The Barbican is well-known for its arts and learning programmes, but their latest with The Trampery – in the shadow of the Olympic Stadium – may be the best yet. The Barbican’s Digital Content Producer Sidd Khajuria tells us more

What inspired the Barbican to join forces with The Trampery?

The Barbican is interested in exploring the areas where the arts and technology meet and began working with The Trampery on the Hack the Barbican takeover last summer. This project took inspiration from Hacker culture to fill the Barbican foyers with discipline-bending installations, performances, workshops and discussions. Fish Island is the next step in this collaboration. 

What kind of atmosphere are you hoping to offer at Fish Island Labs?

We’re hoping to create a space for new ideas to flourish and for practitioners working across art forms and that are using technology in new and exciting ways to collaborate and develop their work.

It’s based in the shadow of the Olympic Stadium – do you think that will also offer a little inspiration?

Yes, absolutely. The whole FishIsland area is really exciting with a cutting-edge community of artists and entrepreneurs working there. We think the location will make it a really inspiring place to develop work.

In terms of those who will benefit from working at Fish Island Labs, what kind of things will they be creating?

We’ve selected practitioners that are working in a really wide range of fields that blur the lines between the arts and technology. This ranges from a project about how new technologies could transform the body to work around data visualisation, a new play that combines digital fabrication and puppetry, and an installation that allows people to touch and manipulate light as if it were a physical object.

Why is it also important to offer these places to anyone regardless of their background? Are there limited creative opportunities for talented people?

We want to make sure that this opportunity is open to the widest possible range of people, ensuring that participants were selected on the quality of their ideas rather than their ability to pay for studio space. By offering bursaries to talented individuals or groups who wouldn’t be able to participate without support we’re ensuring we attract a diverse range of new ideas.

Who will be the mentors at the programme?

These are still being confirmed, but will be established figures from the worlds of the arts, technology and business to ensure participants can develop vital skills and knowledge in areas such as intellectual property, social media and crowdfunding.

Can you tell us a little more about the Creative Learning workshops for young artists?

The workshops will be run by the Barbican’s creative learning department and will provide learning opportunities to young people and early and mid-career artists in areas that cross the arts and technology. Full details of learning opportunities and events at Fish Island are still being developed.

Why is it important to the Barbican that you commit to investing in the next generation of creative artists?

The Barbican has a long history of working with artists at all stages of their careers, something that is essential to developing the artists and audiences of the future. Our work ranges from providing opportunities for young people to experience and participate in the arts for the first time, to helping early and mid-career artists to take their work, and their careers to the next level. Our creative learning programme, which we run alongside the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, reaches almost 50,000 people a year.

Looking back at past educational partnerships, what have been particular highlights for the Barbican?

Recent successful initiatives include Open School East, a free art school in De Beauvoir Town that gives emerging artists free tuition from international artists, writers, curators and theorists in exchange for them giving one day a month of their time to run public activities for local communities; and Unleashed, a two-year project with young people from East London that saw participants from the Barbican’s many young ensembles collaborate with Boy Blue Entertainment to create a spectacular show in our theatre that received five-star national reviews. We also work with schools from across east London on initiatives such as Barbican Box, as well as running regular professional development and laboratory programmes for artists to develop their work.

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