The Arch is Live

The Arch is Live

Juliet Scott, Festival Director looks back on the TIHR70 festival and announces ArchLive.


5 December 2017

Juliet Scott, Festival Director looks back on the TIHR70 festival and announces ArchLive.

Juliet Scott, Festival Director, Lead Curator of the TIHR archiving work and now Tavistockian[1] announces the launch of the Festival ArchLive with a personal account of her own memories and experiences of the festival.

The ArchLive is the festival website transformed into a container for its audio and video recordings, photographs, poems, reflections and working notes.

Some of my favourite photographs taken at Reimagining Human Relations in our Time festival were taken through the glass cases that housed precious items from the archive. Seen through this sightline were the elderly inhabitants of Bed, someone pouring over A.K.Rice’s field notebooks from the Calico Mills project, the wall plaques and lightness of the Swiss Church, the ethereal quotes from the archive, working groups deep or hard in thought. And so the words of Pamuk resound again as defining the aesthetic space of the archive:

“There is a story to tell every time people and objects meet.”
Orhan Pamuk, The Innocence of Memories

And so they were. My festival began at the Garden Museum at 8.30am on Tuesday 17th October where I needed to be to help with a delivery and where the Group Relations Event for the Silver Generation was due to start. Yellow chairs were being set up there in the museum’s learning classroom. A stunning space built over the old churchyard. The chairs were set in a spiral and like a flash I noticed the gravestone gleaming, screaming up at me.

A Group Relations Conference for the Silver Generation. Photograph by Juliet Scott.

I wondered: ‘An act of disrespect in having the oldies here with that reminder’? My own stuff for sure, my mother is not well and experiencing old age in all its messy and complicated glory, fighting like a trooper. ‘No fear’, I heard later only a vital memento mori, ‘grist to the mill of the work’. From there I went to the first Festival’s Social Dreaming matrix, chairs all higgledy piggledy but framed by that beautiful red carpet of the Reading Room, the boundary to the enquiry.

Social Dreaming. Photograph by Sam Nightingale

Death was here too, in looking after ancestors, our predecessors we allow them to look after us, the figures both in the Tavistock archive (Isabel Menzies Lyth) and in our own histories who do that. It was only at lunchtime that I arrived at the Swiss Church where I had spent all Monday in the total chaos of rehearsals, technical set up, a cacophony of  contractors, cowboys, professionals. The deeply committed festival team against this background delicately bringing together the exhibition of objects from the archive, an excellent interpretation of the Tavistockian story. The ten archival items arrived by taxi and had to be painstakingly checked and then vacuum packed into their cases.

Installing ‘Past, Present, Future’. Photograph by Juliet Scott. 

Now, on Tuesday afternoon, it was all happening at the Swiss Church, us uprooted Tavistockians finding ourselves in a new organisational form in service to our community and it seems we were rather enjoying ourselves, new relationships emerging in new and wonderful experiences of each other including a Baozi bun hunt in Soho, never have I eaten anything so warm and comforting. An afternoon on the front desk with colleagues.  We so enjoyed  being on reception,  performing in our roles and by then, Friday, relaxed as everyone seemed to have made the Swiss Church their home. Our lively, Londonium walking festival explorers  marched in past us, straight into whatever event they were attending, upstairs, downstairs and occasionally with a request to look after a suitcase. A more bounded reception by East 15 Acting School and their front of house team who masterly womanned the front door during their performance. The actors in role, Isabel she’s here again, holding back those arriving for the evening panel discussion until the performance that so eloquently animated our archive came to an end.

TIHR relocated at Swiss Church. Photograph by Giorgia Iacopini.

Taken back to Canterbury in the summer of 2016 when we began the visioning work for the festival. What will it smell, feel, look like? We had this idea of an old office with peeling walls and damp carpets not a Church, a Garden Museum, Conway Hall the home to the ethical society. Smell and feel it we did and somehow it led us here and pleased with it we and others were. I meet the daughter and granddaughter of Herbert Phillipson, an early Tavistockian who originated the projective testing technique. They had come to see ‘Object Relations’ an exhibition of my work as artist-in-residence on the archive. A role that I can now see has enabled me to see my work with the archive as an object that had huge potential for transformation if only we could shift if from its entropy down the river Thames that is.

Central London now, we have had the passage through time through the day symposium ‘In the Shadow and Light of the Archive’ where a new proposition for the future was offered by an orphan and a list of significant orphans before her. A mother and her daughter with severe disabilities are able to attend Ambient Jam which has relocated for the first time in its history to be at the festival. The Swiss Church becomes a new and yet again different space, even from the one it has been all week.

And then it ends. It ends in the Garden Museum and at the Wellcome Library too. Festival goers are travelling back around the world, the festival team return to the Swiss Church for the great de-install, which they hope will take less time than the install. It does but they linger, they, we, I don’t want to leave, not yet and still not yet it is in me now.

This is my first story of the festival, the ArchLive is there for you to connect with yours.

Please visit and enjoy the many ArchLive outputs on the festival website. This is a continuing journey that will see further thoughts, reflections and writings to follow.

Juliet Scott, Festival Director

[1] What it is to be a Tavistockian was the developing form of Eliat Aram’s keynote talk at the festival symposium available at: http://festival.tavinstitute.org/event/shadow-light-archive-day-symposium/

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