The Art Insider: January '17

This image: Hill Arches, 1973, bronze. The Henry Moore Foundation: gift of the artist 1977.
Reproduced by permission of the Henry Moore Foundation.

Ruthie Collins gives you the lowdown on arty happenings around Cambridge in January

January arrives, bringing with it hope for 2017. Because let’s face it, without hope – what’s left? Rebecca Solnit’s classic, Hope in the Dark, over ten years old, still offers light to people worried about humanity’s future by looking at the history of political engagement and social change. If you haven’t come across it yet, snap up a copy – a timely reminder that hope isn’t sugar coated, it can be rocket fuel. “To be an artist is to believe in life,” sculptor Henry Moore once said; every single invention and work of art starts with a hope – even if tiny – to create something. This month, if you haven’t seen his Hill Arches (1973) sculpture outside the Fitzwilliam Museum already, go early, on a clear morning – it’s glorious, with a backdrop of dazzling winter sunshine and the Fitzwilliam’s neoclassical facade. Perfect for inspiring a sense of possibility. 

Political art took on a new gravitas in 2016, with climate change continuing as a key influencer in 2017. Pivotal, in Cambridge, is a loose collective of creatives and producers and its Festival of Change, set up by Michelle Golder, is one to watch this year. 


"The world is a cacophony of chaos, with great creativity at the heart – it's ours to tap into"


“Pivotal Festival of Change was intended to be a provocation; continuing the eccentricity and exuberance of summer festivals with bands and poetry and creativity of all stripes, combined with a talk from a senior climate academic and workshops on avoiding burnout for activists, in a yurt,” James Murray-White, who is part of the Pivotal collective, tells me. “David Attenborough said recently that when he can’t sleep at night, he thinks of all the dynamic young people he meets, with their understanding and thirst for knowledge, which gets fed back into conservation and creativity, and this gives him hope. So I have hope. The world is a spinning cacophony of chaos, with great creativity and energy at the heart of that – it’s ours to tap into and connect with, if we will.” Check out www.pivotal.org.uk to get involved. 

Sustainable fashion is a great way to reduce negative impact on the natural world, and many of us were overjoyed to see the recent relaunch of the legendary Supremebeing, an international fashion label based just outside Cambridge. “We’ve been off the grid, on an expedition to rediscover the core ethos of Supremebeing,” says a spokesperson for the company. “We were enlightened, excited, inspired, and re-evaluated our purpose and the many things we create. And we’re back with a giant leap.” Their return sees them with a sharpened focus on creating the best they can for the planet, brilliant for those who don’t want to sacrifice style for values. Check their CREATURES collection – with 5% of each sale donated to charities supporting the diversity of wildlife on earth. Hope-inspiring, indeed. See supremebeing.com.

Those itching to create your own or revamp your clothes, check Sewn Sustainably – a fantastic new venture in the city. Run by blogger and seamstress Clare Szabo, you can take invaluable Beginner Sewing Classes at Parkside Community College from £45 per course while also learning about ethical fabric producers. “My hope is to see Cambridge have its own stitching and crafting scene in which we encourage making, mending and repairing clothes to not only cut down on waste, but to help people in our community too,” says Clare, who is inspirational. Email her on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. If you’re new to green and ethical fashion, try Green is the New Black, by Tamsin Blanchard, with a foreword from Cambridge University-educated model and actress Lily Cole.

Also inspiring hope to thousands of visitors, is blockbuster exhibition You Say You Want A Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970 at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Cambridge’s Pink Floyd fans will love an immersive evocation of London’s short-lived UFO club (an original poster by Hapshash and the Coloured Coat, left), an experimental underground venue where some of their earliest, Syd Barrett-fronted performances were given.

Yes, we may never go back to the high octane of that time, but it’s good to be reminded of the power that belief in art, creativity and social change can have.

Go along to rediscover your revolutionary mojo – the V&A are promising the show will help you reflect on ‘an imaginative optimism to envisage a new and better world’ and it has had rave reviews. 


"Vinyl is not dead, despite all predictions"


Back home in Cambridge, Mill Road’s café and record shop Relevant Record is perfect for rejuvenation and a spot of rebellion, with R*E*P*E*A*T presenting what looks like a fantastic gig on 7 January, showcasing the best from their young performers’ gigs. Vinyl is not dead, despite all predictions that assured us otherwise. There’s hope yet. 

So here’s to hope. Hope that if 2016 was the year we saw our heroes dead and enemies in power, then 2017 will be the year that we start to become our own heroes and take that power back. Happy New Year all!