict their day-to-day life. The project was led by Virginia Carter Leno, a PhD student in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s. Victoria writes below about her motivations for the project and the research that went into the production of the cartoon vignettes that were produced in collaboration with Dominique Sherwood, an independent graphic designer.

This project started for me after a conversation with a parent of a young girl with autism. She was explaining that her daughter has extremely sensitive hearing, and so to her even people talking quietly can sound like shouting.

She said this can cause her to become distressed and sometimes shout at people in public, including in their local supermarket. She said thankfully everyone there was very understanding, but she worried this would not be the case elsewhere. This got me thinking about how parents of children with autism might feel that the general public may not understand why their child can become very distressed in certain situations, and at times may cast negative judgments.

Therefore I wanted to make a piece of work that would educate the public about why some young people with autism might behave in slightly unusual ways, with the hope of increasing public understanding about what life is like for a young person with autism.

Stephen Final

I spoke to clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, and people who work in autism research, and also consulted with parents of children with autism, and adults with autism. This allowed me to get a really in-depth idea of the types of situations young people with autism might find challenging, and how this can lead to behaviours that the general public might find confusing or unusual.

I decided the best way to convey this information to the public was to create a series of short stories or vignettes about four young people with autism, and a certain situation they might find stressful. Next I teamed up with a graphic designer called Dominique Sherwood, who helped me to sketch out what the scenes for each story would look like, and then created colourful cartoon-like graphics for each story.

When we had our first draft of the scenes, I consulted with the parents of children with autism and adults with autism I had spoken to when I started the project, to make sure what we had created echoed situations they had experienced, and asking if they had any feedback on the way the vignettes looked.

Tom Final

After taking their advice on board Dominique made any necessary changes and created the final four vignettes. I hope you like them, and most of all I hope they will help the public understand the everyday challenges young people with autism can sometimes face.

Find out more about the project on the Culture web pages.

Words by Virginia Carter Leno, a PhD student in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s.

Images by Virginia Carter Leno and Dominique Sherwood

One year on: Cultural Challenge winner at the Roundhouse

The King’s Cultural Challenge summons the collective and individual creative-brain power of King’s students, inspiring debate, reflection and the generation of original ideas for how art and culture can positively transform the world that we live in.

Hundreds of students receive coaching and submit their ideas each year as part of the challenge. Four of the best ideas win their creators a paid internship with one of the Cultural Challenge partners: the V&A, the Roundhouse, the Southbank Centre and the Royal Opera House. 

Last year, Kat Pierce  – BA English Literature, Faculty of Arts & Humanities – won an internship with the Roundhouse for her idea: The Grid – an innovative scheme to rebalance the distribution of cultural arts funding across the UK, based around three initiatives: Be a Boss, Transport a Brain, Influence the World.

Interning at the Roundhouse by Kat Pierce

Around a year ago today I won an internship at the Roundhouse after taking part in the King’s Cultural Challenge 2015. Around a year ago today, I didn’t know much about the Roundhouse. I knew that it was a music venue, I knew that it was in Camden, I presumed that it was round. During my time at the Roundhouse as on a Performing Arts Placement, I was lucky enough to learn more about how this iconic institution runs and operates, meeting some phenomenally talented early-career artists and a wonderful team of people along the way.

Defying the stereotype that interns are only ever entrusted to make tea and coffee, I was encouraged to get stuck in with preparations for Roundhouse’s Last Word festival, a month long celebration of Spoken Word. One of my first tasks was helping to organise and facilitate the Roundhouse’s long-running and much celebrated Poetry Slam. After helping with programming, drawing up contracts and collecting trophies, I watched poets from across the nation perform alongside trailblazers in the field of spoken word at an evening that was both humorous and heart-rending.small Roundhouse 2016 Poetry Slam winner Madi Maxwell-Libby (2)

Other memorable moments from Last Word festival included: sitting in on a late-stage rehearsal and lending a hand in setting up performances for Cecilia Knapp’s fantastic one-woman show, Finding Home; helping to organise tickets and generally run around after the superbly talented finalists of Words First, a poetry showcase organised in collaboration with BBC 1Xtra (featuring the phenomenal Kate Tempest); watching Irvine Welsh and Beardyman perform with improvised music during performance extravaganza, Tongue Fu.

