Challenging Gormley from a park bench in Camden

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  • My weekly Time Out column, Bench Marks, has always been about real lives; the idea that no-one is boring. And a few weeks ago, reading about Anthony Gormley’s 4th Plinth, I had something of a light bulb moment: could his concept – to give the supposedly ordinary a chance to be represented – be transposed to a park bench in a disused shop in Camden Town?

    Offering a democratic wooden platform for everyone and anyone seemed a fitting, lively climax to a year covering the quiet stories commemorated by London’s park benches. Coinicidentally, I discovered, along Chalk Farm Road, that a company called Camden Town Unlimited was busy taking over vacant shops and turning them into ‘creative spaces’; a quick meeting with the boss later, Tales From A Park Bench was born.

    So, in the bare spaces of the C22 gallery on Chalk Farm Road, we will install a park bench for a week, from Aug 3-9, and invite locals, strangers, tourists, musicians, artists, businessmen, housewives, writers and everyone else to come along and do whatever: tell a story, tell a joke, sing a song, tell it like it is. You don’t have to register, you don’t have to book. You don’t even have to say a word.

    People will simply be encouraged to engage in story in some way. A litter bin installed by the bench will brim over with hundreds of crumpled photocopies of the 60 Bench Marks columns, which you can read, chuck on the floor, or take home with you. In fact, you can do anything you like.

    So what if no-one actually uses the bench at all? It’s a risk we take. But at least every evening will be unique. Whilst the world media spotlight is on the 4th Plinth, I like the fact that our little project will be going on simultaneously in Camden Town, a true celebration of regular lives and real life. Then again, it may just be a bunch of drunks in a room slugging back beer.

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