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“Every kind of cultural and creative history is here” // A chat with Elefest founder Rob Wray

Elefest banner

Elephant & Castle festival Elefest is just days away, celebrating the artistic life of the area for the 12th year running with a packed and eclectic programme of events from Thursday 2 – Sunday 5 October 2014.

We caught up with Elefest director and founder – and LCC alumnus – Rob Wray shortly before this year’s preparations went into overdrive to hear about psychogeography, challenging preconceptions, and saying “Let’s just do something!”

Rob portrait cropped

LCC alumnus Rob Wray established Elefest 12 years ago

Can you tell us a bit about why and how Elefest was launched?

“The origin of it was way back before the turn of the millennium. There was a lot of talk about regeneration and arts and culture within the Elephant & Castle area, and a voluntary organisation called Neon was trying to influence the regeneration process and make art and culture part of that.

“I first got in touch with Neon while I was studying here [at LCC] in 2000. And because of my background – I was studying Enterprise & Management in the Creative Arts here, doing a diploma course – and because I was running events and festivals, mainly film-based, when I got involved in Neon there was all this talk about creativity and regeneration.

“But I come from the school of thought that says, “Let’s just do something”, create something, otherwise the regeneration process could take 15 years, 20 years, 30 years, and in the meantime your life is over, and nothing’s happened!

“Elefest was established primarily as a film and video festival to showcase local filmmakers, and to show films that were relevant to the local community. But the idea always was to go further than film.

“It was probably my naivety that took me to setting the festival up. And I’m from the area – I’m originally from Walworth, just round the back of East Street. I live in Bermondsey now, so I’ve moved about a mile in 41 years!

“Also, the events and festivals stuff I was doing up until then I was having to do over in east London – in Brick Lane and Shoreditch and Hoxton back in ’98, ’99, because there was no real infrastructure round here to do it.

“So it was a combination of wanting to do something to get involved locally, but also some element of frustration that I was able to do creative work outside of The Elephant, but I couldn’t do anything here where I grew up.”

Bratby murals tour

Artist David Bratby is leading a farewell tour of his subway murals on Thursday 2 October

What do you like about working in the area?

“I don’t think there’s anything I like or dislike, it is what it is. I think there was always an issue with people being negative about Walworth and Elephant & Castle. Most people, if I said I was from Walworth, thought I either said Woolwich or I was making a joke about the department store.

“So then you’d say Elephant & Castle to try and give them something to link onto, but obviously back then all they would have heard about was the Ministry of Sound, or the Shopping Centre, or the two roundabouts.

“Elephant & Castle is what it is, but I think it’s probably special because it is on the ancient road down to Kent – The Old Kent Road – so there’s probably been this psychogeography in this area where people have been going somewhere else, to and from this place, for a long while. Which I find fascinating.”

venues map

The venues for this year’s Elefest

What have been the particular challenges involved with organising Elefest over 12 years?

“The challenges would have been getting people to take it seriously that we were having a festival in Elephant & Castle during the first few years, because it was film- and cinema-related and we didn’t have a functioning cinema in the area. Still don’t. So you said, “We’re having an Elephant & Castle film festival” and most people would laugh.

“So then you could turn that to your advantage and get some publicity out of it because you were challenging people’s perceptions. It is effectively my home so I’ve never felt negative about it. So in that sense you go, “Well, why shouldn’t we?”

“The hardy perennial is usually money, because you’re always trying to do more than you can with the money you have. You can’t create something without having the resources to do it, so you either have to become self-financing  and self-sufficient, or you need to find sponsorship – but as with any money, there are certain associations with that.

“You’re constantly trying to square that circle; how do you keep it reasonably cheap, and how do you get the resources to do it?”

And what’s been the answer to that this year?

“I think the answer’s always the same, we need to become self-financing and self-sufficient, in order to give it longevity, because the developers aren’t going to be here forever.

“Currently we get some money from them, we get some money from the council, some money from Film London this year, but the developers and the council aren’t going to be funding it forever, and I think strategically you have to go “Right, where do we go with this?”

“There’s also sometimes a bizarre psychology with things that are free, in that people think because it’s free it must be crap. To some sections of the community it’s a free festival, so it should always be that way, but for other people they think if it’s free it’s not worth anything.

“And there’s politics involved in trying to coordinate 10 or 12 different venues that all have different artistic or creative bents. A lot of people think there’s a lot more money in it than there is, and a lot of people think there’s a bigger team than there is.

“There isn’t really a full-time team all year. We have myself and three or four people, but most of the time that’s condensed within the last month/six weeks, because we don’t have the resources to have people sitting around, and we all have to go and do other work that makes a living.

“Anyway, we’re still going, older and wiser!”

