Celebrating the lively and diverse artistic culture of Hackney borough has always been at the heart of Land of Kings Festival. As the East London Line coaxes more Goldsmith students north of the river and the local artist population swells ever more it's of little surprise that this year’s art programme is the largest and most ambitious to date. Rejoicing in Dalston’s chameleon like ability to turn any space into a place for art and happenings, Land of Kings has filled greasy spoon cafes, tents, roof top bars, bunkers and restaurants with poets, dancers, radio stations, writers, performance art, films and interactive theatrical experiences. Run Riot caught up with Gillian Fox, the lady behind the burgeoning arts programme to hear the full scoop on what's coming up. Plus we're indulged with a special insight to a unique one-off event - the Austerity Games - taking place in a Dalston bunker. Read all about it!
RR: Now in it's third year, how does this years festival differ from the past two?
GF: Well naturally, they have the foresight to get me involved this year. Joking aside, this year the arts programming is much bigger than before, it’s really come into its own as both a music and arts festival with both sides having equal footing. I know a lot of people are buying tickets solely because of the art programme we’ve got going on. Or maybe that’s the line they are feeding me!
RR: Many consider Dalston's artistic edge to be a new thing, but actually it's heritage goes back decades - how do you pay your due respect this year?
GF: We are screening a wonderful film called Legacy in the Dust at the Arcola Tent Space on Saturday, which is about the Four Aces Club that once stood on Dalston Lane before being knocked down (and now has the Barratt Homes complex on it!). The club was a serious hotspot and showcased soul, R&B, roots and reggae. Ben E. King, The Ronettes, Desmond Dekker, and Jimmy Cliff all played there in the early years, and Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, Chrissie Hynde, Joe Strummer and Johnny Rotten all used to hang out there. It then morphed into one of the first rave clubs called Labrynth, where the Prodigy played their first gig, and seminal rave DJs like Kenny Ken and Billy Bunter all cut their teeth. I’ve also curated a show about the club in the Print House Gallery, so you can come and see archive images and flyers from all four decades it was open. Its pretty poignant in this Olympic year to show the film and exhibition as a reminder to what culture the area lost in the rush to be ‘regenerated’.
RR: Many of our readers are total slags, some are seeking a date, others just want a one-off shag - can you help?
GF: Wowsers. Erm, I’m taken, so, erm, perhaps Guardian Soulmates? OR! The wondrous and most fun singles night on the block – Slagbox - is gracing Land of Kings this year. Come along, get a number and then play Shagloto, whilst some pretty special DJs try and get the snogs on the dancefloor going with tunes like Careless Whisper. For dating of a more cerebral kind, Stoke Newington International Airport has bought Live Art Speed Dating to the mix. A smash hit at the Edinburgh Festival, the team ask a set of questions that then matches you with your own personalised art experience.
RR: What verbose delicacies can the silver tongued aficionado look forward to indulging?
GF: Well talking is high on our agenda. We have some serious literary prowess in the form of the Hammer and Tongues, who are bringing their legendary poetry slams to LoK this year. As well as this, they are showcasing Kate Tempest – who if you haven’t seen, is possibly the most powerful, talented and most ridiculously well-named poet I have ever come across – I saw her at a poetry jam about three years ago, and I still have her piercing words ringing in my ears, a true tempest. We’ve also got another poetry goddess in the form of Selena Godden (Selena Saliva to the un-initiated) who is refereeing the Literary Death Match – which pitches the power of works against a team of unlikely poets, writers and critics.
RR: For the reader hungry to satisfy both their mind and belly - where can they go?
GF: If you’re up for being fully immersed in art, then catch ‘Diet Coke is Illegal in the Philippines’ by artist BestCleo [read her Run Riot interview here]. Over the course of two hours, participants will take part in the staging of a psychotic episode, with lectures, ballet dancing and some pretty special meals. All of this event will be filmed, and then this will be turned into another artwork, so it’s your chance to make your mark on the art world! For something more provincial and twee, then head to Eastern Curve Garden on Saturday, to catch the Dalston Darling’s May Day Fete. Think tea, a cake-baking competition and some very special guests showing us how to shimmy on that Maypole.
