Midnight Running to Explore Cultural Value

On the 18th August I will be participating in probably the most intriguing midnight work I have ever done. I will be joining the Midnight Runners to explore my Modes of Cultural Value (explained in this previous blog post Cultural Value and Impact). I am working with Inua Ellams (Writer/graphic arts/poet/performer) and also David Slater (Director at Entelechy Arts) within the Creative Futures programme at Kings Cultural Institute.

What is the Midnight Run?

In the Midnight motto, ‘star’ can be taken literally, or as a metaphor for art, artists, experiences and the people in the shadow of the city, in which case it takes on a beauty and importance:

The Midnight Run //
Cause we can't see stars for fumes
we turn to smashed glass, believing
shards shine like constellations do.

Inua Ellams x


The Midnight Run is a journey of discovery through London at night over 12 hours, from 6pm to 6am. It is the creative brainchild of Inua Ellams (a Word & Graphic artist), he describes it's conception here:
One autumn evening in 2005, a friend and I lost patience waiting for a bus and on a whim decided to walk the bus’s route. Six hours later we’d drifted across London from Battersea to Chelsea, Victoria, Vauxhall, the west end into the small hours of the morning. Surprised at how fresh and energised we felt, marvelling at the deserted streets of the city, without its hustle and bustle: the peace and tranquility of a deserted Oxford street, being able to glance up without fear of hitting or being hit by something, discovering beautiful side streets, small courtyards, parks, I recreated it in summer the following year, for 12 hours, from 6pm to 6 am and The Midnight Run was born.

and it is very well described by Sana A. Malik a past Midnight Runner:

Ellams has been running the Midnight Run in different UK cities for over five years now, covering different well-known landmarks through a run with the wind nighttime excursion. This is the stuff of urban psychology, perhaps even urban mythology. Except we’re not chasing ghosts here, simply a lost side to a city we come to be strangers with in the day. We’re getting to know it at night, when all its secrets are out and it is at its most exposed. And the taste test seems to work. Soon, our own inhibitions so ready for battle during rush hour on the tube begin to subside. And with them, our ability to play – to interact - and to be in a London that isn’t quite cold and isolated.

Films made of recent Midnight Runs are available here: http://vimeo.com/inuaellams/videos

How will we explore Cultural Value?

I got involved and met Inua and David because of the Creative intersections: artist as citizen and intermediary project, brilliantly led by Jocelyn Cunningham at the Royal Society of Arts, within the Creative Futures programme at Kings Cultural Institute.

David Slater, is Director of Entelechy Arts. Entelechy works with people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to produce high quality theatre, music, dance and video events and performances. Later in September, David and Inua will co-curate a mini-Midnight Run for participants from the Entlechy community.

The artist as citizen and intermediary pilot project sets out to explore a partnership model of mutual enquiry bringing together artists and academics to work alongside each other and the RSA in practical mini-experiments. The questions being raised through these experiments will explore the diverse role of the artist in present day society.

Artist as citizen and intermediary runs from April 2012 to March 2013. Funded by HEIF through the Creative Futures programme at Kings Cultural Institute this project is a collaboration between the RSA, Kings College London and the socially engaged arts community. It forms part of a larger body of work at the RSA under the banner of ‘arts and society’ which explores the arts through the frames of social change, value and place-making.

Cultural Value Experimentation

We seek to curate two journeys across the city. This one for Inua’s established and expanding group of Midnight Runners; and later in September, a mini-one for a group of Entelechy’s more physically frail and isolated elders curated by David and Inua. Two journeys pausing, passing and playing by iconic places and spaces in the city.

The Runs will be given a context and an experimental basis by exploring the themes raised in my framework of five Modes of Cultural Value. We will seek to explore the resonance of specific sites along the journey to those Modes and whether other values emerge as well. The experiment will take the form of qualitative data gathering during the Midnight Runs by me as the Runs pass into the zone of a space or building that epitomises either literally or metaphorically a particular mode of cultural value.

Data gathering will be done through group exercises/games, questioning individual participants informally and by observation. Participants will be offered the chance to add new modes of cultural value to those offered here. I am excited by the opportunity to compare and contrast these participant groups and to ask whether this method of data collection is useful and significant. I understand we have a somewhat random collection of people, that the statistical significance will be low but this form of pilot allows for an element of play, taking a chance, trying something new and experimenting with active participative research methods.

There will also be artists videos created and other creative activities during the Runs will also provide further evidence to be assessed at a later date and used as exemplars.

We will publish more here as things happen and on Inua and David's sites.


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