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It's A Knockout

Original Proposal

This is the original proposal we wrote for It's an East End Knockout, held on Sunday the 27th of July 2003 on Roman Road Market as part of the Bow Festival

For It's an East End Knockout artists Nina Pope and Karen Guthrie will use the legacy of the popular TV show, and in particular the infamous 'It's a Royal Knockout' charity event to create a contemporary live art work for Roman Road Market in Bow. The competition pitches four teams of perceived stakeholders in East End culture against one another: The Pearly Kings and Queens, Market Traders, Artists and the local HAT - and (as the Pearlies would say) it's 'all for charity'.

What will we be presenting?
This project has developed from research carried out by the artists Nina Pope and Karen Guthrie with London's alternative Royal Family, the Pearlies and the artists open submission for the Bow Festival project where they suggested developing a Live Event for Roman Road Market.
It's an East End Knockout uses the legacy of the popular TV show, and in particular the infamous 'It's a Royal Knockout' charity event to create a live art work that pitches perceived stakeholders in East End culture against one another and (as the Pearlies would say) it's 'all for charity'.
Working in collaboration with Off Limits an established corporate events/team building company, specialising in It's a Knockout competitions, Pope and Guthrie will invite four teams to compete in a two-hour competition held along the Roman Road market. The teams will comprise of: the Royal Family - represented by the Pearlies - a symbol of 'traditional' East End culture; a team of market-traders and local shop owners (representing the current changing culture of Roman Road) and two teams representing stakeholders (actual or perceived) in local regeneration. One of these teams will comprise of artists (often seen as precursors to the regeneration or indeed gentrification of an area), and the other tenants and staff of the Tower Hamlets Housing Action Trust (whose tenth anniversary the Bow Festival is designed to highlight).
Variations on the familiar TV games will be developed with the particular context of an East End Market and the perceived strengths of the individual teams in mind. Will the Pearlies be the only people to be able to "roll out the barrel" or the market traders know the words to "Knees up Mother Brown", will the artists prove to have the most manual dexterity and creative skill once inside a giant costume?
Again working in collaboration with a compère (trained by Stuart Hall!) from Off Limits, Pope and Guthrie will be the commentators for the event - using this position to humorous effect and building on the knowledge they will have built about each team and individual participants through out the build-up to the actual event.

Background context to site and collaborators:
Unlike most London streets Roman Road and actual market remain relatively untouched the corporate takeover of chains (Starbucks etc.). This project, and in particular the people in the 'traders' team, could be seen as a celebration of this diversity - maybe even a record of it.
Although they originated nearer to central London (Somers Town Market nr. King's Cross) the Pearly Kings and Queens are strongly associated with both traditional London Markets (the costumes began as trims worn by Coster Mongers as 'Flash Boy Outfits' to distinguish themselves from the other market traders) and East End or Cockney culture. The artists will invite members of The Original Pearly Kings and Queens Association not only to nominate a team for the event but also to set up a stall with them in the Sunday Market scheduled to take place alongside the competition. The stall will house information about the Pearlies, photos and memorabilia.
All Pearly work is carried out for charity - a very specific type of generosity commonly associated with 'warm-hearted' East End culture in general. Building on this assumption the artists will invite each team competing to nominate their own chosen charity (this could be anything from Barnardos (which began in Bow) to a Public sculpture fund, or the local hospice) all money raised by each team's collectors on the day will finally, be given to the charity chosen by the winning team.
The Pearly motto is One Never Knows and this could be aptly applied to the event - there is no guarantee which charity the money will go to, which team will win, who will agree to participate, who will get on with each other or what tactics each team will develop. The games will be designed to provoke debate in the audience surrounding the choice of teams and ideas of East End culture and heritage being explored - many of the current stall holders and residents have never previously seen or heard of the Pearlies, and may have no real contact with the many artists 'perceived' to be living in the area. The event will bring these different groups of 'East Enders' together in friendly competition with one another.

How will the project develop the artists practice?
Pope and Guthrie became interested in the Pearlies through their research for Bow Festival. In common with many of the other 'amateur' or 'hobbyist' groups the artists have previously collaborated with (eg. railway model makers, re-enactors or hospital radio fanatics) the Pearlies have a very particular and somewhat 'closed' culture centred on a focussed set of craft skills and an independent 'value' system. In the case of the Pearlies, despite their beautifully crafted costumes they don't see themselves as in anyway connected to other 'craft' or arts activities. As a symbol of traditional 'East End' culture they represent an interesting phenomena - of the three surviving (rival!) 'groups' most of the original 'bloodline' Royal Pearlies now live in and around Stevenage or other London suburbs. Many people now actually living in the East End know nothing or little about them and yet the Pearlies retain a strong sense of their own (in fact very recent) heritage and importance within East End culture.
By encouraging them to take part in the event and the wider context of the Bow Festival the artists are offering the Pearlies a chance to participate in a contemporary project with relevance to the current market traders and local residents - a Live Art event with a diverse audience and participants rather than a nostalgic knees up. Through this accessible one-off event the artists hope to build on the relationship they've established with The Original Pearly Kings and Queens Association with a view to developing a further future project with them.
The artists are also interested in the collaboration with the staff at Off Limits, the decision to employ an experienced 'off-the-shelf' company to run the nuts and bolts of the event is a new approach for them (ordinarily they would work on perhaps only one large scale project per year and try to manage every aspect of the production). They plan to be able to use the fact that the company has enormous experience of similar events to ensure a streamlined day but also to collaborate with Off Limits staff in order to tweak their 'regular' package. They hope to spend time in 'training' with the company's event compere and collaborating on the exact nature of the games, music and commentary, using the whole experience to develop their live event 'management' skills.

Event hosts Pope & Guthrie on Roman Road
Image: Michael Olden

Linda Nutley on our Pearly Stall
Image: Chris Clunn

Some of the costumes from the original TV series
Image: Nina Pope