ANGELS: THE WORLD’S LONGEST RUNNING COSTUMIERS

company, Uncategorized

Angel Costumes is the longest running costumier company in the world, originally being founded in 1840 by Morris Angel. The original shop was in Seven Dials, North London, selling second-hand suits and samples from Savile Row, as well as supplying military and service uniforms, before moving into an outfits for hire business model, supplying actors and eventually film studios and design companies with custom made costumes for over 100 years. Historically, costume designers where perceived to be culturally low-brow garment makers in the early days of Hollywood when compared to the Parisian couture fashion houses (Munich, 2011), something that is particularly ironic given Alexander McQueen’s previous employment with the company credited as influencing his later work.

44-dudley-st-1860-shop

The original shop-front in Seven Dials, 1860

However, the company remains in London and is still over-seen by the Angel family to this day, with the current chairman, Tim Angel OBE, taking over the position from his late father with the company reaching an £11 million turn over in 2014 alone. Angel Costumes has the largest collection of costumes in Europe, with over 8 miles of clothing lines housing them, at carefully set and controlled temperatures. From Star Wars and Moulin Rouge to Wes Anderson’s recent whimsical hit The Grand Budapest Hotel, Angel Costumes have worked with Hollywood since the early days of film, as well as in TV, theatre and private costume hire.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As a result, the company has been credited as being ‘instrumental to the success of several Oscar nominated films’, helping a total of 35 to win best costume design awards (Armstrong, 2015). The company were consequently awarded the British outstanding contribution to cinema BAFTA at the 2016 awards, and are recognised in the media as one of many British creative companies behind huge Hollywood blockbusters including special effects, hair and makeup businesses.

The company also run a government funded apprenticeship scheme, and have been ranked among the top 100 apprentice employers in the UK. Much like networking, schemes such as these can be seen to mitigate against the risk often associated with creative sectors, especially as government strategies to counter them are decreasing over time, with more pressure placed on the individual to secure their employment in a sector ‘embedded within the unique working practices and forms of (dis)organisation characteristic to the fashion, music, design and promotions industries’ (Banks et al, 2000:455).

Many emerging ethnographic studies are focusing on ‘new micro-business’, such as start-ups, characterised by their intermittent and un-guaranteed work, irregular working hours and reliance on social networks (Gill and Pratt, 2008:14). However, in many ways Angels’ subverts this ‘precarious’ view of creative industries due both to its age as a company, and its survival as a family business (Gill and Pratt, 2008). Its continued success is also arguably due to the companies’ ability to adapt to the changing market, with each generation of Angel seeing a sea-change in the industry as online subscription services, such as Netflix, producing new original content become the newest customers ‘knocking on the doors’.

 

References

Armstrong, A. (10/10/2015) From Star Wars to modern day Macbeth: 175 years of dressing stage and screen at Angels, The Telegraph

Banks, M., Lovatt, A., O’Connor, J., Raffo, C. (2000) Risk and trust in the cultural industries, Geoform, 31: 453-464

Gill, R., Pratt, A. (2008) In the Social Factory?: Immaterial labour, precariousness and cultural work, Theory Culture Society, 25(1):1-30

Munich, A. (2011) Fashion in Film, Indiana University Press, Bloomingdale, Indianapolis.

 Further Reading

http://clothesonfilm.com/behind-the-scenes-angels-the-costumers/24939/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/yourbusiness/9363189/Angels-to-help-UKs-creative-start-ups-to-spread-wings.html

http://time.com/3710929/oscars-2015-costumes-angels-costumiers-london/

http://www.fancydress.com/pages/about-us

 

