Behind the scenes of Queens’ Arts Festival

Eleanor Metcalf 6 February 2014

Phoebe Hill, President of Queens’ Arts Festival, talks us through the festival organisation and creativity in Cambridge.

What inspired your involvement?

As an art historian I spend a lot of time thinking about art, so it is a welcome change to get involved in actually making something. To me, uniting the events behind the theme ‘Do it Yourself ’ means getting involved in the arts without pretension or prejudice.

What has been the most rewarding part of organising the festival?

Working closely with people with whom I would not normally get the opportunity to do so. I sometimes think that we have had more fun planning the events than the people will have attending them! I think what has been truly wonderful is the way people in Queens’ have gone out of their way to help us, like the kind students letting people invade their bedrooms in the name of art or the admissions officer donating bags and bags of wool to the knitting workshop.

What was the process behind designing the exhibition?

We thought about the space that we had in college and the interesting and unexpected ways we could use it. We wanted to explore the opportunities for display in that classic Cambridge space: a 15th-century court. The college is never going to be a white cube gallery space, so we wanted to use these limitations to our advantage. This is how the idea of exhibiting art- work in Old Court bedrooms was born.

Which event are you personally most excited to attend?

I am particularly excited for the Pavilion, designed by second year architecture students. The communal process of building the Pavilion is an event in itself and after it has been constructed it stands as a symbol of the festival. There will be a workstation where people can make something small and hook it up into the canopy I think it encapsulates everything we mean by our theme of ‘Do It Yourself ’;    a    creative    energy    focused into doing something, however small and temporary, that is original and interesting.

Considering the inspirational nature of this year's theme, what would you suggest to a Cambridge student who wanted to start creating their own artwork but had no previous experience?

Cambridge students are lucky in the amount of arts resources available to them; the only problem is that they are not often well known. For example, life drawing classes are run by many colleges, the union, ArcSoc and there is even a life drawing class that takes place in the Classics Faculty where you can draw casts of famous classical sculptures. Queens’ Arts Festival is a great place to focus all these artistic activities for a weekend and hopefully will inspire people to seek out others.

Why is it important to encourage artistic creativity in Cambridge?

Cambridge students are lucky in the amount of arts resources available to them; the only problem is that they are not often well-known. The festival is a great place to focus different artistic activities and hopefully will inspire people to seek out others. I think there is a lot more creativity in Cambridge than people often give it credit for; we want to provide some spaces and some time not only where students can show off their artistic talents and achievements but where artistic disciplines can meet and merge.

What are your favourite arts-related venues or events in Cambridge?

My personal favourite is Kettle’s Yard, which everyone should visit at least once before they leave Cambridge. Also the city of Cambridge itself is a treasure trove of lovely things: only in Cambridge can you walk down one street and see a world class museum, two James Gibbs buildings and the best example of gothic church architecture in England.

The festival runs 6-10 February; see for more details.