New FUSEBOX exhibition puts Kingston’s artistic past on show

The AMP Kingston: Art, Music, Pop Fashion exhibition at FUSEBOX shows visitors the recent cultural history of the borough and its contributions to the arts.

Held in the FUSEBOX, a creative space situated on the riverside, posters, models and other mediums are used to highlight influential venues and individuals that helped shaped the culture of Kingston.

A co-director at FUSEBOX, Archie O’Neill, said: “This exhibition is a culmination of two-years’ work collecting research, oral histories, artistic responses and young people’s perspectives.

“Kingston’s art, music and pop fashion heritage from the 60s – 90s is rich, vibrant and an often hidden in plain sight from people living and working in the borough today.  

“Not only does this exhibition showcase these fascinating stories from our past, but it celebrates the profound impact this period of popular culture has upon our borough and young people, artists & creatives today.”

The exhibition describes how Kingston was not only “a hotspot for touring American bands but a factory of local creativity in itself”, with the most prominent era spanning 1962 to 1999.

Walking around you are greeted with a wealth of information ranging from how local students pioneered contributions to the ‘London Look’ of the 1960s, to how local band Kula Shaker helped shape the Britpop movement of the mid-1990s.

A notable part of the exhibition is a focus on four Kingston music venues, past and present. The Toby Jug, The Swan, Surbiton Assembly Rooms and Bacchus (the only one still open) have all hosted a wide variety of acts who occupy the annuls of music history.

Most notably, David Bowie kicked off his renowned Ziggy Stardust Tour at Tolworth’s Toby Jug in 1972.

David Bowie portraying the stage character: Ziggy Stardust
David Bowie was just one of the many colourful characters to grace Kingston’s music venues in the second-half of the 20th Century. Credit: MediaPunch/Shutterstock

Interviews with past acts and audience members help bring former hubs of local music to life. These include Keith Read’s (The Impalas, Wild Angels) memories of The Swan and recurring guest Jimmy Page (Led Zepplin), whilst local historian Tim Harrison recounts anarcho-punk fuelled riots at The Surbiton Assembly Rooms.

Another highlight is the wall of fame of performances in Kingston, with the most surprising being a performance by Radiohead at Kingston University in 1993, and a New Order gig at Tolworth Recreation Centre in 1983, three weeks before the release of their debut album.

The exhibition also contains a small lounge area where visitors can pick an album from an artist who features, and play it on the record players provided.

On the back of each record are testimonies from local residents, some of whom had seen the bands perform in Kingston, including a scathing review of Lou Reed’s Transformer by an 11-year-old.

Before departing visitors can enter the ‘lyric forest’ which highlights the links between Kingston and songs from the likes of The Jam and The Kinks.

For those wanting more, an audio walking tour of the area is available, which will take you past the venues covered in the exhibition, or at least what is left of them.

The exhibition runs until March 23 and more information can be found on the FUSEBOX website.

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