Even though I try to fool myself that I am fresh out of university, it is actually over 10 years since graduation and the world of higher education is a very different place to that of the early 2000s.
(Until recently) year by year student numbers have been growing, so how do they compete? How do they get noticed amid the sea of other students? Every university has degree shows but these don’t always reach a wide enough audience, so to broadcast their talent, students show at Free Range in London, and have been doing so since 2001.
At the Truman Brewery, appropriately in the creative bubbling East End of London, this week’s Free Range exhibitions were mainly from Interior Design courses. The factory surroundings were echoed in the industrial aesthetic way in which the work was exhibited, both by individuals and in the university group displays. Materials such as raw plywood, industrial felt, copper wire, bare cardboard, scaffolding and bare light bulbs confirmed this trend. Kingston University, Glasgow School of Art and the University of Westminster picked up on this in how their students’ work was displayed. Some work was presented on drawing boards and in plan-chests, giving the sense that the work was still going on and would continue after we leave.
I didn’t completely understand all the work I was looking at so was relieved when Gemma Strong from Nottingham Trent University came up and spoke to me about her work. She had chosen an old bank in her home town of Birmingham in which to create an innovative space linked to the area’s historical jewellery quarter. It played on the form of jewellery with a stone and metal and this idea was developed into a several storied space which slotted into the shell of the old bank, a “modern intervention” as she called it.
Nearby was the work of Yee Wa Ho and Rebecca Odeleye with their Nottingham based projects of a homeless youth shelter scheme and a Parkour centre . If only these exciting and potentially life changing buildings could become reality.
Hopefully events such as Free Range, bringing new ideas to a wider audience means that some of these transformative ideas could eventually find their way into our towns and cities.
Words: Rose Davison