PREVIEW: The John Hughes Arts Festival

WILL DALRYMPLE takes a sneak peek at Jesus students’ efforts to honour their late Chaplain

Art Art Gallery Cambridge College Comedy culture festival Jesus College Cambridge John Hughes painting sculpture Sir David Hare Smoker

In the summer of last year, John Hughes, the popular and well-loved dean of Jesus College chapel, died tragically in a car accident. Several students of the College banded together to think of the best way to remember him, and they came up with this: The John Hughes Arts festival.

One of the festivals organisers, Ed Eustace, told the Tab “When I came back to Cambridge there was still this distinct feeling after the loss of such a central figure to the College as John. An arts festival seems appropriate, one of the primary functions of Art being to create meaning out of chaos.”

The festival, beginning tonight, will take place until Sunday in various spaces around the College, and describes itself on its website as “an inter-disciplinary three day festival celebrating the spirit of openness, spectacle, and collaboration many associate with John, and making art with it (preferably over a drink or two!)”.

If they can do whatever’s going on there with the sky then I’m there.

What will doubtless draw many from across the whole University to Jesus tonight is that the festival will be opened with a speech from the acclaimed playwright Sir David Hare, a Jesus Alumnus, and what the organisers hope will keep them there is a drinks reception and art hang in the Forum, a previously-unused gulag of a building in Jesus grounds. The festival’s organisers saw potential in it, however.

The festival has enjoyed plenty of support on social media, as you can see..

Ed explained the process of transforming the Forum into a space worthy of the oeuvres of Cambridge’s freshest artistic talent: “We have been given complete ownership of the space, and I am delighted to say that we have a complete open door policy, if you enter an artwork we will display it. These will be hung on the opening Friday night. It will be a true collaboration between Cambridge students, professional artists and other universities as well, from Aberystwyth to Nottingham.” Open door indeed.

Ever wondered what the hell that horse is all about? Now’s the time to find out.

Speaking to The Tab, Fr Tim Harling, Chaplain of Queens’ said “So many of John’s colleagues – both clerical and lay – have commented that this is a fitting, touching and appropriate way to remember John.

John loved the arts and especially those that promoted the Church, his Chapel and his College. All of us who have known John for many years are coming up with different ways to deal with, talk about and express something of how this tragedy has made us feel.

I would like to offer my own thanks to the students of Jesus for their creativity and clear love for John.”

Also occurring around the College this weekend is a tour of the college’s many sculptures, including an Anthony Gormley and of course, The Horse (maybe we’ll be told why it isn’t a chicken like everything else at Jesus), as well as a performance art Cabaret Show on Saturday, a ‘Happening’ (some sixties thing, apparently), and a Smoker in Jesus Chapel (I wonder if they’ll look back on that as a good idea…), amongst other things.

This promises to be an eclectic and, by the sounds of it, deeply thoughtful tribute to an excellent man, as well as a credible, varied and exciting artistic event in its own right.

Put down your miserable essay, get over the fact that you couldn’t get an Arc Soc ticket and come on down!

The festival begins tonight at Jesus College with a speech by Sir David Hare at 6:30pm, with the gallery open from 7:30pm.