by Nicholas Osborne, Kettle’s Yard Assistant Curatorial Fellow
What could possibly link North Cambridge’s annual Arbury Carnival, a patchwork fabric the length of a swimming pool and Tate Modern together?
On Friday 13 April, Kettle’s Yard invited the wonderful committee members from Arbury Carnival to be part of the Tate Exchange eventArbury Carnival goes to Tate. Visitors entering the 5th floor of the Blavatnik Building were greeted with the beautiful Arbury Carnival tapestry developed by Julie Taylor and North Cambridge groups, alongside a display of the carnival’s 40-year history. Carnival committee members guided people through the rich history of this community celebration and gave a direct context to the importance Arbury Carnival has in supporting local organisations.
Beyond the welcoming area, there were three workshops that invited visitors to decorate a square piece of fabric. Here people of all ages got stuck in with Hilary Cox-Condron’s hand spray paintings, appliqué designs involving a process of layering fabric with Sophie Cullinan, and fabric printing with Joe Lyward. Each piece was beautifully decorated by the individual’s own idea of home and community. Over 300 of these designs were pinned together across the Tate Exchange windows, slowly covering the striking London landscape view with personal mementos. All this, from Arbury Carnival to fabric patchwork, link together to represent community production.
Now, community production is a strange phrase. Born from my introduction to the inspiring Arbury Carnival and deliberation of Tate Exchange’s annual theme ‘Production’. As the Tate Exchange is an experimental platform for collaboration, the combination of community and production felt a provocative idea between personal and impersonal, connected by a process of coming together. This brought forward the questions of what a community can produce and the outcome of said production. While the event itself could be an experiment in the production of a community.
Community production was explored on 13 April through an existing community taking ownership of the space and visitors building a patchwork. The small fabric squares represent each individuals’ contribution to the day and the completed patchwork reveals a diverse community of strangers that shared a common experience. While the Arbury Carnival grounded the event by embodying the achievements of a community and providing a catalyst for discussion.
The production of a community was key in connecting the Tate Exchange event to Kettle’s Yard. In the same way Kettle’s Yard is a home, founders Jim and Helen Ede created a place that was a meeting point for many writers, musicians, artists and visitors. Many of whom crammed around the wooden dining table discussing art and sharing thoughts. For it is in these small meeting points where a creative community form.
Arbury Carnival comes to Tate not only generated a creative community but also bridged Tate visitors to North Cambridge. Arbury Carnival committee member Sarah shared the days development across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in a social media takeover of Tate Exchange and Kettle’s Yard channels. While Alan Soer, manager of Arbury Community Centre, guided visitors through the richness of North Cambridge and gave personal insights to the carnival. All the Arbury Carnival committee members provided a direct relationship with North Cambridge that generated a truly welcoming and relaxing environment.
With the Tate Exchange successfully completed, the next stage is ready to begin! To further build on the connection with the Tate Exchange event and North Cambridge, the huge patchwork will be transformed by students from North Cambridge Academy into a Blue Planet inspired puppet. Join us and see the final outcome at Arbury Carnival parade on Saturday 9th June.
Arbury Carnival comes to Tate was developed by Nicholas Osborne Kettle’s Yard Assistant Curatorial Fellow, a position supported by Artisa Foundation and offers early career experience for a curator.