The Art Insider: October '18

Image: Tara Westover

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

October has long offered a dizzying amount of cultural activity in the city, with the arrival of the University of Cambridge’s Festival of Ideas. Fabulous, rich in range and with an intoxicating range of speakers, exhibits, talks and workshops – where to start? I’m making a beeline on the 20th for Tara Westover, author of bestselling memoir, Educated, in conversation with columnist Hadley Freeman. What does it mean to be independent – not just economically, but intellectually? Go for Westover’s incendiary home-truths; cultural antidotes to a skewed world. 

“The problem with failing to enforce your boundaries with people is that you aren’t just choosing them. You are failing to choose yourself. You aren’t so much empathising with others as you are failing to empathise with yourself, to recognise your own needs as legitimate. All human relationships are made stronger by healthy boundaries. In the end, independence reveals itself as the means by which we are able to choose the terms of our interdependence.”

These are wise words indeed and many artists would do well to take note – in the past month alone I’ve seen at least one super-talented Cambridge artist worrying aloud on social media about appearing ‘too pushy’ for wanting to introduce a deposit scheme to clients, to prevent time wasted on consulting for commissions that lead nowhere. It’s often a blurry line in the arts, when friends can become clients, collaborators or commissioners – but being clear about processes, limits and expectations upfront with any new project or commission is essential. Better still, this can go a long way to protect friendships, too. For all artists, just like plumbers or lawyers, your time and your talent is money. Your friendships are your support networks. There is no shame in protecting either. 

“It's perfect inspiration for lovers of contemporary jewellery design"

Make sure you see the Designers and Jewellery exhibition at The Fitzwilliam Museum, which showcases little-known treasures from the Fitzwilliam Museum’s outstanding permanent collection, this exhibition celebrates exquisitely-designed and often handcrafted jewellery and metalwork, dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It’s perfect inspiration for lovers of contemporary jewellery design.

Cambridge is a fantastic place to base a creative business – including jewellery. “I’ve been helped in setting up my business by the support of galleries such as VK Gallery in St Ives who were the first to take my work,” says Ditanny Rose, a vibrant jewellery designer-maker who makes work in the city and sells at fairs and through her website. “Now I have my work in Cambridge Contemporary Crafts in Cambridge plus shops in Newmarket and Norwich. Local collectives of artists and craftspeople are invaluable – in Cambridge I’m a member of Cambridge Made, which has a strong online and ‘in real life’ presence. My proudest moment was last year when I got a prestigious slot as one of the featured jewellers in the foyer of the Hepworth Wakefield. 

“My buyers are people who like contemporary design, who want the quality of silver jewellery but also like colour and want something fresh and unique, who like the idea of “wearable artwork”. I aim for my work to be abstract but not austere, subtle and simple, yet detailed.” Find out more at

Also watch out for Still Murmuring at the Junction on the 18th, which is also part of the Festival of Ideas. Forty years after NASA launched Voyager 1 and 2 with a public photo record of information reflective of the human race for extra-terrestrials, artist Anna Brownstead hosts the public vote on what should be included next. What would you include? Go along and have your say. 

For an extreme readathon of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, visit the Scott Polar Institute on Saturday 27th (10am – 5pm), or catch French Revolutions in Painting on the 20th (11am – noon), at Little Hall Sidgwick Site, where Claire White explores how radical conflict was turned into art; there’s plenty of picks to suit art and culture lovers. For the full festival programme, visit

Finally, pop into Makers Gallery for Cheryl Warren’s new show Landscape – A Response, running 19 October until 2 November. It’s a chance to immerse yourself in her haunting, joyous abstracts – a must for fans of natural beauty. With autumn all around us at this time of year, that’s free for us all to enjoy. Have a fabulous month all.