words first

Once Last Word festival had drawn to a close, it was time to press on with preparations for the Roundhouse’s Punk Weekender. As the punk scene came to life in the mid-late 70s, the Roundhouse played host to seminal musicians such as The Clash, The Ramones, and Patti Smith. In homage to the building’s longstanding relationship with the sub-culture, Roundhouse was to host a weekend of live music, DIY stalls, talks and workshops. I was asked to walk through Camden Market, chatting to independent stall-holders, record stores and zine producers to ask if they wanted to take part in the event as well as contacting smaller business-owners online.

Roundhouse Punk Weekender Flyer

But my internship at the Roundhouse also took me further afield than Camden Market. More specifically, to Leeds, Manchester and Cardiff for Bryony Kimmings’ Boys Project: ‘a long term art and activism project, exploding media stereotypes and the political marginalisation of the young’. The project fuses politics and art to inspire its participants (50 young men) to become art-activists. During my time as an intern I helped to organise Roundhouse’s involvement with the project, travelling with participants to the above UK cities and hearing from fantastic speakers such as Owen Jones, Michael Sani of Bite the Ballot and Richard Hawkins of the Heathrow 13 along the way.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end. After a wonderful six weeks of interning, encouragement and opportunities it’s safe to say that I’m gutted to be leaving the Roundhouse. From performing arts, to development, to marketing and beyond, thank you all for making me feel welcome from day one.  And thank you to King’s for the opportunity to work in one of London’s most respected and well-loved arts venues.

Photography by Cesare de Giglio 
Words by Kat Pierce


Reflections on coal

COALSTORE was a project by Something & Son that was supported by King’s and that ran over the summer. The project produced ornate pieces of wearable art using coal as the raw material. The pieces in the collection were produced by hand in the vaults of Somerset House by a new movement of jewellery makers and material alchemists working under the tutelage of internationally acclaimed artists, theologians, academics and philosophers from King’s. The pieces were then displayed in the New Wing of Somerset House in a public exhibition, COALSTORE.

King’s students were employed in the COALSTORE to answer visitors’ questions about the pieces and to explain the processes and theory behind the initiative. One such student has written the below blog entry detailing their experience.

1 – COALSTORE – by Tallulah Griffith, student of Liberal Arts, King’s College London.

coalstore 3

Art often compels us to reassess our way of seeing. In the store, coal became precious rather than practical: here, a material hierarchy was problematised.

Item #17 was a particular conversation-starter: the gold ring with welsh anthracite nugget. This type of coal is rare and extremely pure, and many appreciated its ironic similarity to a diamond ring. Similarly, bulkier pieces seemed to recall jet jewellery.

The collection challenged my conception of coal’s value by alluding to other configurations of carbon: I suddenly found value to be an abstract concept. I became increasingly aware of the power of the consumer, and the potential of luxury items to call on the wealthy to use their assets for change.

coalstore 2


Further, although I had anticipated an exploration of the aesthetic and environmental significance of coal, I was also confronted with it as a highly politicised material. I encountered ambivalent responses from former coalminers and their families. Though many accepted that mining was not a sustainable practice, they also lamented Britain’s loss of industry.

Some struggled with the idea of coal as valuable because they’d had an indefinite free supply when employed. Others had trouble reconciling beautiful jewellery with the dust-filled lungs and injured backs which had afflicted their fathers or uncles. Yet, the pieces also had a nostalgic relevance for these visitors. I found myself learning about disputes between Thatcher’s government and the NUM, and about the recent closure of Britain’s last deep coal mine. I had to be passionate about climate change issues as well as sensitive to individual loss of trade, weighing up global and local, long-term and immediate effects.

My ability to negotiate these conflicting issues improved as I conversed with customers, and they continually widened my understanding. I often felt that these discourses were the artwork. I also talked with active combatants of climate change, people who run solar power plants and clean-energy companies. For me, the highlight of the experience was the variety of people I encountered; I appreciated their insightful views and personal histories.

