Festival in a Box is a really special project that brings specially selected artists together with people in the community who cannot get out to the Festival perhaps for health or mobility reasons – at present, the participants are people living with dementia. Artists visit people in their own homes, or in day centres and provide company, cultural activities and entertainment.
The relationship and chemistry between artist and participant is crucial to the success of the project and setting up the visits is supported brilliantly by Age UK Camden’s Befriending service who help us to identify the participant’s interests and cultural tastes so that we can carefully match them with an artist.
Artists bring ‘the Box’ with them to their visits – it’s a real box! – originally designed and created by design practice Lyn Atelier – and it serves as both a tool kit for sessions, containing artists materials and items that may be of interest to the participant, as well as acting as an archive for the project and for the Bloomsbury area by being a place to collect comments, stories and artworks created during visits.
This year, to add an extra element to ‘the Box’, and to create a talking point for artists and participants during visits, we are delighted to have commissioned Artist Emily Tracy to produce an unique artwork which represents many different aspects of Bloomsbury and includes participants own comments. This artwork will live in ‘the Box’ and will be used to generate conversation and stimulate memories and storytelling about the Bloomsbury area – we are really excited to start using it!
Laura Halliwell – Coordinator for Festival in A Box
What do you think of when you think of Bloomsbury? What has changed and what has stayed the same?
I was very excited when The Bloomsbury Festival asked me to create an artwork for their Festival in a Box programe, which they take out to local residents living with Dementia.
The idea was to create a pop up artwork, which would form a talking point to stimulate memories and discussion about Bloomsbury and what the place means to participants.
I make site-specific structures and installation, which play with light and shadow, architecture, history and stories of a place. You may remember my last work for the Bloomsbury festival in 2011 and 2012 when I made a series of light-box buildings for Russell Square. The light boxes were filled with shadows inspired by the stories, history and architecture of the local area. I have also been making collages and ‘Artists books’.
It’s been great fun to convert an old dictionary into a book, which contains two pop up scenes of Bloomsbury, all made with found photographs of the area. These are collaged together, combining different time periods, institutions, places of work and play to represent different aspects of Bloomsbury past and present. I love to research places, but really I didn’t need to do much as I realized how many connections I have in the area. Much of my art education took place in Bloomsbury as I went to Central School of Art and then The Slade which is a part of University College London, so in all I have spent quite some time sitting in the fantastic Squares, exploring the small and unknown museums and libraries.
At the back of the book there is a secret cavity, which contains more pop up people and places so that participants may create their own scenes, on their kitchen tables or in their Living rooms. Bringing Bloomsbury indoors. I hope they enjoy it.
We will be presenting an exhibition of Festival In A Box during Bloomsbury Festival where you can see the box and artworks, and how it brings the spirit Bloomsbury into homes.
Emily Tracy – Artist for Festival in A Box
The Bloomsbury Festival in a Box project was initiated in 2013 by an AHRC-research project led by Dr Michael Eades at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. The project explored different ways of measuring the impact of arts initiatives working with people with dementia, as part of the AHRC’s Cultural Value Project. The final project report can be read here.
Michael Eades says ‘Having worked on the Festival in a Box project for nearly three years now, it is wonderful to see it taking on a new lease of life as the Bloomsbury Festival’s flagship community outreach initiative. My research on the project has led me to conclude that the Festival in a Box has enormous potential as a way of preserving the stories of some of Bloomsbury’s longest-established, but also most vulnerable, residents. It offers a way of sharing those stories and working them back into the festival itself.
The Bloomsbury Festival in a Box provides a way of integrating ‘socially isolated’ people back into an extraordinarily culturally rich and diverse area of London. It initiates unexpected encounters, exchanges and moments of community that are exciting and enriching for all concerned. Just as festivals should be!’
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