Shoeshine Stories – Bloomsbury Institute London

Shoeshine Stories

Tuesday 11th December 2018

Over the past year we’ve been running a very special project, one you may not expect to see at an institute specialising in business, accounting and law…

We’ve always encouraged creativity in our students, and there’s nothing we want more than students to feel they have the freedom and space to really unleash their imagination. What better way to do this, we thought, than launch an Artist in Residence programme.

Finding the right person to lead this project took time, but back in July 2017, we were very happy to welcome Fiddian Warman to our community. Fiddian is the founder and director of the Society of Digital Artists (SoDA) and has worked on an enormous range of creative projects.

Here’s more about how the programme has been getting along from the man himself…

‘I started my residency at Bloomsbury Institute by having a series of conversations with students, guild members, and staff. Basically whoever would talk to me!

Straight away I was impressed by the energy, passion and diversity of the community here. The fact that many students had unconventional and often difficult paths into higher education seemed, to me, a big factor in what makes the university experience at Bloomsbury Institute so life-enhancing.

Even though I myself have not had a straightforward education and career path, I was very conscious that I had a pretty privileged, middle-class start in life. This was also at a time when there was so much more stability in the country and far more opportunity for progression. I felt I’d had it easy.

The combination of this and many other factors inspired me to capture some of the student’s passions to help transform the physical environment of the institute. I had learned that the Student Hub in Dilke House was to be refitted, so with the support of many people including Cal Courtney, Director of SEWS and Rabii Mounsif, Head of Estates we agreed that the Artist in Residence project would play a part in this refit.

The conversations and thoughts that arose suggested ideas around some kind of ‘act of service’, as well as providing a way to permanently mark these conversations. From these ideas, the concept of ‘Shoeshine Stories’ evolved.

In essence, the project involved building a physical shoeshine stand that records conversations, enabling me to clean people’s shoes in exchange for stories. Selected fragments of those conversations were then immortalised by transferring the text onto desktops, screens, cabinets and tabletops in the Student Hub.

We also used a vinyl cutting machine to cut out some of the Shoeshine Stories and display them with quotes from other luminaries such Maya Angelou. In this way the ‘student voice’ became part of the fabric of one of Bloomsbury Institute’s key buildings.

As well as helping transform the Student Hub I very much hope the Shoeshine stand will continue to be used and build an ever expanding library of Bloomsbury Institute stories.’