MAKING CREATIVITY: ‘HOW TO MAKE IT IN THE CREATIVE INDUSTRIES’ i-D MAGAZINE

article

001-450x315

Tish Weinstock’s article, ‘How to make it in the creative industries’ appeared in i-D magazine detailing the lengths people are increasingly forced to go in order to ‘get their foot in the door’ of the creative industries, as well as offering tips to those aspiring for a creative career. The article discusses internships as one of the most effective ways to kick-start a career within the creative economy, citing the importance of networking and originality. i-D magazine’s transformation from its own humble origins as an 80s fanzine dedicated to all things punk-rock, to its current glossy publications as a subsidiary of Vice entertainment, are given as a point of inspiration with the recommendation to participate in largely unpaid ventures like unofficial publications and blogs. All of this goes some way to illustrating the often hard graft people go through to secure a position, contradicting the ‘utopian presentation of creative work’ within policy and media discourses (Banks and Hesmondhalg, 2009:417).

id7

The struggles of obtaining an internship in the first place are also discussed, illustrating the ‘instability and insecurity of creative work’ right from the beginning of people’s careers (Banks, 2009:425). Although not discussed in the article, the creative sector has repeatedly been accused of having a lack of diversity, with evidence to suggest that ‘internships are not distributed evenly between socio-economic groups’ (Banks, 2009:424). This lack of diversity is arguably perpetuated by the increasing amount of unpaid internships, with over 100 companies currently being investigated by HMRC.

Despite this, once you have successfully managed to obtain the elusive internship, the article offers advise on how to get noticed. The importance of networking is heavily stressed, as in so many how-to guides regarding the creative industries, with the importance of befriending people across different departments as well finding kindred spirits in other interns as opportunities to start new businesses on the side, all ways of ‘bringing something fresh’ to the placement. Networks are seen as mitigating against the instability of work within the creative industries as friends and acquaintances offer opportunities for employment (Kong, 2000) with the need to establish yourself as dependable crucial to building this safety net (Kong, 2005). Despite this, it is often these networks that are criticised for facilitating nepotism and cronyism, restricting diversity.

 

 

The article advises creative hot-spots such as Soho in London as great starting points for making connections, with humorous suggestions of ‘going to some rotting warehouse in Peckham where the wild things lurk in strange art collectives’ illustrating the often Implicit link made between urban areas and ‘creative milieus’ encompassing ‘diverse and complex prompts, ideas, trends and fashions’ (Drake, 2002:515). Aside from the built environment, the internet is identified as a crucial platform of networking, particularly for those living outside of cities. The variety of sectors within the creative industry, which increasingly overlap (Norcliffe and Rendance, 2003), means that technology and online spaces are important for communication, allowing networking to take place across scales and between time zones (Drake, 2002).

 

 References

Banks, M. and Hesmondhalgh, D. (2009) Looking for work in creative industries policy, International Journal of Cultural Policy, 15(4): 415-430

Drake, G. (2002) ‘This place gives me space’: place and creativity in the creative industries, 34: 511-524

Norcliffe, G., Rendance, O. (2003) New Geographies of Comic Book Production in North America: The New Artisan, Distancing and the periodic Social Economy, Economic Geography, 79(3): 241-263

Kong, L. (2000) Culture, economy, policy: trends and developments, Geoforum, 31: 385-390

Kong, L. (2005) THE SOCIALITY OF CULTURAL INDUSTRIES: Hong Kong’s cultural policy and film industry, International Journal of Cultural Policy, 11(1): 61-76

Further Reading

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/universityeducation/student-life/10526412/Student-life-getting-into-the-creative-industries.html

https://i-d.vice.com/en_gb/article/do-degrees-matter-in-creative-industries

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jul/09/unpaid-internships-should-be-banned-to-build-diversity-in-publishing

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/emily-buchanan/creative-industry-jobs_b_2648193.html

OBEYING THE SYSTEM: SHEPARD FAIREY

maker

Shepard Fairey, an alumnus of the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, is an American artist and graphic designer best known for his visually striking stickers, posters and ‘Obey’ clothing line. Fairey initially specialised as a silk-screen printer, owning his own small print shop from which he sold his work, before gaining recognition as a street artist in the 1980s due to his widely dispersed stencil of Andre the Giant across LA and other U.S. cities. It was the viral nature of this work, long before the Internet, which earned Fairey acknowledgment within underground art movements, and thus identified him as a member of ‘the contemporary lowbrow art community’ (Sturken, 2007:174).