Can you tell us which events you’re most excited about in the festival line-up this year?

“We’ve got the Maccabees playing a DJ set for the launch night at the Coronet, which is good. It’s quite exciting because they’re making an album in a studio locally, and a filmmaker’s making a film to accompany it about the Elephant & Castle. So because of that kind of connection, it was quite useful to get them to open it.

“So they’re playing and we’ve got a few bands playing that night; we’ve got a Cuban band Friday night, we’ve got a load of stuff at the Cinema Museum, we’ve got the StockMKT – the opening night’s probably the most exciting thing.”


Latin ensemble WARA play at Hotel Elephant on Friday 3 October

And finally, is there anything that Elefest hasn’t yet achieved that you would like it to in the future?

“I don’t want it to become any longer – I think four days is perfect. At one stage it was running for two weeks and that was crazy – on even less money than we have now. But that was before I got a bit older and had a mortgage and kids! So I don’t think I would want it to get any bigger in that sense.

“I do honestly think it can become or should become self-financing, self-reliant. And it should become the festival that is associated with Elephant & Castle in the truest sense of the word. So that when people think of Elephant & Castle, they think of Elefest.

“It’s got a long, rich history of theatre, music hall, circus; every kind of cultural and creative history is here. Then the Second World War came and the redevelopment came after the war, and all that infrastructure was gone.

“So it’s not like it isn’t possible for that to be reimagined or recreated.”

Absolutely! Many thanks for your time, Rob, and here’s to another fantastic Elefest weekend.

Visit the Elefest website

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Black Mesa Film Shows Native American Struggle

Still from Black Mesa © Camille Summers-Valli

Still from Black Mesa © Camille Summers-Valli

Camille Summers-Valli is one of Central Saint Martins fine art graduates who has been selected for the Bloomberg New Contemporaries show at the Liverpool biennial.

Her piece, Black Mesa, is a two-screen video installation documenting the Diné, or Navajo, people’s fight for their ancestral homelands.

Over the last 30 years, over 12,000 Diné people have been removed from the Big Mountain area of Black Mesa in northern Arizona. This is the result of a complex political and legal struggle surrounding the extraction of coal from the landscape.

Black Mesa in situ © Camille Summers-Valli

Black Mesa in situ © Camille Summers-Valli

Today, as mining continues, twenty-five Diné elders remain in the region. Camille Summers-Valli’s film follows elders and environmental activists as they seek a compromise between sacred traditions and the modern world.

Summers-Valli said: “I feel very fortunate to have been selected for this year’s Bloomberg New Contemporaries show. It is a great step in creating a dialogue about the pertinent issues that the film explores, and in developing the project into a single screen feature documentary due for release in 2015.”

More information:
- BA Fine Art
Our Bloomberg New Contemporaries win
Camille Summers-Valli

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LCC Alumna wins Best Short Documentary at London Independent Film Festival


‘Portrait of Billie’ Image by Jane Mingay.

Jane Mingay, a multi-award winning photojournalist and a recent LCC MA Documentary Film graduate, has just won the Best Short Documentary award for her film ‘Portrait of Billie’at the London Independent Film Festival.

Jane’s iconic photographs range from portraits of Naomi Campbell and British Royalty to images of poverty in rural Africa and the aftermath of the London 7/7 terrorist attacks.


Image by Jane Mingay.


Image by Jane Mingay.

Her latest project ‘Portrait of Billie’ follows Billie Bickley, someone famous for being ‘a homeless heroin addict since the age of 14′. Her chaotic and harrowing life story has been followed by the media since she was 18 when she caught the eye of Princess Diana as she visited Centrepoint.

Jane explains that “Since then, Billie’s life story has been played out in front of her. With this role to play as well as the role she inhabits to survive life on the streets, who is the real Billie and where do the lines between fact and fiction blur? With an unsentimental approach, this film allows Billie to act out her creations and shocking revelations on centre stage.”


Image by Jane Mingay.


Image by Jane Mingay.

Read more about MA Documentary Film.

Read more about Jane.

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Recognising the exceptional entrepreneurial spirit of our students and alumni, in January 2012, UAL launched the SEED Fund to support current students and recent graduates (up to two years after graduation) who demonstrate a highly innovative and sustainable project or business plan.

The latest batch SEED Funded initiatives include an online platform aimed at facilitating sustainable lifestyle choices, an arts & culture quarterly print magazine, a lighting design company, a platform for showcasing emerging design talent and a fashion & accessories brand. Find out about these projects.

In addition to business development grants of up to £5,000, this fantastic programme offers workshops on everything from business planning and budgeting to pitching your idea and applying for funding, as well as free legal and commercial advice and mentoring from industry experts.

