After many weeks of research, collecting crates, working on images, printing, wiring and constructing it was time for the installation of ‘Syndrome’ at Shoreditch Town Hall – in the basement, a rambling rough space and perfect setting for this Illumini Event celebrating Charles Dickens love of the supernatural.

Dickens passion was the stimulation and nurturing of the imagination, to retain a childlike wonder in the world throughout life. As a small boy he experienced the frisson of fear from the grotesque and macabre tales his nursemaid delighted in telling him. Stories from the Arabian Nights with their supernatural imagery were also a big influence on his understanding of the power of the mind to create all sorts of fancies.

First day of installation was the delivery of all the crates. Now I have my wonderful Ford Galaxy I no longer need to hire a van every time I want to transport work.

It did take 2 trips though, so most of the day was spent sitting in traffic and negotiating the narrow streets and one way systems of Shoreditch while avoiding the congestion charge zone.

pre installation

Second day of installation – setting up – thinking it would take a couple of hours but finding it took all day of course.

Not having put them together before in entirety I had to decide how the light boxes would be stacked so that the 1 metre LED connectors would reach from one box to the next.

The LED tape is clipped into each connector – simple in theory but not when trying to see in a dark room even with a head torch while reaching around the back of crates in awkward angles – very fiddly and frustrating as lights flicker and die time and again. Then up the ladder to hang the organza panels which have been pinned to bamboo poles and are suspended from loops of monofilament attached to whatever we can find protruding from the ceiling. These old spaces are great venues but often stipulate no more holes to be made in the walls. I have to thank my ever tolerant Kevin for his help loading, unloading, carrying and holding stuff but most importantly for being on spider spotting duty and removing any before I get hysterical.

phobia alert

Third day is finishing touches – adding some bits of wood to hide cables, attaching torches to the wall for viewing the two boxes that are not lit internally.

‘Syndrome’ installation

Then helping Jane Webb, the curator with the rest of the show installation.

I find myself spreading glow in the dark cobwebs around her space while keeping an eye out for rats.

Jane Webb ‘The haunted rocking chair’

The basement is full of artists crawling and climbing, fixing and connecting and is slowly transformed from bare bricks to a kaleidoscope of interpretations on the supernatural – the Dickensian getting somewhat lost at times amongst a keen enthusiasm for all things spooky.

I become anxious that my work is not scary or dramatic enough. The room next to mine is filled with polystyrene severed heads daubed in red paint. Not very subtle. But at the other end of the space and spectrum is Jojo Taylors beautiful chandelier made of suspended cut glass artefacts and paintings made with impressions taken in smoke and soot.

Jojo Taylor ‘The Lost and The Found’

Jojo Taylor

I am late leaving for the opening night as I struggle to gothify my white summery Victorian hat with black lace, fur and ostrich feathers leaving our bedroom looking like the cat has committed a massacre and arriving just in time to miss the evacuation of the building and arrival of the fire brigade. Luckily a false alarm triggered by some incense sticks but leaving Jane a little stressed. The audience, already queuing around the block when I arrived began piling in and quickly filled the space with whoops and screams from gangs of teenage girls. The plethora of performers (£4,000 worth)  booked for the opening night began plying their trades around the corridors, accosting, alarming  and delighting visitors with juggling, Victorian Quackery and magic tricks.

Chris Brown


People Pile

Cilla Conway tarot readings

I stood in my Victorian ensemble outside my room disconcerted to find a performer positioned in the dark corner of my space lighting up his suit and leaping out at people as they began to investigate the crates.

The visitors were having fun but being totally distracted from my work, running out shrieking – after a while I sent him packing. Scrooge indeed.

One surprise of the opening evening was bumping into Kat Hawker the beautiful curator from Bearspace who had selected my work for Exhibit C.  Kevin and I were just saying how different this experience was from Bearspace when she appeared before us. I was glad to have a chat. Kat said she didn’t mind the lukewarm Time Out review of Exhibit C and it was good that they had come at all. It’s only the opinion of one person.

‘Syndrome’ – the syringe

Illumini Events are all about inclusion and democracy.

Aardvark Productions – the body snatchers

Free entertainment for all, combining artists with prop makers and performers to break down barriers and get more people involved and engaged in art. Jane also has a strong interest in history so the venue, historic in itself is littered with information sheets on everything from body snatchers, abandoned tunnels to haunted pubs. There were walks, talks, ghost stories and performances all through the week.

A very popular spot was the dressing up room. I spent hours here invigilating and came away with an aching jaw from laughing so much. People loved it – the big frothy dresses, the wigs, tails and top hats – posing extravagantly and morphing into character – it was wonderful to witness.

Amazing how a costume becomes a disguise and you another person.

By the end of the week I was no longer hiding at the end of the corridor in my Victorian garb but out on the street handing out leaflets and encouraging those tentative souls who weren’t quite sure what to expect to risk a quick look round. Most were very surprised and thrilled by it all.

‘Syndrome’ Mr Wright’s feet

I was really pleased with how my installation came together in the end.

One friend had found it very unsettling and had to leave – I hadn’t expected quite such a strong response.

‘Syndrome’ – the séance

The room was perfect and had a natural chill from a large unseen hole through to the outside which also caused the organza panels to waft mysteriously.

I think a lot of people missed the peep in boxes and after 3 days one of the torches had been stolen anyway but guests were invited to borrow a torch or lantern at reception so the possibility was still there.

I have always liked there to be something left to discover in my work for those who look.

‘Syndrome’ – the cows, the doll

‘Syndrome’ installation view

I also had my light box ‘Entrance’ installed in a small annexe further up the corridor which it fitted into very neatly.


entrance n.1. an opening allowing access.

2. an act of entering.

3. the right, means, or opportunity to enter.

entrance v. fill with wonder and delight. >cast a spell on.

‘Entrance’ reflects on the shadowy workings of the imagination and the desire for a spiritual encounter. A glimpse across the threshold  between the tangible and the ethereal can cause us to stall in our everyday routine to consider the possibilities of the supernatural.

Illumini events always have huge ambitions and bring in a real mix of people so it is a very different but always fun experience.

It gave me the chance to create work for an unusual space and try out some new ideas.

Taking the show down had to be done in one exhausting whirlwind morning – it seemed a lot of work for a one week event but 3,200 visitors passed through in that time.

As we had a deadline to get out I did have to hire man with a van to get all the crates home. Annoyingly they charged £90 not the £60 I expected – £10 for the congestion charge that we didn’t need to go through so can’t recommend

Now just left with the problem of where to put them….