On my radar: Gareth Pugh’s cultural highlights | Culture

Designer Gareth Pugh was born in Sunderland in 1981. He studied fashion at Central Saint Martins, where a design from his 2003 graduate collection was chosen to appear on the cover of Dazed & Confused. He made his London fashion week debut in 2005. Theatrical glamor is still his trademark: Pugh has created costumes for Kylie Minogue, Beyoncé and Lady Gaga, as well as dance and opera. He has co-curated a new cultural festival, This Bright Land (Somerset House, 1-29 August), with his husband, the artist Carson McColl, to showcase the art and creativity of underrepresented groups.

1. Dance

Pina Bausch: The Rite of Spring, École des Sables

The Pina Bausch Foundation and École des Sables' The Rite of Spring.
‘Incredible’: the Pina Bausch Foundation and École des Sables’ The Rite of Spring. Photograph: Maarten Vanden Abeele

I first saw this Pina Bausch work years ago, but this version at Sadler’s Wells with a cast of African dancers was staged in June. That cast completely changed the narrative arc and were incredible to watch. There was a Q&A afterwards, and there was a bat trapped in the auditorium. The Stravinsky score is gripping, but that added drama. It was visceral – I felt like I’d been to primal scream therapy afterwards. Bausch’s approach has such a human but poetic quality.

2nd Gig

Abba Voyage

Abba Voyage in London.
Abba Voyage in London. Photograph: Johan Persson/Abba Voyage/PA

I’ve worked a lot with Wayne McGregor, who choreographed the show, and he invited us to the opening night. It was very razzmatazz. People have tried shows with holograms before and they fell short, but Baillie Walsh, who directed this, handled it so well. The custom-built stadium makes all the difference – normally the proscenium contains all the action, but here the effects surround you – I’ve never seen it done to such a level of excellence. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! was insane and Chiquitita plays against an eclipsing sun. This show blew my mind.

3. Podcast

Throughline

Throughline hosts Rund Abdelfatah, left, and Ramtin Arablouei.
Throughline hosts Rund Abdelfatah, left, and Ramtin Arablouei. Photograph: Mike Morgan/NPR

For my commute, podcasts are my friend and I’ve found them Throughline to be a really incredible resource. The hosts Ramtin Arablouei and Rund Abdelfatah look at the past to understand what’s happening now. For example, they did a great episode on the 1918 pandemic and how that links to what we’re going through. They draw so many lines through historical events, it feels a bit like the Roman god Janus looking to the past and the future. Also, the episodes are meaty – most are about an hour long – so it’s a nice train journey.

4. Club night

Vogue Rites

Vogue Rites
‘Invigorating, beautiful, sweary…’ Vogue Rites. Photograph: Vogue Rites

This ballroom night runs every Monday in a bar off Brick Lane. Master of ceremonies is the amazing Kartel Brown and it’s the most invigorating, beautiful, sweary thing you can go to. The dancers are so charismatic and the energy is intoxicating. The ballroom scene is all about the chosen family; they even have house mothers and fathers. I relate to that because my creative family all used to meet at Hoxton clubs. There was Kashpoint on Sunday and I met my husband at BoomBox. I don’t go out so much now, but Kartel and his community show those things still exist.

5. Ceramics

Turning Earth pottery classes

turning_earth / instagram turning_earth Beautiful surface decoration by Victoria Fierro of @formed_ceramic who works from the Turning Earth studio in Haringey.
‘At school we weren’t allowed to touch the pottery teacher’s wheel.’ Photograph: turning_earth/instagram

I love making things with my hands, so for my 40th my friends got me pottery lessons. I’ve never thrown on a wheel before. At school we weren’t allowed to touch the pottery teacher’s wheel, which was infuriating, so I’ve been living out my childhood dreams at Turning Earth in Hoxton at a weekly night class. I’ve been working intensively on the festival This Bright Land recently, which is very rewarding, but that connection I get from making things has vanished into meetings and emails. This has been therapeutic.

We Exist - Logo

6. Activism

We Exist

We Exist is a trans-led arts organization that helps find work and creative spaces for the community. They’ve just worked with the Koppel Project – a charity that has taken over the old Central Saint Martin campus to provide studio spaces. After they finished filming The Batman in the Holborn building, all these incredible trans artists rolled up and started working there. We Exist provides a support network for the community and also runs a healthcare fund. The NHS is unable to provide for all trans healthcare needs, so that’s a lifeline.

7. Film

Elvis (Dir Baz Luhrmann, 2022)

I’m a huge Luhrmann fan and I couldn’t wait to see this. It makes so much sense to pair the visual worlds of Elvis and Luhrmann: they marry up well and this is one to see on the big screen. What I was surprised by, though, was how touched I was by Elvis’ story. It’s truly unbelievable. Austin Butler’s performance is an Oscar-winner – even appearing on the soundtrack, which I was straight on Spotify for the next morning.

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