Jamboree 2018: Sovay Berriman – External Evaluator Report

Report from Sovay Berriman – External Evaluator for Jamboree 2018

On the last weekend of June 150 artists and curators arrived in South Devon for something part festival, part survival training camp, part fête. Jamboree had highs, lows, midges, dirt, sweat, swims, chips, peace, party, pasta, knitting, printing and sticky too-much-pop giggles that went on well into the sweltering midsummer nights.

photo credit: Andy Ford

Jamboree is the innovation of LOW PROFILE, the artist duo of Rachel Dobbs and Hannah Rose. Both are based in Plymouth and committed to reminding anyone and everyone that YOU CAN DO IT for yourself. Independence and collaboration are at their core, and they insist on taking YOU with them. Whilst Jamboree utterly sums up Hannah, Rachel and all that LOW PROFILE is, Jamboree 2018 very determinedly wasn’t about them. Jamboree was about the 150 attendees getting involved; each had a role to play through different streams of activity that spanned the weekend.

Jamboree 2018 participants gather – photo credit: Hannah Cochrane

Jamboree 2018 built upon the first iteration of the festival which was hosted by PAC Home at Plymouth Arts Centre in Devon’s industrial and naval city, in 2015. The 2018 edition had sourced greater support to match its greater ambitions, and the location swapped the urban for the rural; accommodation was the campsite of the beautiful Dartington estate near Totnes, with all activity taking place across the grounds and in the buildings of the former Dartington School of Arts. The twenty minute walk from campsite to the Hex Building, the Jamboree hub, passed by William Lescaze’s modernist former headmaster’s house, High Cross House, through the terraced gardens of Dartington Hall, and past the former student halls of residence. Lucy Rollins, curator at Plymouth Arts Centre, led one of the series of Walk & Talks, which took place throughout the weekend, around the grounds, sharing understandings gathered from her time as a student at the lamented art school. Bram Arnold, also a former Dartington student, led a beautiful and eerie dawn Walk & Talk through fields and woodland on the Saturday morning. Emphasising some of the benefits of a free ranging rural arts education.

Bram Arnold – From Civil Twilight To The End of Time [An adventure into the anthropocene] – photo credit: Andy Ford

Along with the Walks & Talks attendees also hosted workshops via the Communal Making programme, delivered ‘pecha-kucha’ style presentations during the 20:20s, shared moving image work through the film programme, provided material for the Minatures exhibition, and wares for sale in the Camp Shop – I came away with Brunswick Club’s Marmafigalade, Hannah Leighton-Boyce’s vinyl Instruments of Industry, a Natasha McVoy hanging and a Bettina Wenzel platter. Beyond the ‘formal’ programmed elements, the attendees WERE Jamboree 2018 through their wholesale commitment to creating a friendly, enthusiastic and egalitarian atmosphere of mutual support.

The only break from this arrangement, were the Seminar-Leader talks which followed straight on from LOW PROFILE’s warm Welcome on the Thursday evening, and their associated Seminars of the Friday morning.

Alistair Hudson -If we truly want to democratise art, should we abandon exhibitions for good? – photo credit: Andy Ford

Alistair Hudson kicked off the Seminar Leader talks with a Ruskin and Tania Bruguera-inspired provocation to abandon exhibitions. It’s a timely and relevant topic with the impact of too-much-stuff on the planet all too evident and crisis point reached long-ago, with another non-object collaboration receiving a nomination for the Turner Prize in the form of Forensic Architecture, and with frequent calls for us all to be aware of the space we ‘take-up’, and to ensure that we make-room for others. Unfortunately this first talk ran far beyond its allotted twenty minutes, and set a precedent for the remaining speakers, which became uncomfortable in a packed room on a hot summer’s night. Sonia Dyer spoke of her practice and projects, and with it intersectionality and exploitation, and of the unsanctioned violence that is too often linked to societal progression. A theme of political thought and reflection was brewing, and was fed further by the communal meal, prepared by The Real Junk Food Project, which was served to all at the interval.

photo credit: Andy Ford

The second-half of the evening’s speakers, Lucy Day, Ingrid Swensen and Simon Morrissey, each gave us a taster of the following morning’s seminars. Again time ran on, subtly threatening the democratic buzz carefully formulated by LOW PROFILE. However, when a close was called a bar, and the genuine broad smiles of LOW PROFILE and the Jamboree team, kept up the good feeling.

Sonya Dyer -How are we going to live with each other in the future? – photo credit: Andy Ford

From the Friday morning for the remainder of weekend all 150 attendees were diligently participating and contributing. This commitment to the programme and ethos of Jamboree is what made the endeavour so successful. There were comments about the application process; not all who applied were accepted to attend. But it was perhaps the rigour, and honesty in who would draw the most benefit because of who the project was aimed at, which enabled its great achievement.

Simon Bayliss – Landscape Painters Anonymous – photo credit: Andy Ford

I made it to Simon Bayliss’ en plein air watercolour Communal Making, Landscape Painters Anonymous, down by the river Dart, and Lara Goodband’s Embodying the Imagination Walk & Talk, which asked for reflection on the near, far and middle while swimming in the cool water. Simon Lee Dicker also asked us to contemplate, during a group Silent Swim. Kerri Jefferis and Sophie Chapman invited participants to move and dance around each other, then take a partner and lead them, eyes closed, on an adventure, for their Saturday afternoon Walk & Talk Desire Lines and Disorientation. They then led us into a field of long grass to muse upon getting lost. James Fergusson took our eyes to the sky with kite flying, Anna Horton brought a group together to make a game, and Rosalie Schweiker asked us to set our own terms and conditions.

Rosalie Schweiker – Please agree to our terms and conditions – photo credit: Andy Ford

I missed more than I attended, for which I felt sorry, but it is my feeling that a bursting programme that leaves you with a desire for more, rather than full-up, is a good thing. Social media has since provided a way to follow-up, connect and tag points of memory to ‘not miss next time’, and the #wemetatjamboree tag allows the chance to follow others’ connections.

Friendships were born and reestablished, there were revelations, inspirations, frustrations and challenges, there was debate and disagreement as much as affinity and understanding. The overriding remnant of this joyful gathering for me, now home in a small peninsular town in Cornwall, is the motivation to keep making, talking, to stay open, flexible and connected, and to keep listening, for we never know where the surprises lie.

Before he finished, Alistair Hudson gave some facts to ponder; Dartington was the birthplace of factory farming, artificial insemination, and the Arts Council. I’m hopeful that Jamboree gives a new twist to this history, one of kindness, acceptance and generosity.


Sovay Berriman
July 2018

Sovay Berriman is an artist based in Cornwall, with a long track record of artist-led practice and arts advocacy.

LOW PROFILE invited artist Sovay Berriman to act as an external evaluator for Jamboree 2018. Sovay had a series of conversations with LOW PROFILE leading up to Jamboree, asking vital questions that supported the planning of the project. Sovay also attended the event to provide a written critical report and feedback.