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Tuesday, 10 December 2013

What makes Kilburn Kilburn?

In Kilburn, a "tiny, experimental university" is offering free classes for people seeking to understand what makes this area of north-west London what it is.

Tom Keeley, speaking at the Space: A Social Agenda symposium in Ballymena in October. Photo: David Bunting.

Tom Keeley, a writer, researcher, educator and publisher, spoke at a symposium called Space: A Social Agenda in Ballymena in October. The symposium was jointly produced by PLACE with the Braid Arts Centre and Marianne O'Kane Boal.

At the symposium, Keeley presented a new Spacemakers project he's running called Learning from Kilburn.

"It was kind of inspired by this group in the late 30s in Britain called Mass Observation," he said. "They were about the anthropology of ourselves, so they would get members of the public to document and study the everyday - and kind of celebrate it.

"The aim is that it will gather this sort of subjective, wooly, warm data that someone like the Council maybe can't capture because they can't have that frank conversation with the public without getting shouted at about the bins.

"We'll take people on a path looking very closely at the different layers of the place. A strength of it is that everything you want to learn is on your doorstep."

Keeley and other speakers at the symposium (including Torange Khorsani of Public Works, Richard Harris from Upstart and Tara Kennedy and Joanne Butler from Culturstruction) will appear in the upcoming second episode of our Place-Making Podcast.

More info on Learning from Kilburn below:

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Spacemakers opens Learning From Kilburn: a tiny, experimental university concerned with the study of Kilburn, London NW6
Photo: Spacemakers/Theo Simpson
Learning From Kilburn is an alternative university, using the local area as both curriculum and campus. The university offers free classes that aim to understand what makes Kilburn Kilburn.
Each class will ask a single question, including ‘What does Kilburn wear?’, ‘Where does Kilburn start?’, ‘Where does Kilburn live?’, ‘What does it feel like to be regenerated?’, and ‘Does Kilburn even exist?’. The university is now open, and will run initially until March 2014.
Learning From Kilburn is a Spacemakers project, directed by Tom Keeley, funded by the London Boroughs of Brent and Camden, and produced in collaboration with OK-RM and Pernilla Ohrstedt Studio.
Spacemakers has commissioned a series of architects, artists, writers and thinkers to lead classes. Tutors include artist and sculptor Richard Wentworth, Suzanne Hall (LSE Cities), the Mass Observation Archive, UCL Urban Laboratory, AOC Architecture and photographers Preston is my Paris.
Learning From Kilburn aims to leave local people better equipped at looking at Kilburn in a qualified, not lay, way. The university is inspired by the Venturi/Scott-Brown study Learning from Las Vegas; Cedric Price's Potteries Thinkbelt; Christopher Alexander's A Pattern Language; and the Mass Observation Archive at the University of Sussex, where the research collated over the two terms will find a permanent home.
Tom Keeley, who is directing the project for Spacemakers, says: "At a time when formal education is becoming prohibitively expensive for many, Learning From Kilburn asks if there is a significant amount to be learnt right on your doorstep, both in the physical environment that surrounds you, and in the knowledge contained in the minds of people in the area. The university presents an alternative educational model, elevating the everyday of Kilburn to something worthy of study."
"The university is about looking closely at ourselves and our surroundings, the physical, historical, political and social, in order to reach potential futures for Kilburn. The alumni, data and research can inform future decision making in the area."
Classes take place in a range of venues on and around Kilburn High Road. The equipment for the university, designed by Pernilla Ohrstedt Studio, is flexible enough to inhabit a variety of different spaces. Pernilla Ohrstedt says: "The unrolling classroom set we have designed can be deployed instantly to form a functional and contrasting backdrop to the classes, be it in an empty shop front, under a railway arch, or in the Tin Tabernacle, a corrugated metal structure home to the Kilburn Sea Cadets. The kit is made from appropriated photographers’ C-stands, infinity paper rolls, and chalkboard paints, and includes two tilting tables-cum-blackboards, and a chalk A board in hyperlink blue."
The identity for the university has been designed by OK-RM. Rory McGrath of OK-RM comments: "The visual identity is built from a series of templates each designated to communicate specific content associated with the programme. A natural rhythm of activity becomes clear through the daily, weekly, monthly use of these templates, evoking a sense of order but also experiment (the critical ideas at the heart of the university). At the centre of this identity programme is a calendar, it fills the role usually occupied by a logo. Its application is various and dynamic able to communicate the dates of individual events, as well as the entire length of the university’s existence. It can be applied to printed, digital and spatial contexts. It, like the entire idea of the university, is based in resourcefulness: maximising a relatively small budget for maximum impact."

Project website: learningfromkilburn.com
Project Twitter: twitter.com/learningkilburn

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