ORGAN THING: Joshua Compston, East London, closed doors, a visionary, A Fete Worst Than Death, an anniversary exhibition and…

A Fete Worst Than Death 2014 20th anniversary exhibition and fete (striving for a better Woolworths)

hangingpicnicRight now, with East End galleries seemingly retreating and mostly conservatively operating from behind very unobvious unwelcoming uninclusive unfriendly and to some, rather intimidating closed doors, that and things maybe not looking quite so healthy in the east end of London in terms of art spaces where artists themselves can come together and run things themselves, do things on their own terms, make things happen (if they still want to that is?) . Things aren’t look too good in the East End, what with developers grabbing everything, with the swing of the wrecking ball getting closer, with the urbanists and the Foxtonists and those indulging in the business of making money out of artists without really showing that much consideration for the artists making the art – and the apathy, the apathy is the big killer.   Right now we could do with a bit more of the spirit of visionary seemingly almost forgotten.

There’s a certain pleasure in having an open-door (artist-run) gallery type art space, a place smack bang in the middle of an East End street, a room that everyone hopefully feels comfortable coming in to. We have great chats about the art on the walls, about the things going on in the lives of the pensioner who was once a foot model in the 50’s “when it was really different around here and the twins looked after things” or the delivery driver, or the big Rasta who puts his head through the door when he passes and gives us a clench fist salute and yells a deep “Cultivate!” at us, we like it when the passing drivers on the way to the bus station up the road drop in as much as we like those who clutch their art maps and their guide books, or the local kids who say their scared to knock on the doors of the big galleries, I could go on, there really is a pleasure in making art spaces accessible without having to “dumb it down”, a thrill in actually having the people come in and respond in a positive way – a better space for everyone, a better Woolworths maybe? It can be full of meaning, it can be full of challenge, it can be alive with depth, it  doesn’t have to alienate and exclude. something for anyone and everyone… .

“My guns are directed at Modern culture. It needs to be massively reinvented”. Joshua Compston

joshuafrontpieceAh yes, those clutching their East End art gallery maps and guides who come in to places like Cultivate – seems we owe someone a debt of gratitude for his part in that one.  Our paths didn’t cross although we were both doing our thing around the same time, my route after art school took me to the East of London as well, it wasn’t a fashionable area to be back then, it wasn’t cool, if there was a bar, you were probably taking a risk going in.  My route after art school was mostly taken in the back of a transit van sitting on guitar amps, putting out hand made zines, screen printing and spray painting covers, block printing record sleeves, I spent that period making art in other places, painting on streets and mostly staying away from the art galleries, it wasn’t the inviting world open to everyone that it is now, and those occasional exciting looking thing seemed like closed shops. Our paths didn’t cross (although the probably did) seems his influence reached out though, seems he influenced myself and others rather a lot and in a rather positive unselfish door-opening way – things became possible, permission was suddenly not needed, it  wasn’t quite a revolution, that hasn’t happened yet, but the seeds were there, planted, waiting. Appears we might owe Joshua quite a lot, well I might anyway..

And right now, with things getting just a little conservative again, with gallery doors closed more than their open, with galleries being converted to on-line art depots and office spaces run by people who are more like the sickeningly soulless game-playing music business types I encountered back there than people who really care about art or those who make the art (people who seemed in love with the the idea of music business rather than music),  that and a breed of artists coming out of the art schools, playing by the rules and showing a lot less inclination to excite us and do things themselves. Right now we maybe need to direct those guns again, we maybe need to keep some of that vision flowing and make one last stand as the developers (and the Foxton-loving food-eating professional coffee drinking hipsters) finally chase us out?.

If we held a hanging picnic now, would anyone join in? Would anyone be that bothered? Would you be excited enough to make it happen?  It was only last week that a Thought for the Day was posted on the Cultivate blog. News came in earlier today of a Fate Worse Than Death 2014, the news excited, here’s that news…..

Joshua Compston

Joshua Compston


A Fete Worst Than Death 2014 20th anniversary exhibition and fete

“On July 19th 2014, be at the crossroads of Charlotte Road and Rivington Road, EC2 to face ‘A Fete Worse Than Death’. For one day, Rivington Street will be closed to mark the 20th anniversary of a landmark event kick starting an exhibition hosted by Red Gallery.

Before the hipsters, before the boutiques, before the bars, in a then derelict part of the East End, Joshua Compston’s decision to open an art gallery on Charlotte Road and stage collaborative street events re-drew the artistic and cultural map of London and the contemporary art scene. For Joshua Compston (1970 – 1996), life was a special kind of nonsense: Factual Nonsense. Seen by some as the romantic martyr of his generation and by others, as a prankster, sending up the art establishment, Compston’s gallery ‘Factual Nonsense’ (FN) was quite unlike any other. 


The 20th anniversary exhibition of ‘A Fete Worse Than Death’ hosted by Red Gallery and Red Market, will allow artists the chance to reclaim the area for a day whilst giving the public a rare opportunity to see and buy early artworks made by the YBAs before they were famous. There will be a painting by Gary Hume painted on a local warehouse wall for Joshua in 1994 as well as original memorabilia from the Fete & Factual Nonsense gallery – sold in aid of the Joshua Compston memorial fund and assisting in raising money for a memorial to be erected in Hoxton Square.

Factual Nonsense book coverThe Fete will run from 8pm then until midnight at Red Gallery and Rivington Street on 19th July 2014 with twelve hours of live performances at both the street Fete and the gallery venue. The exhibition will continue at the gallery until 31st July 2014. There will be a special evening reception with guest speakers at the Red Gallery on 30th July to mark the actual day of the 20th anniversary of the Fete”.

Both the Fete and the gallery will feature works by Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Angus Fairhirst, Gary Hume, David Taborn, Sam Crabtree, Darren Coffield, Gilian Wearing, Georgie Hopton, Jessica Voorsanger, Bob and Roberta Smith, Brendan Quick, Paul Sakoilsky, Mat Collishaw, Sarah Staton, Simon Bill. Gavin Turk, Sir Peter Blake, Gordon Faulds, Sam Taylor-Wood, Max Wigram, Andrew Herman, Mick Kerr, Cedric Christie, Zebedee Helm and many many more.

The exhibition will be curated by Darren Coffield (artist), Alice Herrick (artist and director of Herrick Gallery) and Sam Walker (artist and co-director at CHART gallery).

Coffield spent four years compiling a biography ‘Factual Nonsense, The Art And Death Of Joshua Compston’ on his art school friend. As Coffield explains:

‘’The book & exhibition came about because it seemed incredulous that this unique and brilliant individual who was one of the main driving forces in the regeneration of Hoxton and Shoreditch should be totally forgotten whilst others claim credit for his ideas.’’


Factual Nonesense website
Darren Coffield website

Joshua Compston



Question is, If we held a hanging picnic now, would anyone join in? Would anyone be that bothered? Would you be excited enough to make it happen? Maybe? There was a bit of it at the Chinese Open back at the start of the year wasn’t there? Or the Art Car Boot Fair? or at Hackney Wicked the year before the Olympics? You would wouldn’t you? You certainly can’t find it behind the closed doors or the galleries with no signs ot that gallery in Vyner Street they just offensively converted to office space and an internet art selling operation…

My guns are directed at current art culture, East London apathy and the taking of it all for granted. it/we need to be massively reinvigorated.  Factual Nonsense, twenty years on, excites, and no it is all apathy, there is still excitement, but you need to fight for it, treasure it, keep it going….  Exciting times, but only if you really want them to be, do you?



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