Now approaching its third anniversary, the SEED Fund has supported an impressive 36 projects and awarded a total of £138,000 worth of funding. We took a look back and asked one of our graduates how the SEED Fund helped him and how his project has developed:

Fernando Laposse

Fernando Laposse

Tell us about your project/idea/work
I wanted to develop my graduation project, a system for making edible sugar cocktail glassware, into a business.

How did you hear about the SEED Fund and what was the application process like?
I heard about SEED Fund through the business and employability centre at CSM. The application process was mainly about giving an elevator pitch of your idea and a business plan of how you intend to execute it. There is an initial round and if you make it past it you are expected to submit your product for a revision by the judging panel. The application process is extensive but very clear and comprehensive

What did the SEED Fund enable you to do?
The SEED Fund gave me an initial injection of cash which covered some of the costs of getting started, but really it was all the extra support, the workshops, mentoring and legal advice, that enabled me to make the jump from thinking simply as a designer to making more business conscious decisions.

Work by Fernando Laposse

Did UAL provide you with any other support/resources to help you get started? Is there anything else you think they should do?
I had the opportunity of joining a business evening course which was extremely useful. It was a very hands-on course which really pointed you in the right direction not only with business thinking but with more practical things like setting up a company and doing tax returns.

Do you have any plans to develop your ideas further? If so, what are they?
The core and focus of my business has changed from simply selling a product into selling a service, I think I came to this decision in a good part thanks to the experience of the SEED Fund, since I had to reassess my business plan a year later and comparing my cash flow prognostic when I applied to with my actual annual cash flow report I realised the most profitable activities were organising an event around my product, not selling it individually for the masses. My plan is to keep offering custom made products for exclusive events the way I have been doing for the past months.

Work by Fernando Laposse

What advice would you give students and graduates wanting to start out like you?
My advice would be to really believe in your product but to be open to change, and this could be the product itself or your target market. Progress comes by just diving head first, making mistakes and taking calculated risks, so don’t be afraid to try new things!

Next application deadline is 21 November 2014. Enterprise workshops, running during the week of 13 October, are available to students and alumni.
Find out more about the SEED Fund and how to apply.
Book on to one of our Enterprise Workshops.
Join our mentorship scheme and help the next generation fulfil their potential. Email to find out more.

Find out more about UAL’s Alumni Association 


LCC alumni stage events for London Design Festival 2014

London Design Festival 2014

London College of Communication may have its own ’160′ trio of design exhibitions as part of London Design Festival 2014, but our alumni have been busy too.

We’ve rounded up some of the most exciting alumni work designed for this year’s festival – have you caught any of these shows?

Susanna Foppoli

‘The Formal Beauty of Type’ runs until 16 November

Designer and PGDip Design for Visual Communication graduate Susanna Foppoli presents ‘The Formal Beauty of Type’ at The Book Club, Shoreditch, open now until Sunday 16 November.

This solo exhibition comprises a series of abstract typographic compositions which uses a restricted colour palette of black, white and red.

The work was originally designed as part of an academic study of the formal qualities and personalities of selected typefaces across typographic history, and the show celebrates both the aesthetic power and structural detail of these letterforms.


‘The Rooftop Line’ recorded life on Camden High Street in real time

BA (Hons) Design for Interaction and Moving Image alumni Romain Meunier and Tsvetelina Tomova looked to the skies with their installation ‘The Rooftop Line’ as part of Camden Collective.

One of five projects selected from over 100 proposals, ‘The Rooftop Line’ took inspiration from New York’s High Line and Camden Town station and saw Romain and Tsvetelina setting a model train fitted with a webcam in motion around a Camden rooftop.

The webcam ran throughout the day with footage streamed online and to an exhibition space at 26 Camden High Street. The project was designed to inject creativity and playfulness into some of London’s more unloved or neglected urban spaces.

Eley Kishmoto outside tube

Designers Eley Kishimoto created ‘Flash’ outside Brixton tube station

Elsewhere, MA Design Management graduate Natasha Montgomery was coordinating multiple events during LDF as the co-founder and curator of Brixton Design Week.

Highlights included a Change Brixton by Design workshop, bringing together designers, public organisations and individuals to share ideas and good practice around design, the Brixi Army group exhibition and the Brixton Pound New Independents party.

The pavement outside Brixton tube station was also transformed with graffiti installation ‘Flash’ by Brixton-based fashion and design company Eley Kishimoto.

Congratulations to everyone on their fantastic LDF creations, and here’s to 2015!