AndreTheGiantSticker

‘Andre the Giant Has a Posse’ sticker

Despite experiencing commercial successes outside of street art, through commissions from Pepsi and other companies, it wasn’t until 2008 that his popularity soared due to his now renowned ‘Hope’ poster for Obama’s presidential campaign. Although the image wasn’t originally commissioned, a revised version was later adopted and endorsed by the campaign, leading to Fairey’s hiring for the official inauguration poster (Sturken, 2009). Much like Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick’s Che Guevara portrait, the ‘Hope’ poster carries substantial cultural weight being instantly recognisable, widely circulated and continuously reworked and parodied by artists and the public. The poster’s success even earned Fairey recognition in helping Obama’s successful campaign and his appointment as Time magazines ‘Person of the Year 2008’.

Despite this, the Associated Press sued Fairey over his use of a photograph of Obama as the basis for the poster, the case being exemplary of ‘a contest of image ownership rights in an era of escalating reproducibility’ (Sturken, 2007:173). His work as a street artist on ‘the edges of legality’ (McAuliffe, 2012:189), have also lead to Detroit council issuing a warrant for Fairey’s arrest, citing ‘malicious damage to property’ caused by graffiti. This is particularly ironic given Fairey’s recent commissioned 18-story art-piece on a tower block in Detroit, exemplifying ‘the sometimes arbitrary separation of graffiti from street art by metropolitan agencies’ (McAuliffe, 2012:190).

Fairey was introduced on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert as ‘an artist and activist’, claiming that he employs an ‘inside/outside strategy’ allowing him ‘to infiltrate the system’ and bring visual art to the streets, rather than in ‘elitist’ galleries. In this way, Fairey arguably employs ‘a cultivation of flexible identities’ with his activism, using the system to project his ideas and criticisms of it (Chatterton and Pickerill, 2010: 487). However, this ‘Covert to Overt’ strategy has lead to some criticisms from his peers, with his clothing line and other commercial endeavours often a point of contention. Despite this, from his arrests to his work being showcased at the Smithsonian, ‘Fairey is emblematic of a new kind of cultural producer, at home with brand culture and political activism simultaneously’ (Sturken, 2009:169).

 

 

References

Chatterton, P. and Pickerill, J. (2010) Everyday activism and transitions towards post-capitalist worlds, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, NS(35): 475-490

McAuliffe, C. (2012) Graffiti or street art? Negotiating the moral geographies of the creative city, Journal of Urban Affairs, 34(2): 189-206

Sturken, M. (2007) Obama and Shepard Fairey: The Copy and Political Iconography in the Age of the Demake, Journal of Visual Culture, 8(2): 172-176

Sturken, M. (2009) The New Aesthetics of Patriotism, Journal of Visual Culture, 8(2): 168-172

Further Reading

http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/interviews/a35288/shepard-fairey-street-art-obama-hope-poster

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/7872253.stm

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2008/nov/10/barackobama-usa

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/oct/16/shepard-fairey-my-goal-was-to-make-art-by-any-means-necessary

 

DROWNING IN IMMERSIVE THEATRE: THE DROWNED MAN

Uncategorized

The-Drowned-Man_for-website_edited-12.jpg

Punchdrunk are a British theatre company founded in 2000 by Felix Barrett, a University of Exeter graduate, who are often cited as pioneers of site-specific, immersive theatre productions (Alston, 2013:127). The only real constraint on audiences is the requirement to wear masks in order to distinguish them from performers, otherwise they are free to explore labyrinthine sets, often constructed within disused urban spaces, with the freedom to choose where to go, what to do and what to watch.

masks.jpg

I was fortunate enough to have seen their latest production, The Drowned Man, during its limited run in London which occupied a huge Paddington warehouse, sprawling across five floors, set within the fictional ‘Temple Studios’, with visual motifs borrowed from the likes of David Lynch scattered around the performance space, from the chequered floors to the dreamy music. It is maybe not surprising then that the production received an almost cult-like following with blogs dedicated to finding all of the hidden rooms, clues and secret performances as well as collaborative Spotify playlists, where any music heard during the three-hour show could be added.

