Circus Sampler Photo: Ash
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Summer at Somerset House


Ceri Hand

Director of Programmes

08 Feb 2018

Summer is a time to celebrate, and at Somerset House we do it with style. With free and ticketed exhibitions, gigs, films, installations and workshops, our visitors will be spoilt for choice in ways to celebrate and be inspired. At the heart of our work, however, is a celebration of the amazing creativity that is imagined and created here on site by the resident artists, makers and arts organisations. This programme will peel back the layers of our neo-classical facade to reveal stories of pioneering new technologies, social activism and entrepreneurship, giving a vibrant voice to both established and under the radar innovators who are shaping our culture.

Kick-starting this year, we have just marked a key moment in the story of Somerset House as we opened the first major exhibition developed on-site by a Somerset House Studios resident: BY THE DEEP, BY THE MARK, by Eloise Hawser. Exploring the relationship between processes in our bodies and the hidden structures that power our cities, Eloise worked for two years in her studio to develop this show. The second exhibition by a pioneering woman artist based here will be a new solo exhibition by Somerset House Studios resident HANNAH PERRY in the Embankment Galleries. In response to working with young people here at Somerset House, Hannah’s new work will address questions of gender, class and mental health, utilising new 360-degree photographic technology to create an immersive experience for audiences.

By the deep, by the mark exhibition trailer

Following on from BY THE DEEP, BY THE MARK, The Charles Russell Speechlys Terrace Room Series continues this summer with PRINT! TEARING IT UP, an exhibition investigating the history and contemporary condition of defiance and insurrection in British magazines. We’re witnessing an explosion of new and exciting print publications which address pressing issues from diversity, gender, identity and intolerance to media manipulation, satire, sexuality and social activism. As a case in point, Somerset House Studios is home to collaborative publishing practice OOMK (One of My Kind), who will curate PROCESS!, a two day festival celebrating independent media, bringing together established and emerging designers, artists, activists and publishers to explore, interrogate and share approaches to creative and collaborative processes.

PRINT! Tearing it up - opens on 06 June

March sees the return of UNORTHODOCS, from Somerset House residents Dartmouth films. Featuring international award-winning films which haven’t necessarily reached their widest possible audience, the season reveals compelling stories from New Orleans, Gujarat and Glastonbury alongside other home-grown narratives. Later in the summer, we're also of course looking forward to the annual film extravaganza that is FILM4 SUMMER SCREEN with central London’s largest outdoor screen bringing a fantastic programme to thousands of cinephiles. Sign up to our newsletter for priority information and booking.

Unorthodocs: Gleason - screening on 07 May

The ever enjoyable NOW PLAY THIS returns at the start of April with a three-day event as part of the city-wide London Games Festival. This weekend of experimental game design will be filled with a host of hands-on opportunities for visitors to get involved. Alongside this annual event, Somerset House Studios residents Werkflow will present SOVEREIGN, an interactive exhibition featuring a playable demo of new video game taking place between two worlds, which inhabits the body of a boy in his mid-teens. Created in collaboration with young people, this unique project seeks to explore the power dynamics of British culture.

Now Play This 2017

If you visited Somerset House in late 2017, you’ll have noticed the vibrant design flying from our flagpole, designed by Somerset House Studios resident Larry Achiampong. This ongoing artistic commission, visible across the city, continues this summer with a new flag created by T H E U N S E E N, a materials innovation house and product development studio that was previously based here at Somerset House. Coinciding with World Earth Day on 22 April, this tech collective will create a new flag utilising ground-breaking inks that react to external environmental triggers as a visible reflection of the impact of pollution around Somerset House.

The Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court has played host to many astounding public art works over the years, and 2018 is no exception. May sees the arrival of HALO, a major new installation from British-Korean collaborators Elliot Woods and Mimi Son, known collectively as Kimchi and Chips. Rows of highly calibrated mirrors set into a sculptural structure will reflect the light of the sun through a veil of  mist to ‘draw’ a shape of light in the air. When the sun is shining, this will be a sight to behold.

Celebrating 250 years since Philip Astley pioneered circus in London in 1768, along with Somerset House-based creative producers Crying Out Loud we'll present two summer weekends of distinctive contemporary circus, hip hop dance and music in CIRCUS SAMPLER featuring Gandini Juggling and Far From The Norm.

Later in July, The Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court will once again be transformed into central London’s hottest music venue for the SUMMER SERIES AT SOMERSET HOUSE. Thousands of music lovers enjoy our gigs each year and we’ll be announcing another unmissable line-up in late March, so be sure to sign up to our newsletter for breaking news and priority booking.

Summer Series at Somerset House, Photo by Owen Harvey

Music plays such an important part in the life of Somerset House, and to coincide with the Summer Series we’ll be presenting a distinctive photography project which celebrates the pioneers of funk, soul, R&B, Afrobeat and hip hop. THE INFLUENCE PROJECT is drawn from the work of photographer Alexis Chabala and pays homage to some of the legends of black music, from Femi and Seun Kuti, Larry Graham and George Clinton to today’s freshest talent, including Akala, Anderson Paak and Laura Mvula.

Other photography events throughout the summer include the SONY WORLD PHOTOGRAPHY AWARDS and of course the annual extravaganza which is PHOTO LONDON, displaying the work of the finest photographic artists working today. Elsewhere, Somerset House residents the Association of Illustrators present the WORLD ILLUSTRATION AWARDS profiling the best new illustration creativity coming out of the UK today.

Saw Mills #1, Lagos, Nigeria, 2016 by Edward Burtynsky/courtesy Metivier Gallery, Toronto/Flowers Gallery, LondonPhoto London 2018 Master of Photography Edward Burtynsky
Saw Mills #1, Lagos, Nigeria, 2016 by Edward Burtynsky/courtesy Metivier Gallery, Toronto/Flowers Gallery, London

Many of the artists, exhibitions and events in the annual programme reveal what it means to be a modern, significant and uncompromising creative whose work challenges perception and social and artistic values. These are the values that are reflected across the Somerset House community. It’s inspiring to be drawing together such a varied, diverse programme across so many media and disciplines and we can’t wait to share with you the incredible breadth of creative talent which calls Somerset House home.