Leading writers, musicians and artists from around the world converged on the Thames in 2012
A Room for London welcomed leading artists of all disciplines for an extraordinary year of new writings, readings, postings, podcasts and live music webcasts from the capital’s most intimate temporary venue. From Bogotá to Toronto, Bamako to Frankfurt, New York to Stockholm, these world-renowned voices used the Room as their studio to reflect on the city's place in the world.
PODCASTS FROM THE OCTAGONAL LIBRARY: A LONDON ADDRESS
"There is a sense of fiction about this situation. The improbable perch, the contrast of vessel and setting – exactly wrong... It’s a place for reflection, from which to view London, liberated from familiarity." (Fiona Banner)
Artangel invited a group of international writers and thinkers to spend up to four nights on board A Room for London, using the vessel as a place of retreat and reflection on the city below. At the end of their stay, each writer made an audio broadcast, based on the material they had written.
Some guests picked up on specific themes associated with Heart of Darkness more than a century after Joseph Conrad set sail from the Thames to an outpost of Empire. Others were keen to address the complexities of London’s position in the world in 2012. Still others focused more on the physical and psychological experience of being perched high above the city, experiencing the changing weather and character of the river so close up.
The series was launched by distinguished Colombian author Juan Gabriel Vásquez, best known for his novels The Informers and The Secret History of Costaguana, both of which refer to Joseph Conrad. Jeanette Winterson, whose recent memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? was published to great acclaim in October, stayed in February. The eminent Swedish writer and cultural historian Sven Lindqvist joined us at the end of March, celebrating his 80th birthday whilst in the Room. His work includes The History of Bombing, Desert Divers and Exterminate all the Brutes, influenced by Heart of Darkness and Conrad’s journeys in Africa. Other writers to have taken up residency include Michael Ondaatje (June) and Caryl Phillips (April).
See the lineup and listen to readings here.
LIVE STREAMS FROM ABOVE THE RIVER: SOUNDS FROM A ROOM
Each month a different musician or pair of musicians stayed and rehearsed in the Room much like they would once perhaps have rehearsed in a different kind of bedroom. Their residencies culminated in Sounds from a Room performances, streamed live on this website and to the Southbank Centre below.
The series launched on Saturday 28 January with Andrew Bird, the Chicago based multi-instrumentalist and lyricist. Following him on Sunday 26 February was Heiner Goebbels, the German composer, who will produce a musical response to Conrad’s Up-River Book, a journal written in 1890, almost 10 years before Heart of Darkness was published. Laurie Anderson, the American visual artist and musician, webcast from the Room on Sunday 25 March. Other musicians have included the Malian duo Amadou & Mariam (May), celebrated cellist Natalie Clein (August) and Imogen Heap (June).
See the lineup and watch performances here.
Live streamed and produced by Kinura.
ARTISTS AND OTHER STOWAWAYS: HEARTS OF DARKNESS
At different moments through the year, various artists have spent time in the space with the simple instruction that they should use the opportunity to imagine something new that can be shared - in an echo of the golden age of nautical broadcasting - by way of the digital space.
These artists have included David Byrne, who used field recordings of London to create Get It Away; Fiona Banner, who presented the first ever performance of Orson Welles' unmade screenplay Heart of Darkness; and Jeremy Deller, who invited Chuck, a musician who often performs on the South Bank, to play a set on the boat's deck.
Explore the series here.
FLASHES OF CIVIC BRILLIANCE: IDEAS FOR LONDON
Ideas for London was a competition, run by Artangel in association with the Evening Standard, to discover Londoners’ most remarkable ideas for their capital.
The panel of influential judges were searching for idealists and innovators, fixers and dreamers who had ingenious solutions to local problems or magnificent plans for civic transformation. They wanted ideas that could happen tomorrow and ideas that might take years to realise, ideas concerned the arts, with technology, with the environment, or with social good. In short, they were looking for flashes of civic brilliance from those who know London best.
Every month, one idea was selected and the winner had the chance to develop their idea by staying overnight in A Room For London. During their stay, they met a range of influential people who were interviewed about their idea by the London Evening Standard.
The panel of judges who chose the winner each month were:
- Alain de Botton, writer and founder of Living Architecture
- Jane Caldwell, Creative Director of Kids Company
- Nick Curtis, Senior Feature Writer, Evening Standard
- Jeremy Deller, artist
- Sarah Ichioka, The Architecture Foundation
- Geoff Mulgan, Chief Executive, NESTA
- Carmel McConnell, founder of Magic Breakfast
- Jonathan Robinson, co-founder of The Hub
See all the winners on this page
The Ideas for London dinners were kindly provided by Canteen.
ARTISTIC PROGRAMME PARTNERS
The Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival
The artistic programme is part of the London 2012 Festival
The London 2012 Cultural Olympiad is the largest cultural celebration in the history of the modern Olympic and Paralympic Movements. Spread over four years, it is designed to give everyone in the UK a chance to be part of London 2012 and inspire creativity across all forms of culture, especially among young people. The culmination of the Cultural Olympiad will be the London 2012 Festival, bringing leading artists from all over the world together from 21 June 2012 in this UK-wide festival – a chance for everyone to celebrate London 2012 through dance, music, theatre, the visual arts, fashion, film and digital innovation. Principal funders of the Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival are Arts Council England, Legacy Trust UK and the Olympic Lottery Distributor. BP and BT are Premier Partners of the Cultural Olympiad and the London 2012 Festival. Panasonic are the presenting partner of Film Nation: Shorts.
Arts Council England
This programme is kindly supported by Arts Council England
Arts Council England works to get great art to everyone by championing, developing and investing in artistic experiences that enrich people’s lives. It supports a range of artistic activities from theatre to music, literature to dance, photography to digital art, and carnival to crafts. Great art inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves, and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2011 and 2015, the Arts Council will invest £1.4 billion of public money from government and a further £0.85 billion from the National Lottery to create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.
The Ideas for London dinners are kindly provided by Canteen
In 2005, Canteen opened its first restaurant in Spitalfields. Today, it’s still one of the only brands to offer high quality, great value modern British food on the high street. Canteen works directly with some of the UK’s best food producers, ethically sourcing all its meat and fish, which comes from south coast day boats. Every dish is made fresh in its kitchens, including all jams, chutneys, cakes and ice-creams. This popular mini-chain also has a history of celebrating British design, creativity and craftsmanship, commissioning and specifying its own furniture and interiors, which won a 2010 Bar and Restaurant Design Award.
The majority of the books in the Room's octagonal library were kindly provided by Foyle's
In over 100 years as London’s bookseller, Foyles has aspired to create spaces for the exchange and exploration of ideas, with each of our six bookshops – from our flagship store on Charing Cross Road to our cosy riverside bookshop on the Southbank – boasting a carefully curated, comprehensive and thought-provoking range of books. We are delighted to be working with A Room For London, whose extraordinary room atop the Queen Elizabeth Hall demonstrates the importance of making space for reflection and thought in the hustle and bustle of the city – a philosophy very close to our hearts.
Come instore to seek inspiration on our shelves, or visit our online bookshop to discover new books, read our blog, find author Q&As and more. And visit www.foyles.co.uk/ to find out more about our partnership with A Room for London, with the latest on events, promotions and reading suggestions.
London Evening Standard
The Ideas for London competition is run in association with the Evening Standard
Launched in 1827 the London Evening Standard is an independent, fresh and forward-looking newspaper, renowned for setting the agenda. The Standard's award-winning journalists bring the latest news, city, and sports coverage to readers. Top columnists, quality feature writers and the latest arts reviews also make the Standard essential reading for Londoners.