Punchdrunk’s artistic director compared the experience of the Drowned Man with that of the hugely popular, open world video game Skyrim, in that the sprawling set encourages audiences to be active in their participation without the need to be “spoon-fed”. This comparison between immersive theatre and gaming is nothing new, with one Guardian article citing ‘the balance between scripted-events and audience freedom’ as key to the unique experiences immersive theatre can provide. The gaming industry have also made note of and capitalised on these similarities. Sony hired Punchdrunk to create a short post-apocalyptic production in disused tunnels under Waterloo Station as a promotional event for fans and press to experience a ‘prequel’ to events in the video game Resistance 3. Similarly, a project funded by Arts Council England between Punchdrunk and MIT has been set up in an experimental venture to combine gaming and theatre, with these cross-overs and collaborations between different sectors within the creative industries increasing (Papaioannou, 2014:163), perhaps in part due to a need for companies ‘to innovate in sourcing alternative financial means.’ (Alston, 2012; Jakob, 2015).

The success of The Drowned Man, and of Punchdrunk itself, have arguably been facilitated by the rise of the ‘event-economy’ and ‘experience industry’, which capitalize on selling these unique experiences (Alston, 2013; Pine and Gilmore, 1991). The Drowned Man was most certainly an ‘event’ with its limited run creating a sense of exclusivity for those who managed to snag tickets, as well as encouraging those who could to visit multiple times in order to explore things they may have missed first time round, thus encouraging audiences to ‘work for your experience’.  This sense of social capital that could be gained from having been is even echoed in Punchdrunk’s elusive and often fairly vague marketing strategies, such as a pop up caravan set piece in Paddington Station, which promote a sense of having to be ‘in-the-know’ about the company.

 

References

Alston, A. (2013) Audience Participation and Neoliberal Value: Risk, agency and responsibility in immersive theatre, A Journal of the Performing Arts, 18(2): 128-138

Pine, J. and Gilmore, J. (1991) Welcome to the Experience Economy

Papaioannou, S. (2014) Immersion, ‘smooth’ spaces and critical voyeurism in the work of Punchdrunk, Studies in Theatre and Performance, 34(2): 160-174

Alston, A. (2012) Funding, product placement and drunkenness in Punchdrunk’s ‘The Black Diamond’, Studies in Theatre and Performance, 32(2): 193-208

 Jakob, D. (2015) The eventification of place: Urban development and experience consumption in Berlin and New York City, European Urban and Regional Studies, 20(4): 447-459

Further Reading

http://www.theguardian.com/stage/punchdrunk

https://theotherbridgeproject.wordpress.com/2013/03/25/punchdrunk-is-back-in-town-but-the-drowned-man-comes-at-a-steep-price/

http://www.rmg.co.uk/see-do/exhibitions-events/past/against-captains-orders

http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/funding/apply-funding/funding-programmes/regular-funding-for-organisations/

http://creativeconomy.britishcouncil.org/blog/14/03/14/how-make-theatre-dangerous-felix-barrett/

 

GRAND THEFT AUTO V. THE ALL-AMERICAN, GREAT BRITISH EXPORT

product

gta v blog post

Grand Theft Auto V (GTA), the latest iteration of the long-running franchise, broke a total of six Guinness World Records upon its release, earning ‘$800 million’ in its first 24 hours of sales. Forbes  compared the game’s economic success with that of Hollywood, concluding that GTA V ‘beat the three biggest film launches of all time by 16 days’, making it the most successful entertainment property in history. Despite its huge global success, GTA as a product had a relatively humble, and somewhat rocky, beginning in Dundee where it was first conceived by the then small British company DMA Design Ltd. in 1997.

