This week Liv Siddall presents the top five aspects we think truly make a really great student degree show, but have we missed anything out? All comments welcome in this seasonal Opinion piece…
“It’s the time, of the season, when the love runs high” sang the Zombies in 1968. They were actually referring to the mating season rather than the degree show season, but in many ways they’re pretty similar. All over the country at this time of year, thousands of art and design students set about organising their final shows, something that after three years of hard work can feel incredibly important – apocalyptic even.
With over 500 art and design university courses in the UK, all clamouring to book venues and get everything ready for the big day, stress levels can get pretty high and previously dormant competitive streaks can be revealed in even the shyest of students. Everyone wants their show to be the best, and everyone wants the whole city to come and see their show. We at It’s Nice That have been chatting about student shows a lot of late, and have been debating what elements can be combined to make a truly fantastic show. So before we sit back and watch your advice come in, here’s our five little pearls of degree show wisdom.
It’s the age-old debate of great venue vs. great location. Both are important but really, location takes the biscuit. People you want to come and see the show aren’t going to travel out to Zone 3 after a long day at work, and members of the public aren’t going to “drop in” as they walk past as much as you think they will. If you’re doing a show in a bog ol’ city, make sure it’s either bang in the centre or, more logically, just nearby anyone that you specifically want to come and see it.
We saw a Tweet the other day describing popping into a student show the day after the private view as desolate, apart from some projectors that weren’t switched on and some empty cans of Red Stripe. This is bad. If you aren’t there to show people your work, who will? Seeing some great work and actually being talked through it by the creator itself sticks in your mind much more easily than if you’re just relying on a caption alone. Be there, wash your hands, and have business cards at the ready.
Nothing catastrophically ruins a good piece of work quicker than a bad caption. By bad we mean either poorly printed, spelt wrong or simply too long to bother reading. If you can’t sum your project up in a concise one-liner, it shouldn’t be on display. If you’re not very good at spelling and grammar, get someone else to do it for you. For something so small, it can have an enormous effect on how people view your work.
A common misconception of student shows is that they are purely event tools for getting jobs. WRONG. A student show is a celebration of hard work and friendship, and should be promoted so. No one wants to wander around a stark warehouse full of terrified youngsters who are so tired and stressed out that they can’t even bring themselves to wear their favourite hawaiian shirts. If making a fun show means painting a mural, making viral videos, turning the show into a disco on the last night or having some kind of barbequed meat on offer then do it. There’s a reason why everyone’s talking about the Brighton show this year, yes it’s in the arse-end of Fulham but it’s practically a club-night.
And lastly, beer
Ha, no not really. Well actually yes, it’s seriously important. Free booze makes people chat, chatting leads to networking, spooning leads to forking, you know the drill. Get the cash together and take Majestic Wine for all they’ve got.
So that’s our top five nuggets of advice. Do you guys agree? Is there anything we’ve missed (there must be)? We’d love to hear your thoughts on degree shows, be it your own or everyone else’s, what worked well, what didn’t, and what you’d do differently if you could do it again. All comments welcome below!