As part of Ben Judd’s Stanley Picker Fellowship project The Origin, a series of workshops, performances, talks and tours took place at Stanley Picker Gallery, a boat moored in Kingston Upon Thames and online throughout June and July 2021.
On 19 June, the students from MA in Museum and Galleries from Kingston University organised an afternoon of activities on the Boat, including an exhibition and a walking tour.
Underneath the flowing waters of the River Thames lie many mysteries. Historically, the river has been home to a variety of aquatic life, and it has long been believed that a creature known as the Kingston Cryptid – an amphibian exhibiting exaggerated features of a Giant Salamander – occupied a stretch of the river between Raven’s Ait and Trowlock Island. Recorded since the late 17th Century, it has a longer folklore connected to disappearances, deaths and chaos in the lives of the people of Kingston. The explorer Bartholomew Lancourt amassed a corpus of Cryptological observations in the hope of proving the existence of this strange being. However, Lancourt disappeared in 1905, leaving behind scattered clues in his collections, notes and correspondence. Since he vanished, scientists have been unable to verify Lancourt’s discoveries, although local news continues to report baffling experiences and clues that lack explanation. Find out more here. Watch this video by Megan Strong here.
Dr Helen Wickstead led a guided tour tracing the submerged watercourses that once defined the prehistoric island of Kingston. Now buried these murky waters have been excavated archaeologically and Dr Wickstead will relocate finds including hoards of Roman gold and medieval ceramics adorned with salamanders under the streets of the shopping centre. The prehistoric island of Kingston has been a site of myth-making for centuries. Dr Wickstead investigated the origins of the stories that underpin this contemporary heritage island.
The students compiled an exhibition on the Boat for Murky Waters as part of a research project uncovering the history of Bartholomew Lancourt and the Kingston Cryptid. Occupying the banks of the Thames and the Boat, the exhibition displays items and artefacts from the collections of Lancourt, the University and local archives. Prominent evidence of this creature was presented in the form of journals, footprints, and strange camera footage.
Ben Judd’s Stanley Picker Fellowship project The Origin reflects on Britain’s island status, both literal and metaphorical, and how islands shape the communities that live there. The Origin brings together the communities surrounding the Stanley Picker Gallery – from Kingston University students and academics to local networks, charities and residents – and asks them to imagine a classless, stateless, humane society based on common ownership. A temporary community, an experiment in living, a fictional island group. This collaborative project culminates this summer with an installation at the Gallery, a boat on the River Thames and a series of performances, workshops and events – a rehearsal for an alternative future.