5th Dec 2011
G7, University of Brighton, Pavilion Parade
It is a cliché of course, but it nevertheless persists that most of us, in some way, especially when young choose a career in the arts almost as a vocation in order to avoid the conformity of a desk job, a nine to five grind, the rational economy, the toil of a ‘proper’ domestic life in favour of openness, creativity and experimentation and to hell with the consequences!
This has a history in Europe and America and the British dimension to it was explored by Virginia Nicholson in her book from 2002, Among the Bohemians: Experiments in Living 1900-1939. As one reviewer of Nicholson’s book and its cast of characters put it, these adventurers "carried idealism and creativity into every aspect of daily life. Deaf to disapproval, they got drunk and into debt, took drugs, experimented with homosexuality and open marriages, and brought up their children out of wedlock. In the spirit of liberty, they sacrificed comfortable homes and took to the road in gypsy caravans or moved into spartan garrets in Chelsea. Yet their choice of a free life led all too often to poverty, hunger, addiction and even death".
As one might imagine, there are lots of racy tales to be told. Virginia Nicholson will read from sections of her book and discuss with Peter Seddon and the audience the social significance of this cultural phenomenon and its impact upon visual culture at the time and now. Questions of comparison between the kind of research skills and writing required for a book such as this and academic definitions of research skills will also be discussed.
Virginia Nicholson was born in 1955 and is the daughter of the artist, historian and writer Quentin Bell and therefore well connected with the Bloomsbury group, members of whom feature in her book and is a trustee of Charleston House. She has written four books, all of them dealing with social history and visual and material culture in the first half of the twentieth century. In particular she has focused on the experiences of women in this period. She has a background in television documentary journalism and book reviewing.