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Travis Elborough

Travis Elborough
Chisenhale Gallery Victoria Park Residency 2014-15

Writer Travis Elborough is the Chisenhale Gallery Victoria Park Residency artist for 2014-15, he will present the event programme Games for May for this residency. During his residency, Elborough is developing his research for a new book about the history of public parks, from commons and village greens to the eco-parks and bio-diverse green spaces of today. This programme of events function as active research tools inviting park users to contribute their experiences and consider how they use Victoria Park’s sport and recreation facilities.

Interested in the social histories of urbanisation and industry in London’s East End, Elborough is working with Victoria Park’s varied leisure clubs to investigate the political history of the park and its links with sport, colonialism, protest and commemoration. Victoria Park was designed by architect James Pennethorne between 1842-46 as an artificial countryside for the city of London and since it was first opened to the public games have been central to life in the park. Historically, Victoria Park’s sporting clubs were founded for and by local people – East London dockers raced model boats on the former bathing lake from 1907 and City workers took the bus from Liverpool Street to use its newly laid running track in the 1920s. Today the Park continues to be used by a range of dedicated clubs – including the Victoria Park Harriers, the Cricket League, Military Fitness and a shadow boxing group – who are active throughout the year.

Games for May is a series of four public events in which Elborough invites specialists and park users to consider how the physical landscape of the park has been formed through social ritual and technological invention. Events include a guided tour of Victoria Park’s sports & leisure clubs; a film screening and presentation about the community exercise initiative Good Gym; and a workshop with Norman Lara from the Victoria Park Model Boating Club followed by a model boat regatta. Chisenhale Gallery has commissioned a series of short texts by Elborough, which will be published on Chisenhale’s website over the forthcoming months. These texts collect together his investigations, research and observations on games, place and localism in Victoria Park. The first of these texts is Postcards from Victoria Park: At the London Bridge Alcoves.

The Victoria Park Residency sits within the context of Tower Hamlets’ recent sporting history as host to the 2012 Olympic Games, bringing high-tech sporting facilities and the new Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to the East End. The Olympics encouraged mass participation in sport yet three years on a recent survey by Active People, managed by Sport England and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport reported a drop of over 125,000 people participating in regular sport. Through this project, Elborough hopes to stimulate a wider dialogue around the role of sport and civic space, and the impact of the Olympics’ and its legacy on the borough’s oldest park.


Travis Elborough (born 1971, Worthing) is a London based author, freelance writer and cultural commentator. His books include The Bus We Loved (Granta Books, 2006), The Long Player Goodbye (Sceptre, 2009), Wish You Were Here (Sceptre, 2011) and London Bridge in America: The Tall Story of a Transatlantic Crossing (Vintage, 2014). His articles have appeared in publications including The Guardian, The Times and Tate etc, he has featured on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio Five Live and was guest historian on Russell Kane’s Whistle-Stop Tour series on BBC Radio 2. Elborough is currently working on Swings and Roundabouts, a study of public parks. For further information please visit Elborough's website www.traviselborough.co.uk

Chisenhale Gallery Victoria Park Residency is a nine-month research and development residency currently in its fourth year of partnership with Tower Hamlets Parks and Open Spaces Department. The borough’s main park, Victoria Park, recently completed a programme to restore key historic elements, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It was voted the Nation’s favourite park in 2012 and 2014. Previous Chisenhale Gallery Victoria Park Residency artists include Cathy Haynes (2013-14), Cara Tolmie (2012-13) and Matthew Noel-Tod (2011-12).