Student Spotlight: John Hughes Arts Festival

Amelia Oakley 2 February 2015

After a few short months of planning, the John Hughes Arts Festival kicked off this weekend in style, with shout out from Stephen Fry, a talk from the playwright and director David Hare, and the launch of a brand new art gallery in the Jesus College grounds. Rome might not have been built in a day, but JHAF was indeed born in just a matter of weeks.

The brainchild of a group of Jesuans including Sam Fairbrother, Liam Livesely, and Ed Eustace, the Arts Festival was launched in an effort to commemorate the life and work of the late Jesus Chaplain John Hughes, who tragically passed away last year. The aim of the festival was simply to ‘celebrate the spirit of openness, spectacle, and collaboration many associate with John’, who was deeply active in both college and student life, and hugely encouraging of all student projects.

The Festival, which it is hoped will become an annual affair and staple of the Jesus College calendar, was a rich, diverse, and at times utterly bonkers affair. From a Masquerade Formal injected with a performance of the medieval allegorical play ‘Mankind’ to whet the appetite of dinners between courses; to a Jazz Brunch to the sweet sounds of the homegrown Jesuan band B & the Jukeboys; to the comic marvels of a Smoker set in the Chapel – complete with comedy organ I’ll have you know – there was something for everyone at JHAF.

Ruby Stewart Liberty one of the festival’s organisers commented ‘It was an occasion where everyone rallied, even at the last minute, to make things work. Not only undergrads but all the  departments in college wanted to get involved. Whether we were approaching the maintenance department to borrow a few fan heaters for the life model, or the gardening department for a 15th-century style spade for the Masque during formal – the general sentiment was the same, everyone wanted to support the event in honour of John’

The most spectacular sight of all was what emerged in the Forum – an essentially abandoned old market and warehouse which, most days, stands silently, stoically, submerged in the misty corner of the Jesus hockey pitches. The building, in which normally only the gentle thud of a sole runner in the cardio room may be heard, was overcome with noise, bustle, and most importantly art on Friday night, with the launch of the festival’s open hang gallery.

Covering the walls, top to bottom, of this otherwise dilapidated space, was art – paintings by students, photography gifted from a London Gallery, and to top it all off, a Henry Moore residing majestically on an old industrial stand. All of this was centred around an open life-drawing event in which the otherwise non artistic were encouraged to shed their fear, pick up a stick of charcoal and draw to their heart’s content.

With free drinks flowing, and completed life-drawings going up on the walls at a rate of knots – the night was a hive of artistic activity and above all a moment to reflect and recognise the incredible achievements of this wholly student run affair. As a fresher, I arrived at Jesus after John Hughes’ time there; but leaving the Forum that night I felt like I truly knew John, or at least, I was in absolutely no doubt of the incredible, indelible impression he has left on those who knew him.