A mobile theatre will visit Clerkenwell Design Week in London this May, inspired by a miniature concert hall above a coal-shed that used to be in the area in the seventeenth century.
Designed by London studio Aberrant Architecture, the Tiny Travelling Theatre will draw on contemporary accounts to replicate some of the attributes of the original coal shed, which was home to Clerkenwell resident and coal salesman Thomas Britton. He lived above his coal shed and started putting on a music club with a harpsichord and organ in 1678.
Design fair Clerkenwell Design Week will take place from 22 to 24 May. See all our stories from last year's event here.
Here's some more explanation from Aberrant Architecture:
"The SMALL-COAL-MAN'S tiny travelling theatre"
The original site of the medieval well, from which Clerkenwell derives its name, is located on the northern edge of Clerkenwell Green. Notoriously, this marks the spot where mystery plays, wrestling matches, radical performances and other "dramatic representations" of a secretive nature have regularly occurred for centuries.
Indeed it is claimed that "the secret life of Clerkenwell, like its well, goes very deep. Many of its inhabitants seem to have imbibed the quixotic and fevered atmosphere of the area" and consequently strange existences have been allowed to flourish.
"Perhaps the most curious and notable resident of Clerkenwell was Thomas Britton, who was known everywhere as "the musical small-coal man". Britton was a travelling coal salesman, who lived above his coal shed, and in 1678 he founded a musical club, The SMALL-COAL-MAN'S Musick Club, by transforming his house into a tiny concert hall which featured a harpsichord & organ.
Despite the unglamorous "hovel-esque" venue, accessible only by a steep external staircase, the relative novelty of the series of concerts attracted a considerable audience from across all sectors of society. A wide range of artists came to play at Britton‟s house, from amateurs giving their first ever public performances to micro concerts from all the great musicians of the day, even the great George Frideric Handel. Britton designed his own programmes and "amassed a large music collection and selection of musical instruments for the gatherings." At first the concerts were free, with coffee being sold at a penny a cup. Later concerts where paid for by an annual subscription of ten shillings.
Tiny Travelling Theatre
For Clerkenwell design week we propose to reawaken Britton's maverick idea of a miniature concert hall for Clerkenwell and reimagine it as a tiny travelling theatre. Our new "SMALL-COAL-MAN'S tiny travelling theatre" will occupy multiple locations around the area and will host a series of events that revive & explore the intense emotion of a micro live performance. Inspired by small one-to-one spaces, such as a confessional booth or a peepshow, the "SMALL-COAL-MAN'S tiny travelling theatre" will create a direct and intimate interaction of artists with a minute audience of 2- 6 people.
Like Britton's eccentric original we imagine that the program of events will be a mixture of unknowns making their debuts and established "stars". Visually the tiny travelling theatre will be an explorative structure taking its cues from the ad-hoc & informal descriptions of the original with its "henhouse ladder", interior "not much higher than a canary-pipe" and window "but very little bigger than the Bung-hole of a Cask".