Oxford House – Prospective Exhibition

Posted on April 30, 2016


I have been in discussions with John Ryan, CEO of Oxford House in Bethnal Green, about a possible exhibition in November of this year. The aim will be to commemorate the centenary of Charles Booth’s death. OH was originally a University Settlement along the lines of Toynbee Hall and was founded in the late 1800s. OH was the second venue (along with Toynbee Hall) where Charles Booth first exhibited his ‘Poverty Maps’. Today OH is a community arts centre. It has an excellent gallery space and a lecture hall.

The basic theme of the exhibition will be to revisit Booth’s East End. We have been discussing various possibilities  for elements to include in the exhibition including:

  • displays explaining the link between OH and Booth,
  • displays presenting statistical data on poverty and other social issues – then and now. On this we are working with Peter Kenway from the New Policy Institute (NPI is a tenant at OH),
  • an exhibition of my work from ‘Lifting the Curtain’,
  • A vox pop video in which modern day Bethnal ‘Greeners’ have their say on the issues raised by Booth, but in the modern context,
  • a series of lectures during the exhibition on the themes raised. These would be given by guest speakers – possible sources of speakers are NPI, London Fairness Commission, Toynbee Hall, Oxford House, an artists talk by me and London School of Economics.

I have volunteered to explore the technical aspects of the vox pop video. I would use my Sony A7s camera for the filming and edit using iMovie. It would comprise of a series of clips from interviews with people who come in to OH. We would set up a booth along the lines of ‘Big Brother’ (heaven forbid!!) during a week (possibly in August). We would set out a series of questions based on the issues raised by ‘Lifting the Curtain’ and the statistical data.

My biggest technical challenge is sound or rather sound quality. The on board microphone of the camera is quite limited. So I have invested in two forms of external microphone. The first is an Audio Technica cabled Lavalier microphone. This is a lapel mic and was quite cheap c. £20. I made a video of my long suffering wife to test this out… Totally unrehearsed she did very well!

The sound quality is a very bassy despite modification in iMovie and there is a significant amount of background hiss. So I decided to invest in a Rode Videomic Pro which is a shotgun mic and is regarded as a relatively inexpensive standard for news reporting with a DSLR (see picture below). This slots into the hot shoe mount of the camera and plugs into the mic socket on the camera.

Rode Videomic Pro

Rode Videomic Pro

I made a very short video to test this and I was very pleased with the results. The shotgun mic only picks up sound from a narrow band to which it is pointed. The shotgun mic is also much easier to set up as it won’t be necessary to invade the personal space of interviewees by pinning a mic onto them!

Here is the second clip:

It is early days but I am excited by this project and also the opportunity to develop new skills in videography!!