This image: Loukas Morley’s en pointe collection of stools
Ruthie Collins gives you the lowdown on arty happenings around Cambridge in March
Springtime is that time of light and renewal, when Cambridge starts to bloom again. Time and time again, novels are what we turn to, for solace and sanctuary. Francis Sinclair’s It Can’t Happen Here – the subject of Cambridge Waterstones book club last month – documents the election of an anti-immigrant nationalist as President of the United States. A caution against liberal complacency, there’s been a resurgence of interest in the book – which sold out on Amazon within a week of Trump’s inauguration and was dubbed ‘eerily prescient’ by The Guardian.
George Orwell’s 1984 is also enjoying renewed interest. The author, who lived in Suffolk, based some of his piercing perceptions about class on things he’d seen when people-watching in Southwold, a town he ‘loathed’ according to his sister, and where you can see quotes from Animal Farm painted on the pier.
Can fiction and art really do that much, in the face of what are, for many, unsettling times? If anything, It Can’t Happen Here issues a terrifying warning to all who have ‘let the demagogues wriggle in, without fierce enough protest.’ Those looking to protest through their art, check out the Nasty Women art shows all over the world, which are gathering huge momentum. There’s one planned next month at Cambridge ArtWorks, and if you fancy submitting a piece, the artists call-out ends at 5pm on 17 March. Send artworks to Nasty Women Cambridge at ArtWorks, 5 Greens Road, Cambridge, CB4 3EH, and check out nastywomenexhibition.org.
For Art of Float co-owner Jamie, art goes hand in hand with self-care and offers hope. “It’s essential to look after yourself", he says. "Our ethos is A Fluent Lifestyle – which is not just about having wealth, but how you spend it, making a difference, supporting independent businesses and artists.”
"It's a movement, a style. People come here to escape consumerism"
The flotation studio and gallery, based on Hawthorn Way, is an extraordinary oasis of positive wellbeing and creativity. “It’s about being able to ‘be fluent’, to express yourselves. It’s a movement. A style. People come here to escape from consumerism, to look after their mind as well as their bodies. As soon as people come out of the flotation treatment, they see inspiring art, makers consciously trying to create sustainable livestyles. They come out more focused.” Check www.artoffloat.com for more.
The current show features some of Cambridge’s best designer-makers, including Loukas Morely (below), who’s introducing his new, ‘en point’ collection of wooden stools, all of which are made from reclaimed wood gifted by the Museum of Classical Archaeology.
One of Cambridge’s most respected artists, his vibrant abstracts sing with colour and a sharp, contemporary elegance, and he has long been upcycling reclaimed wood into high-end, quality works that are created with heart. A popular strand to his work, he has clients throughout the city, including Espresso Library, who snapped up cheeseboards made from reclaimed oak from Sidney Sussex Library. “Every piece that comes out of my workshop in Cambridge is unique and has a story to tell,” he says. “It’s about serendipity, everything gets used if it’s good enough.”
The story behind the collection itself is one of creative adventure; an homage to creative possibility, too – beauty and simplicity. It’s also an insight into the ecology of friendship and collaboration that often goes into making and the creative process itself. “The photos you can see on www.theloft.life were shot at the Bodywise dance studio, who are really supportive of the community.
"It's about serendipity. Everything gets used if it's good enough"
They feature not just the en pointe collection, but an artist, a dancer and a performance piece. It’s about enrichment, honouring friends and their talents, too.” Buyers of the wooden stools are invited to submit a portrait of themselves in a chosen environment that best represents them, working towards a book. “One person is buying theirs from the Faroe Islands and will be having their portrait done on a mountain.
The tangents that are created from the collaborations that go into creating these works are extraordinary. It’s like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – I didn’t really know where this was originally taking me when I started this. It’s fluid; it’s magic.” You can also see stunning visual art pieces by Loukas this month at Stem + Glory, CamYoga’s vegan café on Chesterton Road.
Finally, fans of Cambridge-based author Menna van Praag will be delighted by her new novel, The Lost Art of Letter Writing. In a forgotten nook of Cambridge stands a little shop where thousands of sheets of beautiful paper and hundreds of exquisite pens wait for the next person, who will express the love, despair and desire that they feel towards correspondents alive, estranged, or dead.
Why not write to someone you haven’t seen for a long time this month? Send them some sunshine. You never know how much difference kindness can make in the world. Sometimes being fierce with our kindness, speaking out and celebrating the connections between us is all we can do.