Bank_(GTA1)

Grand Theft Auto, 1997

However, it wasn’t until DMA-Design became Rockstar in the early 2000s that brothers Sam and Dan Houser took up the mantle, ushering in its era as a global gaming-sensation. The games ‘open world’ design, allowing players to explore seemingly endless city landscapes, was regarded as a revolutionary move within the industry that has since given rise to a series of ‘grand theft auto clones’ following the same format. Both DMA-Design and Rockstar are now subsidiaries of the conglomerate Take-Two Interactive, a hallmark of many creative industries (Hesmondhough, 2005:10).

The game’s conception was supposedly a humorous critique of American culture with the look and feel of different cities within the game, San Andrea, Liberty City and Vice City, based on San Francisco, New York and Miami respectively, with the latter drawing inspiration from 80’s American films Scar Face and Miami Vice. However, controversies regarding the game’s content resulted in fierce backlash from politicians such as Hilary Clinton, to vocal anti-GTA campaigner Jack Thompson, an American lawyer whose ongoing crusade against the Houser brothers was recently adapted into a BBC drama.

Despite Rockstar’s uneasy relationship with politicians and press, it’s frequently cited within creative-economy policy as an exemplar of British ingenuity, gaming prowess and heralded as an international financial success story. Arts Council England  argues for the need to encourage the ‘next generation of Grand Theft Auto creators’ with the ‘Digital Britain’ report announcing tax-breaks promoting sales of games considered ‘culturally British’ (2009:18). This support only seems to be increasing, with a 2016 report identifying gaming as a sector whose growth should be promoted given its current GVA of £1.7bn.

In many ways GTA V transcends ‘product’ boundaries. Its use as an ISIS recruitment tool  is a more sinister side to its success that’s not only testament to its cultural weight, but also to the blurred lines between creative industries and other sectors with growing recognition of ‘multiple geographies of cultural production’ (Norcliffe,2003:260). Contention of what the creative industries is considered to be also changes, particularly since the 1950s when ‘cultural policies conceived of culture narrowly as the ‘pre-electronic arts’ (Kong, 2000:386). Given GTA’s success and the industry’s contribution of £1 billion to UK GDP, there is a definite need to stop regarding video-games ‘as lower forms of art’ (Curtis,2013), but whether gaming could ever be considered a new frontier of high culture remains to be seen.

 

 

References

Curtis, S. (2013), http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/video-games/10316267/GTA-5-a-Great-British-export.html, accessed 03/02/2016

DeVane, B., Squire, K.D. (2008) The meaning of Race and Violence in Grand Theft Auto, Games and Culture, 3(3-4): 264-285

Hesmondhough, D., Pratt, A.C. (2005) Cultural industries and cultural policy, International Journal of Cultural Policy, 11(1): 1-14

Norcliffe, G., Rendance, O. (2003) New Geographies of Comic Book Production in North America: The New Artisan, Distancing and the periodic Social Economy, Economic Geography, 79(3): 241-263

Kong, L. (2000) Culture, economy, policy: trends and developments, Geoform, 31pp. 385-390

Scott, A.J. (2000). The Cultural Economy of Cities: Essays on the Geography of Image-Producing Industries. California: Sage Publications

Further Reading

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-35337837

www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2013/09/20/grand-theft-auto-v-crosses-1b-in-sales

http://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2014/09/20/isis-uses-gta-5-in-new-teen-recruitment-video/#3d22a04e3d29

www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/oct/12/uk-video-game-industry-gets4m-funding-boost.

www.parliament.uk/buisness/committees-a-z/commons-select/scottish-affairs-committee/news-parliament-2015/creative-industries-report

http://blog.artscouncil.org.uk/blog/arts-council-england-blog/blueprint-creative-industries

http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/news/2013/10/confirmed-grand-theft-auto-breaks-six-sales-world-records-51900/