RR: If we miss the ticket, can we catch it on the wireless?
GF: This new thing called the interweb is also pretty useful I hear. We will have boutique radio station London Fields Radio broadcasting from the Print House Gallery on Saturday 5th. They will have a selection of their presenters all doing micro-sessions of their own programmes, so expect a rainbow of musical talent, interviews, chat and downright interesting things. After the programme, which is open to anyone to sit in on, the whole thing will be available as a podcast.
Ladies and Gentleman! We are now delighted to present to you a very special Q&A with the Austerity Games - one of the highlights from the Land of Kings festival.
RR: Why the Austerity Games?
AG: Casting a backwards glance to the last time that London held the Olympics in 1948 (nicknamed The Austerity Games as the country was recovering from WW2 and in a time of recession) I couldn’t help notice the similarity with today’s climate - another Olympics, another recession, see a pattern here Mr Government?!? At least we haven’t got rationing this time. So its time to call on our blitz spirit, and get down and dirty, to prove that cheap is still G-damn cheerful. It is in a bunker after all.
RR: Will there be a torch, and how will the Games Open?
AG: If only I had a billycan of petrol handy. What with the crisis at the petrol pumps, we are too poor to afford light a proper Olympic Torch but luckily have a spare battery powered one to hand. Follow the mighty Duracell powered beam as a runner sets off from LoK HQ and strides through the streets of Dalston before ending at the bunker for the opening ceremony, to be met by crowds of cheering fans, party poppers, sparklers and then a very special guest to cut the ribbon. If only I could find one, can you help me, Run Rioters?
RR: Tell us about the teams.
AG: There is no I in TEAM! It's everyman for himself in the Austerity Games, when the only things you can rely on are you wits, your focus and your sense of the absurd. We are inclusiveness gone mad, forget about time trials, we’ll take anyone. Just turn up, get a scorecard and get going. If you’re not feeling too sporty, then chill out in the Austerity Bar with some very special bar staff, or watch some Olympic related films by Hilary Powell and Camilla Robinson.
RR: Austerity Games Track and Field - what can we expect?
AG: It’s a bunker, and a bit damp at the moment, so I have to say running is not advised! Track and Field cancelled, but there are lots to keep you going. Just ask yourself these questions - do you have the might of indignant muscle to succeed at Hate Lifting? Are you a crack enough shot and with the knowledge of a taxi driver to win at Bow and Harrow? Do you have a steady enough hand to triumph at Boxing Clever? If you answer yes to any of these, then get on down to the Austerity Games. Get enough points and get into the winners enclosure. Get high points and you walk away with a pretty sexy vintage sporting medal. Just watch out for the random drug testing. Seriously.
RR: Buying a ticket - comparable to the London Olympics?
AG: It’s so so EASY! You only have to apply in advance, with your birth certificate, your passport, your mum, a DNA sample, and a five-page essay on the art of competitiveness. Alternatively, just buy the Land of Kings wrist band, either one day or the weekend pass and that gets you into it all: Landofkings.co.uk
COMPETITION: WIN 1x Pair of Festival tickets to Land of Kings on Friday 4 and Saturday 5 May in various locations around Dalston. The winner will ALSO be invited to open the official Austerity Games on Friday night! To enter the competition send an email to Jamie at email@example.com with your answer.
Q: Come up with your own name for an Austerity Game. The most fitting 'Austerity Game' name will be the winner. See samples above!
Meanwhile… you may also be interested to read this interview: Artist BestCleo tells us about her work 'Diet Coke Is Illegal In The Philippines' at the Land Of Kings. The production is the latest work by BestCleo (aka Cleo Roberts) who's been especially commissioned by Land of Kings Festival to create a socio-psychosis based experiment that will later become an artist film. Set in Cafe Bliss, participants will drink and dine to a three-course meal, whilst simultaneously being entertained by a philosophical lecture from Dr Wolfe, a ballet performance, brain burst bingo and live music. Cleo talks to us about Goncharova, Kandinsky, Ballet Russe, her work, the drugs industry, and inspiring the inquisitive in us all!
Land of Kings
4-5 May 2012