Read more about our ’160′ exhibitions for London Design Festival

Read about alumnus Daniel Chehade’s curation of ‘Alan Kitching and Monotype’ at LCC

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UAL Postgraduate Community is a finalist in the 2014 Prospects Postgraduate Awards

The initiative,  to support the postgraduate students at UAL, is a finalist in the Best University Campaign category of the 2014 Prospects Postgraduate Awards. The awards recognise the most exciting developments in postgraduate education.

UAL Postgraduate Community, led by students, allows a space outside of their courses to test, explore and discuss their ideas to a much wider audience.

“The Postgraduate Community initiative aims to build a diverse programme of events that target the postgraduate taught and research student body across the University’s six Colleges, enabling postgraduate students to gain access to events and opportunities from all disciplines to nurture collaboration, networking and knowledge sharing. This will in turn provide an informed, connected and confident ‘Super Generation’ of arts professionals.”

- Rachael Daniels,  Postgraduate Community & Events Manager at UAL

Winners will be announced on Monday 10 November 2014.

Well done to all those involved!


Find out more about the Prospects Postgraduate Awards

Check out the Postgraduate Community publication.

Discover more about Postgraduate study at UAL.






BA Fine Art Alumna Wins Drawing Prize

Annette Fernando, Wait a minute, it’s the truth and the truth hurts XIV, 2013. Jerwood Drawing Prize 2014. Photography: Benjamin Cosmo Westoby.

Annette Fernando, Wait a minute, it’s the truth and the truth hurts XIV, 2013. Jerwood Drawing Prize 2014. Photography: Benjamin Cosmo Westoby.

Central Saint Martins graduate Annette Fernando has been awarded one of the two Jerwood Prize student awards 2014.

Her winning drawing, Wait a minute, it’s the truth and the truth hurts XIV, was selected from more than 3,200 submitted works.

Annette, who was born in 1991, still lives in London having completed her BA Fine Art degree. She also had work exhibited as part of the Jerwood Drawing Prize 2013.

More information:
BA Fine Art
The Jerwood Prize



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Fine Art Students Named New Contemporaries

Black Mesa in situ © Camille Summers-Valli

Black Mesa in situ © Camille Summers-Valli

Central Saint Martins fine art graduates Yi Dai, Matthew Humphreys and Camille Summers-Valli have been selected as Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2014.

Dai and Humphreys are MA Fine Art alumni and Summers-Valli studied BA Fine Art.

Work from the three artists is showing as part of the Liverpool Biennial until 26 October. In late November, the exhibition will travel to the ICA in London.

New Contemporaries is the leading UK organisation supporting emergent art practice from British Art Schools. In recent years, Central Saint Martins has had many BA and MA Fine Art graduates selected by the scheme.

More information:
- BA Fine Art
- MA Fine Art

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Grayson Perry donates ‘Unfashionable Lion’ to raise money for LCF scholarships

Turner prize-winning artist Grayson Perry has made a ceramic lion which he has donated to the Fashion Matters auction to raise money for LCF scholarships and bursaries. Grayson, who received an Honorary Doctorate from University of the Arts London in 2009 and is also on the Board of Governors of the University, will be making the keynote speech at the Gala.

GP423_Unfashionable Lion_2014 b

Grayson Perry Unfashionable Lion, 2014 Ceramic 16.5 x 10 x 23 cm

Grayson Perry Unfashionable Lion, 2014 Ceramic 16.5 x 10 x 23 cm

The lion, who has ‘Unfashionable’ branded on his side, is 23cm long and made of a brown ceramic. A similar lion by Grayson Perry with the words ‘Vote Labour’ on his side recently fetched £42,000, and a previous incarnation was branded with ‘Look How Generous and Talented Grayson Perry, CBE, RA, is!!’

The bidding is open on the silent auction from now until 9 October, and includes tickets to the Topshop Unique AW15 catwalk show, a studio tour with Paul Smith, and a supercar driving experience for two. All takings are to raise money for scholarships and bursaries to LCF and in 2013 this money funded the studies of 13 students. We will be interviewing some recent alumni who were recipients of scholarships, to find out how this money helped them.

Read more about the Fashion Matters fundraising campaign
Bid now on the silent auction.

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MA Material Futures Mentors Schoolchildren

MA Material FuturesMA Material Futures students will be mentoring eight shortlisted projects submitted by schoolchildren to the Concept to Catwalk challenge.

Concept to Catwalk invites London schoolchildren to design a collection of clothing that reflects technology-led innovation in fashion.

The competition aims to draw on the rich textile heritage of east London and link fashion and technology. It will culminate next year in a fashion show held at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, showcasing the shortlisted designs.

The project is a partnership project between Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Victoria and Albert Museum, Central Saint Martins and MyKindaCrowd. It forms part of the Mayor’s challenge programme.

More information:
MA Material Futures
Concept to Catwalk

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