The Open University, Toynbee Studios, London

Photo credit: Christa Holka

The Open University is a functioning outdoor lecture theatre constructed in a roadside refuse skip, as well as an ad hoc lecture series of variable proportions, presented in situ therein, on the subject of what is and what is not trash. The University’s wooden furnishings can be installed in any skip, and include parquet flooring, a lectern and stepped seating.

As the creator, curator, and hostess of this forum, I have extended a standing invitation to a range of experts and would-be experts from a variety of cultural and academic fields, including music (both popular and classical), psychology, theology and cultural theory. This invitation is intended to solicit lecture contributions on as wide a range of subjects as possible, within the leading theme of what is, what should be and what should never be considered trash.

How trash is culturally defined and defended, inclusive of a respect for kitsch, is a well worn subject, but ever more urgent is the question of how to refuse certain conditions around this classification; how a Post Modern ironic acceptance of ‘everything’ is increasingly an open invitation to apolitical and right wing forces.

On the occasion of the first installation of The Open University (a 3-hour event in Archway, London, December 6th, 2007), lecture subjects included glamour, faith, courtesy, love and local politics. These lectures were informal, taking part as they did in a rubbish skip. Some were more informed than others, some more scripted or more improvised, and some more conjectural or more rhetorical, and they ranged from the angrily articulate to the humourously earnest and befuddled. They also created an open, participatory atmosphere with a gathered audience of locals, passers-by and invited guests. Shared refreshments (roast chestnuts and cheap Spanish brandy in plastic cups) and bad weather also contributed to the conviviality of the event.



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