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Interference: Art for Activism at Artsadmin

Artsadmin's course, running from 21st to 25th June, promises to give you all the inspiration you need to start acting up

Written by Amy Hughes

Cameramen dashed about as streams of high-heeled, information pills information pills fake-tanned fashionistas paraded through the glass doors of the GAS flagship store on the King’s Road, try each feeling and looking altogether important. Both intrigued and slightly amused, my colleague and I shot straight for the free Bellini Bar, situated between racks of very-samey garments.

Glass in one hand bruschetta in the other we weaved through the crowds towards tables of folded vests and spangly gold swimsuits. Despite tones of Diesel in the denim section of the display, our overall consensus: the selection veered more towards H&M, but in a not-quite-so-cool way. Linens and cottons prevailed, with the odd speck of diamante here and there. High-necked shirts were a favoured item, the finely pressed cotton succeeded in giving the collection a much classier feel, though unfortunately these pieces were few and far between.

Downstairs, the first menswear rail boasted tangerine-lime-and-cyan Hawaiian shirts, which were up against a significant amount of beige? That’s what I thought. A shimmering goldthread and white shirt hung alongside some smartly tailored trousers on the far side of the room, the subtlety of which was a welcomed sight.

Overall, a little too much hype for minimal visual stimulation, the phrase ‘all mouth and no trousers’ springs to mind.
Arriving at the Finsbury Town Hall in jeans and a jumper, price hair bedraggled and mascara running down my cheeks, I was initially there to help set up, but within minutes I had been roped into dancing with the band (Cut-A-Shine), drinking far too much Red Stripe and forgetting that I was at a single’s night after all… Welcome to Barndating Heaven!

We do-si-soed ‘til the cows came home, with flowers in our hair and our cheeks blushed… Amelia was carried through the cheering crowd to call some dances and following her instructions couples entwined and herds of people trampled on each other’s feet and laughed and drank and kissed and laughed and everything was bloomin’ marvelous!

If you haven’t been to the Finsbury Town Hall before I advise that you do so – it is a beautiful space with original décor and eccentric light fittings (random, I know but true). The ceilings are soooo high yet still, the place was bulging with crazy faces by 10pm – men were donning handmade bows and women wore elasticated beards and everyone was having a jolly old knees up to some rocking country sounds. In the corner of the hall was a Romancer’s Retreat (beautifully designed and manned by an East-end creative duo Lightning and Kinglyface) where couples could go to ‘gaze into one another’s eyes…’ There were a few snoggers and a certain amount of loving was most certainly kicking off but by the end of the evening a few people were having a kip in there. Notes of confession were pegged onto strings in this haven of love, a certain pencil-scribble stuck in my head and read ‘yesterday when you called, I pretended I was asleep’ – ah it makes your heart sink doesn’t it!? But others weren’t quite so romantic, and more explicit, and bloody hilarious…

The evening was heady yet relaxed and I remember I spent a lot of time twirling around in my gingham dress and probably looking slightly mad, hence I didn’t spot my nice young farmer (haha) but the night was brilliant and I hope there’ll be many more to come… Cut-a-shine – you rock. All in all a very groovy night. (Sorry – groovy, maybe not the right word) All in all a foot-stamping, dress-twirling hoe-down which left me aching and laughing for days…
‘Glass Gun 2′ by Julie Hill

A couple of days ago my housemate returned home bursting with a tale that he’d been carrying around with him all day. What he had witnessed on his well-trodden route to work that morning had seemed to pervade the conditioned air of his office in the hours that followed, viagra approved reruns of the scene played out in windowpane reflections and on the inside of mid-blink eyelids. He had been inspired.

‘Breath Should Be Held’ by Julie Hill

The action that had my friend so roused wasn’t overtly political. Nor was it spectacularly en-masse. It was a man. Alone. Dancing at 8am in the centre of one of Bristol city centre’s busiest junctions, this multiple lanes of traffic whirring around unrestrained flying limbs like mechanical rings of chorus girls, help their metallic bodywork sparkling.

The root of this act, and the results of it, we can only guess at. Was his rush hour spinning a signal that the rest of us should slow down? A statement on the vulnerability of the pedestrian or the mindlessness of the daily grind? Maybe he just fancied a dance.

CRASH at Artsadmin: experimenting with sustainable alternatives to financial and ecological crises CRASH at Artsadmin: experimenting with sustainable alternatives to financial and ecological crises

As my friend’s impassioned regaling of the scene evidenced, whatever its grounds, form or situation, art is an enormously affecting class of action. And it’s being increasingly embraced as a method of political expression beyond homemade banners or gallery walls, because we can all be arts activists. The only thing that’s required is a little imagination.

Image courtesy of Artsadmin: ‘Quantitative Teasing- A benchmark in post-capitalism’

Two artist activists are on hand later this month to help spark that imagination via Interference, a free five-day workshop to encourage people to develop new ways of working collectively to make a difference to the causes they care about. Beth Whelan (who last year played a large part in the Mainshull Solidarity Camp) and Julie Hill will be working with participants to develop art-related strategies for both acting towards and reacting against change, using such tools as story-telling and myth making, climbing and reclaiming public space, urban foraging, self-publishing and night biking. Interference runs from 21st to 25th June at Artsadmin’s Toynbee Studios in London, but is limited to just 20 places, so if you want one of them Artsadmin asks that you write a short paragraph explaining why you want to get involved, and send it to

Beth Whelan at CRASH

Open to people from all backgrounds and experiences, Interference is an invitation to those who want to go beyond just thinking about change; to act via art to be part of, or begin, an empowering, engaging and positive political movement. You never know, it might even be one that stops traffic.


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