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What's happening at Science Gallery London?

A blog post by Siddharth Khajuria, Director at Science Gallery London

The Science Gallery London building on Great Maze Pond in the twilight, partly blue illuminated and with people sitting on the steps in front.
Photo credit: © Rich Tea Films

Hello, my name’s Siddharth Khajuria. Since late January, I’ve been the Director at Science Gallery London.

If you don’t know it, the Gallery is a part of King’s College London, located in a beautiful space in London Bridge. We originally opened in Autumn 2018, but have been closed since the start of the pandemic. Building on much of what we did during that first year-and-a-half of our existence, and emerging into a very different world, we’ll begin a phased re-opening from later this year: with pilot activities and information about how to get involved coming over the summer, and a re-opening of the full gallery building in September.

It’s only my eighth week in the role and it feels a little early to be writing publicly about our work. But we’re currently recruiting three roles in the team (a Producer, Project Coordinator and Marketing and Comms Lead – please apply and/or share!), and – particularly for those thinking about applying – I wanted to take a moment to say a little more about what we’re up to, and the kind of space we’re developing.

The opportunity of the Gallery feels like it’s rooted in our context. We’re a part of King’s College London, and so we exist on a series of thresholds: between a global university and city; between our constituencies of young people, researchers, students, artists and collaborators; and between the worlds of art, science, health and research.

We’re exploring the possibilities that come with this setting. At the heart of our work will be a programme of co-produced arts, research and cultural projects that nurture hope, and help grow resilience, in the face of multiple, inter-related crises in the world. And – especially after two years of isolation, lockdowns and fragmentation – doing so by holding space for empathetic dialogue and collaboration across differences.

What are we?

In thinking about a metaphor for the Gallery, we keep returning to the idea of a greenhouse. A greenhouse where we support exchange, dialogue and collaboration between unlikely communities of people with a breadth of experience and practice. And we’ll share the fruits of these exchanges through a surprising, inventive, fun, and energising programme that encompasses a breadth of formats: festivals, gatherings, exhibitions, residencies, workshops and more.

Everything we do will emerge from questions shaping the lives of our constituents. To give you a sense of what this looks like, some of the subjects we’ll explore in our reopening programme include:

  • the roots and consequences of structural health inequalities in the city;
  • thinking about gentrification in south London as a form of spatial violence;
  • the hopes young people in Lambeth and Southwark have for the future they’ll inherit;
  • how we might restore a sense of agency in our health systems;
  • the history of visual intelligence testing and how it can invite us into a conversation about divergent ways of thinking.

Both in their ‘outcomes’ as events or exhibitions, and the research and conversations which informed them, our projects are shaped by a questioning, exploratory, investigative spirit. They centre complex, challenging questions to which we don’t know the answer.

What are we working on at the moment?

What might all of this look like in practice? I think it’s really important to say we’re not sure yet. We’re encoding a flexibility into our approach, particularly over the first 12-18 months after reopening, to make sure we can learn-as-we-go, and make and re-make our approach.

Any organisation’s ‘output’ is a product of its structures and culture, and so a lot of our energy is going into building some of the scaffolding that will support our work in the coming months and years. I thought it might be helpful to share a few examples:

  • Programming - we’re developing our programming and production model at the moment. It’s a programme born out of conversations and equitable collaborations between students, researchers, local communities, artists and others, and we’re creating an approach that sustains a fluid and responsive spirit.
  • The design of the building - we want the Gallery to be accessible, informal and inviting, and we’re working with some wonderful designers to help us with some of the things which shape people’s experience of a cultural venue: wayfinding, interpretation, exhibit design, social space, and more.
  • Storytelling and communication - we’re a hybrid place, existing at the intersection of arts, science, research and health. We’re working with an inventive creative agency to develop the way we articulate our work, and design some of the formats with which we connect and collaborate with people.
  • Evaluation, monitoring and social impact - we’re recruiting an evaluation specialist to help us understand the social impact of our work, and embed a critically-reflective practice into the team.
  • And more - of course there’s more, too: we’re sowing seeds for the future programme; we’re developing some of the relationships with people and groups in each of our constituencies; we’re figuring out our ways of working – paying attention to the mechanics of budgets, meetings, file-sharing, comms and all those tools and processes which shape our days.

As part of all of this work, we’re designing some of the routes for you – whether you’re a young person, artist, student, researcher or potential partner – to collaborate and co-produce our programme with us. We’ll have much more to share about this in the next couple of months.

We’re a place and team interested in creating the conditions for sparking changes in the way we think about the world, and helping us explore the limits and possibilities of our own agency. We want to be a space for convening unlikely communities of young people, artists, researchers and others. And together with these people, we want to create new ways of imagining and shaping what the future might hold.

Please do take a look at those roles we’re recruiting. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email. I’m at siddharth.khajuria@kcl.ac.uk