To celebrate the end of a great year for culture, both in the UK and abroad, we’ve decided to share some of our personal highlights. For this, our final entry, we turn our gaze to discoveries for the team.
2017 proved an adventurous year for BOP. Kicking off, we have Sofar Sounds. Conceived back in 2009 in a front room in West London, it aims to take music performance back to intimate roots by hosting small performances within unconventional spaces – anything from a private front room and a brewery, to a gym and a church. Now in over 350 cities worldwide and boasting three shows every night of the week in London alone, this movement is growing exponentially. A fantastic way to hear (and Instagram) international singers (see here their Give A Home event), as well as unsigned emerging acts, we love how it brings back the joy of live performance to thousands (of millennials) across the world – especially given the rate music venues are closing in London. With the Roundhouse hosting their very own Sofar Sounds event last month, as well as numerous museums signing up, could this be an interesting new tactic for bringing new and younger audiences into cultural venues?
We’re big fans of podcasts here at BOP. First, we have the fantastic Song Exploder - a series where musicians deconstruct one of their own songs each week, giving you an inside view of how some of your favourite songs came together. Next, Still Processing - hosted by NYTimes culture critic, Wesley Morris and technology reporter, Jenna Wortham, each episode uses the week’s biggest pop culture headlines for fascinating larger discussions about politics, race and society at large. And finally, 99% Invisible – a series focused on all that goes into the things we don’t think about; the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world. Still available to listen, we strongly recommend the two podcasts (here and here) ‘Usonia’ on Frank Lloyd Wright. Prior to becoming one of the most well-known architects in the world, Wright created a small and inexpensive yet beautiful house. This modest home would go on to shape the way working and middle class Americans live to this day – with Wright starting a movement he called Usonia. He imagined Usonia would become a nation of modest but well made, well designed beautiful homes for the working and middle-classes. He believed that the architecture of Usonia would prove that architecture could shape culture – that design could make the world a better place.
This year was also a great year for discovering new places. As well as the beautiful Slovenian capital Ljubljana and it’s nearby Lake Bled (other great suggestions found on Jen Reviews here), we discovered Farm Cultural Park in Favara, Sicilia. Founded in 2010, Farm Cultural Park managed to transform the remote and semi-abandoned city centre of Favara into an incredibly active and creative town. The organisation is now a buzzing cultural centre, featuring exhibitions, workshops, concerts and events. In the last few years the cultural centre played a central role in the renovation of the city’s economy, bringing tourists in and making residents willing to live in the city again.
Next, the Junibacken Museum in Stockholm. Inspired by Astrid Lindgrin, the Swedish author of the much loved Pippy Longstocking books amongst others, Junibacken is a children’s cultural centre with books at its heart. Not a conventional museum or visitor attraction, the centre uses books and their familiar characters to encourage creativity and imagination. This is achieved through exhibitions and theatre performances, with 1,600 performances a year and the largest children’s bookshop in Sweden. Interestingly, all the profits they make go back into their activities, receiving no state subsidy and are financed completely from their own earnings.
Carrying on with the literature theme, we had two notable book discoveries. First, Lionel Shriver’s The Mandibles - a fast-paced story of an American family over the years 2029 to 2047. With the public administration in chaos, the descent and indignities that it entails feels worryingly plausible in our Trump era. Yet Shriver injects humour and even hope into this grim narrative. Albeit the jokes are mordent and hope only resides in people trusting one another, rather than distant, self-serving institutions, we very much enjoyed its laughs and lessons, while crossing our fingers that the future isn’t as bleak. Second, Ariel Levy’s new memoir The Rules Do Not Apply - an incredibly well-written memoir by the New Yorker writer that serves as a reminder that nothing in life goes according to plan – and that that’s ultimately ok.
A final discovery to mention is The Music Wall in Wolverhampton – a city BOP has a long history of working with. Catching the eye of the unsuspecting passer-by, you are confronted with images of records by famous Black Country artists, each with a QR code that lets you listen to the track. We loved this approach to sharing the rich musical heritage of the area.