• 13 July 2017

The first ever Bedford Square Festival took place 28 June - 1 July and welcomed over 200 visitors to the five participating institutions (Paul Mellon Centre, New College of the Humanities, Sotheby's Institute of Art, Architectural Association and Yale University Press) who opened their doors to host a series of events over the four days.

The Paul Mellon Centre started the Festival with a walking tour led by landscape architect and historian Todd Longstaffe-Gowan uncovering the fascinating history of Bedfor Square's garden, once described as 'magnitude to any Square in Europe'. This was followed by a research and writing workshop for students, led by the Centre's staff and a talk uncovering the tragedy and comedy in Romeo & Juliet and Midsummer Nights Dream at the New College of the Humanities.

The Festival officially opened on the Wednesday evening with a drinks reception in Bedford Square Garden (kindly lent by Bedford Estates for the occasion), which gave an opportunity for employees and guests of the institutions based on the Square to meet and mingle whilst enjoying refreshments from Gail's Bakery and live guitar music. The only paid event that took place during the Festival was the performance of Romeo & Juliet which took place in the Duke of Bedford's private garden - the aptly title Montagu Street Garden. Set in 1950's Naples, the performance was a lively take on the Shakespearian tragedy with the rain hardly dampening the sounds of the saxaphone!

Thursday saw the first full day of festival events. At the Paul Mellon Centre, a delicious breakfast was provided before Hana Leaper took attendees on a journey through the streets of Bloomsbury, exploring the artists who lived, studied, painted and networked throughout Bloomsbury's bedsits in the early twentieth century. Across the Square, at Sotheby's Institute of Art, visitors explored the world of curating, firstly with a talk by Dr Lilian Cameron who addressed the role of the curator today and then with a discussion panel who tackled recent tendencies in the rapidly deveoping professional discipline.

Thursday afternoon witnessed a first for the Paul Mellon Centre, a live stream from the sister institution - Yale Center for British Art. The delightful and informative YCBA docent Louise Ciulla virtually led visitors through the wonderful architecture of the Louis I. Kahn building whilst discussing highlights of the Paul Mellon art collection that are housed there, including her favourite - J.M.W. Turner. The Festival concluded on Thursday firstly with a talk at Sotheby's Institute of Art by Professor Jos Hackforth-Jones on the compelling story of attribution and authentication surrounding La Bella Principessa, purportedly by Leonardo Da Vinci and finally with an inspiring talk by Professor A.C. Grayling at the New College of the Humanities on his visions for educating the future.

Friday at the Festival was a lively day, starting with the second of three Little Architect Workshops at the Architectural Association where children aged 7-11 discovered the architecture of Bedford Square. The Old Masters Painters: methods, materials and interventions demonstration at Sotheby's Institute of Art then led nicely on to the Hogarth and the City talk by Director Mark Hallett at the Paul Mellon Centre. Hogarth's inventive images of the city's streets, alleyways, squares and suburbs. In the afternoon, visitors to the Paul Mellon Centre had an opportunity to explore Bedford Square, Bloomsbury and beyong through the materials held at the Centre's library.

The second of the Festivals three walking tours took place on the Friday afternoon, led by editor of the Pevsner Architectural Guides, Charles O'Brien. Charles started the tour in Bedford Square garden before leading the tour attendees through some of the buildings based on the Square, examining the history, occupants and architecture. The highlight of the tour was the opportunity to go inside Number 1 Bedford Square, the current residence and office of musical producer Cameron Mackintosh which is an example of 'uncommonly beautiful design'. During the afternoon the Architectural Association introduced visitors to a brief history of women in architecture through their AA XX 100 project talk with curators Elizabeth Darling and Lynne Walker whilst Sotheby's Institute of Art explored modern day online market trends with a talk by Anders Petterson and a review of recent Impressionism and Modern Art auctions with Dr Bernard Vere.

The New College of the Humanities was a hub of creativity on Friday evening as BBC slam champion Sophia Walker led a workshop on performance poetry and writing which was followed by an entertaining and inspiring poetry slam which closed the Festival for the day.

Saturday morning at the Festival was a calmer affair, with screenings of Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict over at the Architectural Association and tours of the Brian Sewell Archive at the Paul Mellon Centre. Benedict O'Looney closed the Festival with the final walking tour of the Square which included his hallmark chalk drawings on the pavement!

Bedford Square was an inspiring place of creativity and education during the four days of the Festival with all five institutions opening their doors to the public to celebrate the culture based on the historica London Square.

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