Bloomberg Summer at the Roundhouse, the annual festival dedicated to introducing new audiences to innovative culture, returns for the fourth year this August with Utopia, a ground-breaking installation by Penny Woolcock, supported by Bloomberg and realised in collaboration with Block9. Taking over the Main Space, Utopia will be a multi-sensory world focusing in on inequality, consumerism, housing, gentrification, education, crime and social media.
The piece has been imagined by award-winning Director and Filmmaker Penny Woolcock. Woolcock’s curiosity and craft for storytelling underpins all her work and for Utopia, she spent many months uncovering the stories of Londoners from the most wildly diverse of backgrounds to reveal the hidden narratives of the city. Her work has regularly focused on social cohesion, leading her to collaborate with young inner-city gang members and street hustlers (1 Day, One Mile Away).
Designers Block9 (Stephen Gallagher and Gideon Berger), revered for their visually arresting, post-apocalyptic spectacles, will work closely with Woolcock to design a symbolic representation of her vision. Block9 are best known for creating extravagant fantasy worlds for Glastonbury Festival, often comprising of grand scale tower blocks, tenements and tube trains.
Named after Thomas More’s 16th century imagining of a self-contained world in which communities shared a common culture and way of life, Woolcock’s Utopia is based on a walk through the neighbourhood of the Roundhouse and the differing perspectives on reality that can offer. Utopia will be peppered with narrative soundscapes that will reverberate with stories that are personal, political and pertinent to the parallel lives being lived in the world’s biggest cities. The stories have all been collected by Woolcock in interviews with residents across the social spectrum – from drug dealers, gang members, former offenders and sex workers to the homeless, the elderly, housewives and university graduates.
Penny Woolcock said “I am haunted by the way our city, any city, is experienced in such different ways. We all have our individual lives and stories that follow us onto the pavement but we inhabit shared public spaces in radically different ways. For some the city is a playground, for others a battlefield.”
Utopia also involves contributions and close collaboration with participants from the Roundhouse’s creative programme for 11-25 year-olds. In 2014 Woolcock worked with young people to find and interview local Camden residents for Utopia and one of the participants has become a paid assistant on this project. Others have become some of the voices heard in the installation. Young people from across the programme will also perform at the installation’s evening events which are still to be announced.
Alongside the installation, the Roundhouse will become a daily destination where members of the public can enjoy the sunshine at North London’s very own ‘seaside’ resort, Camden Beach, presented by Stoli Vodka. On the terrace, Camden’s biggest outdoor space, there will be 150 tonnes of the finest sand, deckchairs, beach huts, ping-pong, live music, some of the best food pop-ups in the city and the chance to enjoy Stoli’s drink of the summer, the Stoli Lemonade.
Bloomberg’s long term partnership with the Roundhouse builds on a shared commitment to support artistic innovation, ground breaking technologies and access for new audiences in the arts. For the third year running, Bloomberg Summer will have a weekly ‘pay what you like’ event to ensure that as many people as possible have the opportunity to enjoy it.