The Art Insider: July '17

This image: Tree of Cambridge by Maureen Mace

Ruthie Collins gives you the lowdown on arty happenings around Cambridge in July 

“The English winter – ending in July, to recommence in August,” Lord Byron once quipped. Let’s hope he was wrong. Summer is well and truly on us, season of festivals, holidays and picnics in abundance. This month, watch out for Something In Common, a new creative collective offering stimulating, cross-cultural events throughout the city. The result of a conversation between four friends aiming to reap the ‘untapped resource’ of Cambridge as a city – you can enjoy Jesus College’s Summer Art Exhibition with the collective on 16 July (12-2pm). 

It brings together world-renowned super-talents, from the first ever female Turner Prize winner Rachel Whiteread to her one-time teacher Phyllida Barlow, who was described by The Guardian as “an artistic outsider who has finally come inside” and represented Britain in the Venice Bienalle this year. Or watch out for Lebanese-born Palestinian artist Mona Tatoum, whose exhibition at Tate Modern last year crackled, literally, with electricity. There’s also Iranian sculptor and Turner Prize nominee Shirazeh Houshiary. All this, plus more – fabulous.  

“Something In Common came out of a conversation amongst friends – we hope to organise fun cross-cultural events to unlock some of the wonderful things that Cambridge has to offer,” explains Harriet Loffler. Curator for Modern and Contemporary Art at Norwich Castle Museum, she’s one of the friends behind the collective, alongside curator at Wysing Arts, Lotte Juul Petersen, plus Corporate Development Manager at Whitechapel gallery, Monica Yam, and artist in residence at Wysing Arts, Caroline Wendling. 

Offering large-scale sculpture, capitivating installation, sunshine and an interesting crowd – it sounds perfect! Check the collective on Facebook at

It’s also that time of year when the city’s studios are flung open for Open Studios. So pack a water bottle, pick up one of the cheery yellow brochures and go exploring – with 470 local artists, designer-makers and practitioners part of the COS community, there’s a huge amount to see. River-lovers look out for the bold, vibrant works of Frances Campbell on St Barnabas Road, whose paintings, monoprints and etchings are a snapshot into life on the towpath.


Images: Houseboat by Frances Campbell, and right, King's College by Emma Bennett

Or Fernando and Pinar, at Janus Studio on Hobart Street, with stand-out contemporary work (check out There’s a huge amount happening outside of Cambridge this year, too – including Prickwillow, where you can spot contemporary art in a converted phone box, the Phone Box Gallery. Plus, there are artists opening their studios in Ely and Waterbeach, too. Check out the Open Studios website at for the full listings. 

This month also sees the launch of the long awaited Cambridge Art Book – the city as seen through the eyes of many of its artists. Dubbed ‘irresistible’ by Joanna Lumley, the book is a sumptuous collection of art, featuring some of the city’s best loved artists, including (and there really are too many to mention!) children’s book author and illustrator Marion Lindsay, and gorgeous painter Maureen Mace, whose work I love (pictured above). 

The brainchild of collage artist Emma Bennett, whose blazing work graces the cover, the book has created a huge buzz even before launching, with fans including Stephen Fry. “Having spent a happy morning perusing books in the Tate Liverpool bookshop I came back home to Cambridge with the thought of buying a contemporary art book about the city in which I live. I couldn’t believe that one didn’t exist and that was it, I was soon on a mission to create one,” Emma tells me. “I am an artist and know what an amazing array of talented contemporary artists there are working locally,” she says.

There are 117 images of iconic Cambridge included, from the colleges to the river, to tucked-away treasures such as the Orchard Tea Rooms and Jesus Green Lido. Head down to Heffers from 20 July to snap up a copy or check the website,   

"A hedonistic riot of art and colour, leaving many with blurred memories of originality"

Finally, let’s not forget that it’s the last ever Secret Garden Party festival this month (nooooo!), a hedonistic riot of art and colour leaving many with blurred memories of beauty, expression and originality. I’m also heading to the Wild Wood Disco, on 1 July, which looks set to be a smaller version of the Secret Garden Party – complete with installations, music and fun. Better still, why not go out into the wild and create your own art getaway? Take some friends, a few tents, a ghettoblaster (or, um, an iPhone and some speakers), a bottle of gin, perhaps, or three, and some paint.

Those with families, head out camping, get messy and creative with the kids and some canvases – make some art outside while playing Cambridge-raised star Nick Mulvey’s new single, Unconditional, an anthem to lovers and parents everywhere ( Or find a perfect field, take a notebook and pen a poem – In Grantchester Meadows has been inspiring writers and artists since forever. Look around you, create something you will look back on for years to come. Summer really is our time. Enjoy it.