As I sit here to write this, outside my window there is one of those quintessentially idyllic English summer scenes unfurling before my eyes: a summer festival. Cocooned within my somewhat uncomfortable hot room, chained to my laptop, I catch fleeting glimpses of smiling faces, slightly reddened limbs and a generally party-like atmosphere played out in the sunshine. For me, festivals have been a summer staple for as far back as I care to remember. Rushing around excitedly in the sunshine, clutching a warm beer that slops over my sandaled feet, I can’t quite imagine anything more blissful or carefree. Outside there is a music and arts festival organised by Goodricke College, with henna tattoos, blasting music and samba bands.
This leads me to my topic of conversation for this column: the way art and partying are inextricably linked. Arts festivals, as aforementioned, are a summer staple. They are a time of escapism, release, indulgence and total fantasy. They are a parallel universe where day-to-day cares can be forgotten and we are free to be whoever we want, do whatever we want (within reason) and generally have a bloody good time. No work, no deadlines, no day-to-day monotony. Pure (slightly) clean fun.
There are some festivals which are more arts-centred than others, such as the Secret Garden Party which I plan to attend this year. Its motto is that “it is a festival of the arts – where everyone is the artist”.
They are a time of escapism, release, indulgence and total fantasy.
Artists are generally renowned to be a somewhat hedonistic bunch, and I have to say – from my own personal experience – they tend to live up to this expectation exceptionally well. This is the time of year that all the summer shows of art schools across the country take place. They are yet another fine excuse for a good bout of revelry in the sunshine. All the art schools in London open their doors to show the unsuspecting public just exactly what it is all those funnily dressed young things with asymmetric haircuts have been up to all year. Everyone troops down to colleges such as Camberwell, Slade and Goldsmiths, tinnies in hand, to look at some brilliant student painting, fashion, graphics and sculpture. Then they all head out to an art based party such as Peckham Palais or the Slade degree show, Off Modern or one of the many other events geared around the arts scene.
Every first Thursday of the month, all the little art galleries of east London around Shoreditch area open up their doors, welcoming many cavorting young art students into their midst. I remember many a cold evening tramping around east London from one gallery to the next, aided by the high stamina of a best friend called Matt. I mean, at every opening there is the chance of some kind of free alcohol: a glass of red, a bottle of beer. We requested our beverages whilst attempting to present the serious image of really being there for the art.
So, the summer period is on us. My piece of advice to you is to get down to some private views at the art schools. They are a great excuse to look at some great art, and dance the night away at a great party. Well, that’s my plan for next weekend, anyway.