The Institute picks interesting stories and news items every week from the worlds of art, culture and social study and presents them in the blog. This week the stories have been chosen by Maria Pirkkalainen.
Spending the night at a bookstore or a museum
It only took one tweet - and thousands of responses. A Texan tourist found himself accidentally locked inside a Waterstones bookshop at Trafalgar Square in October. After trying to find a solution with the security company for two hours, he tweeted about it to Waterstones. He got out in no time after this, but the number of retweets and responses adoring the idea of a lock-in at a bookstore perhaps startled the bookstore even more.
Last Friday, Waterstones and Airbnb answered to these requests and organized a nocturnal sleepover in Europe’s biggest bookshop, the Waterstones store at Piccadilly. 19 lucky competition winners got to spend the night in a bookstore, wearing pyjamas while browsing books and having discussions with other literature afficiados. It had a lot to do with PR of course, but the event turned out to be an excellent marketing gimmick on its own. It answered directly to the public’s needs and wishes of experiencing something very unusual in a public, ordinary space.
Sleepovers are not a strange phenomenon to London’s nightlife with many of the top museums - such as British Museum, Science Museum and National History Museum - all organizing them. However, these are mainly aimed towards children and schools. Organizing late night or nocturnal events for adult visitors as well is clearly something that the public wishes for.
A legendary institution already familiar with popular late night events is The British Library, located just around the corner from the Finnish Institute at King’s Cross. For example this Halloween, The British Library organizes a late night event at their premises called The Sorting. How would you feel about celebrating Halloween with DJs, live music, installations, bar and food in a library? The event walks hand in hand with the library’s current exhibition Wonder and Terror on Gothic imagination, which is also included in the ticket price.
Late night events for adults are also a part of the programme at Dublin Science Gallery, where Tuomas Olkku from Heureka in Finland has been working as part of his M0bius Fellowship during the autumn of 2014. More from one of these events, the Dark and Stormy party in August 2014, can be read in Finnish from Olkku’s blog.
These are just a few examples of how the options for using public spaces are endless and can in the best case profit both the organizing parties as well as the crowds wanting to experience something new. And in a city as big as London where the work days and commutes are long, getting a few extra hours each day is an idea certainly worth experimenting with.
Well played for a historical skatepark
Dating back to 1978, the Rom skatepark in east London’s Hornchurch is still said to be as popular amongst skateboarders as it was back in its early days. This time the site also has an even bigger reason to be proud of: it was just granted Grade II status by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, meaning that it is now a protected heritage site in the UK.But what makes this decision so important? An article in The Telegraph describes how Rom skatepark is of course the first skatepark to become a listed site in the UK, but also the first of its kind in Europe. All in all, there are currently only two skateparks in the world that have achieved listed status, with the other one being the Bro Bowl in Tampa, Florida.
Rom was one of the skateparks that were built in the 70s, when skateboarding surprised the Brits with its popularity. But due to the sport losing its momentum within the following years, many of the original concrete skateparks were demolished. Nowadays only around 6 or 7 original 70s skateparks are left, with Rom being the oldest and most important one.
The designation director at English Heritage, Mr. Roger Bowdler states in the article how the listing will give the whole meaning of heritage an extra twist. Skateboarding is surely something that is nowadays extremely popular, but it is still in many ways a youth subculture. Protecting a skate site in the UK is hopefully something that can help other countries knowledge the value of even the most common sites, such as historical skateparks.
An interesting read close on the subject is also English Heritage’s Played in London book by Simon Inglis. The book describes London sites that are important to the heritage of sports culture, with Rom being one of them.
Designed in the 70s by two of the leading skatepark designers of their time, Adrian Rolt and G-Force, Rom skatepark also brings out what has truly mattered over time. Its design, modeled after the Californian skate bowls, is ageless and still attracts skateboarders - and nowadays also for example BMX drivers - every day after almost 40 years.