Working at the coalstore has allowed me to engage with these political, social and environmental issues, to participate in topical conversations, and to re-imagine coal as a prized material. I’ve learnt much more about renewable energy alternatives and coal as a source of livelihood. I’m very grateful for this the opportunity to expand my knowledge, by talking to such interesting people.


Fuelling collaboration through partnership

An interview with Dr Kate Dunton, Research and Education Manager, Cultural Institute and one of the organisers of the London Arts and Humanities Partnership.

How can higher education institutions work with cultural partners to support postdocs? What skills can be gained from sharing knowledge and experiences between industry, the arts and universities? To find out, Routledge, part of the Taylor & Francis Group and a King’s cultural partner that are working with the London Arts and Humanities Partnership (LAHP) on initiatives to support PhD students, interviewed Dr Kate Dunton, Research and Education Manager, Cultural Institute at King’s College London and one of the organisers of the LAHP.

We reproduce the interview with permission from Routledge. 

The LAHP brings together three leading UK research organisations, has 750 active research staff and more than 1,300 PhD students. Routledge (part of the Taylor & Francis Group) is a cultural partner, working with the LAHP on initiatives to support their PhD students. This includes a daylong workshop on ‘Publishing your research: an introduction’, where students will have the opportunity to get guidance and support from across our books and journals teams, and from journal editors and a published book author. We’ll be tweeting tips and tricks from the day this week, and have a series of guest blogs from the postdocs on the LAHP over the course of the next month.To begin our series of guest blogs, Kate introduces the LAHP, its aims and work, and discusses how collaboration is key to its success.

‘…a highly talented bunch of Arts and Humanities PhDs’

On joining the Cultural Institute at King’s in January 2016, my first task was to plan a Summer Week for the London Arts and Humanities Partnership (LAHP).  On one side, we had our first cohort of 80 LAHP students – a highly talented bunch of Arts and Humanities PhDs across King’s College London, University College London and the School of Advance Study.

‘representing some of the leading organisations in the arts, culture and heritage sector’

On the other side, an extremely distinguished roster of Cultural Partners representing some of the leading organisations in the arts, culture and heritage sector.  The question now was how to bring them together.  Key to this would be understanding the needs and priorities of both, and how they might overlap in mutually enhancing ways.

This remains, in truth, a work in progress.  My highly pleasurable work on LAHP involves meetings with our key contacts at organisations as diverse as Routledge, the Victoria and Albert Museum, AM Heath Literary Agency, the British Film Institute, Tate Modern and Lambeth Palace Library.  We also survey each incoming cohort to find out how they might like to work with partners, what they might bring, what they might gain.  Running and evaluating events like the Christmas networking event, last year’s Summer Camp, and this year’s placement scheme, also provides crucial opportunities to chat with partners and students, and observe what works and what doesn’t.

‘…a growing sense of what can be gained through such collaborations’

Like much of my work with the Cultural Institute, I feel at different times like a dating agency, a marriage guidance councillor, and even a somewhat disreputable door-to-door salesman, trying to coax both sides into an encounter in the ‘third space’ between the two sectors whilst remaining sensitive to their core business, whether that be completing their doctoral research on schedule or being a busy director, publisher, researcher, or educator in a leading arts, heritage or cultural organisation.  Miraculously, it seems to work.  This is in part due to the enthusiasm, curiosity and good will on both sides, but it also relies on a growing sense of what can be gained through such collaborations.

‘…insights, experiences, skills and resources’

Our partners have been enthusiastic about the research skills that our arts and humanities doctoral students can bring to archival work, to better documenting particular aspects of their collections, or interestingly, archiving and sharing their own institutional history – often stored in boxes in a hidden cupboard, somewhere.  In turn, our students are increasingly aware of the range of insights, experiences, skills and resources that our cultural partners have to offer around object-based research, publishing, archiving, cataloguing, communication and public engagement.

Next steps for the LAHP will be to keep an eye on the research placements that are about to start at the V&A, the National Gallery and Tate, and hopefully grow the number of placements made available and taken up next year.  More generally, we aim to keep learning about how we can work together and provide opportunities for fruitful collaborations.

In William Boyd’s latest novel, Sweet Caress, his characters play a game in which they sum up a mutual acquaintance in four words.  LAHP in four words?  Surprising, evolving, unruly, brilliant.