• Aberrant-architecture-small-coal-man_s-travelling-theatre

    Aberrant Architecture’s plans

  • Artemide-solar-tree-designed-by-ross-lovegrove

    Ross Lovegrove: Solar Tree (impression)

  • Cdw-2012-banner

    This year’s Clerkenwell Design Week banner

  • Crypt-at-order-of-st-john_s-priory---copyright-museum-of-the-order-of-st-john

    The Crypt at Order of St John’s Priory, a new venue this year)

  • Tekio-by-anthony-dickens

    Anthony Dicken: Teiko on show at the festival

Aberrant Architecture: The Small Coal Man's Travelling Theatre

Posted by Rob Alderson,

The plans for May’s Clerkenwell Design Week were unveiled yesterday, and alongside exhibitions in a host of atmospheric locations (including an underground Victorian prison and a church crypt), an installation of Ross Lovegrove’s Solar Tree and a pop-up gin bar (yes please) it was something very different that caught our eye. Aberrant Architecture (aka David Chambers and Kevin Haley) are creating a tiny theatre topped with coal scuttles as a tribute to one of London’s most colourful characters, coal man-cum-ramshackle entertainment impresario Thomas Britton.

In 1678 Britton set up a miniscule concert hall on top of his coal-shed, using reclaimed materials from his rounds and complete with a working organ. He attracted patrons from all sections of London society, and performers ranged from amateur acts given their debuts to Handel (yes that one) who played what David calls a “one-off gig” there.

“We are going to reawaken this story for Clerkenwell Design Week 2012, reawaken the maverick mind of Briton,” David added.

Inspired they say by the intimate atmospheres of peepshows and confessional booths, their theatre will seat two to six people with the audience facing each other and the performer in the middle. The roof will be made of old coal scuttles, the windows will double as peep holes and there will be fold-down tables attached to the walls with beer and ice cream for sale.

“We want it to have an amateur warmth, even though you know it’s been designed,” Kevin said. “We were inspired by Peter Ackroyd who talks about embedding a narrative into the architecture.”

History plays a part in Gen Lane, a pop-up gin bar in the Farmiloe Building, which is looking to reform William Hogarth’s damning indictment of the spirit in his Gin Lane print, but elsewhere the focus will be on the new.

Barber and Osgerby will be giving a talk about how this year’s Olympic Torch came into being, complete with working drawings and prototypes, and Ross Lovegrove’s elegant street light/installation Solar Tree makes its first ever appearance in London too.


Posted by Rob Alderson

Editor-in-Chief Rob oversees editorial across all three It’s Nice That platforms; online, print and events. He has a background in newspaper journalism and a particular interest in art, advertising and photography. He is the main host of the Studio Audience podcast.