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.