Since our spring reopening earlier this month, I’ve had the pleasure of hosting two Caravanserai events, and can’t wait to tell you how much it’s made me look forward to our summer programme.
Organising live events and activities is, for me always a heady mix of terror and thrill – because of the unpredictability of what the weather and other variables may throw up, but also the sense of unprecedented potential this affords. These possibilities are amplified at a venue like the Caravanserai; for instance during our Garden Fete last Saturday when we tried to pull off a pre-planned meditative ‘relaxing in nature’ workshop – with a guzzling forklift lugging our shiny new food truck into place just metres away, because it’s scheduled delivery was held up by traffic earlier.
Ordinarily this mismatch of activities would be untenable, but in Caravanserai spirit everyone just got on with it and both coexisted. After all, as a mixed use space incorporating a diverse range of uses and audiences and durations, the Caravanserai is designed to accommodate this sort of multi-tasking and hybridity. It may seem confusing and chaotic on the surface, but also allows a form of interaction and ‘messy fun‘ which few public spaces can match.
As Cany, our creative director puts it, “Within the hoarding of our site the rules of the big city are subtly changed; cool behaviour is unarmed, and a more curious, open and authentic kind of conversation with strangers seems quite natural…” This has definitely been my experience, as I’ve watched children spontaneously play hide and seek, and strangers work together to design and build a wicker Green Man, or willingly get their hands dirty kneading dough and planting herbs.
In my previous life as an architectural curator and theatre manager (I’m now full-time special project manager for Ash Sakula and the Caravanserai), I produced a lot of work around public spaces, trying to map out and tease the default behaviour patterns that particular spaces produced – the way certain spaces subconsciously made people walk in straight lines looking downwards, and others spontaneously formed social condensors. While the Caravanserai is still an experimental work in progress and has yet to sort out many aspects of its visitor experience, I’m glad that it still seems to manage making feeling at ease and ready for play, just happen naturally.
If you haven’t visited the Caravanserai or haven’t seen later additions to our suite of spaces, do join us on a Saturday afternoon (12-4pm) and test out this ‘Caravanserai effect’ for yourself. Perhaps you have an event idea that we could host?