London’s hotels are often keen to foster and support the arts in their many forms. Recently, Brown’s ran its very first art weekend and the Andaz Liverpool Street began its ‘Room with a View‘ project. The Savoy regularly holds literary lunches with high-profile writers, while The Bloomsbury Hotel holds private dinners for The Royal Society of Literature in their Seamus Heaney library (named after the Irish poet).
It’s in not only supporting the arts but wanting to be a part of them that many hotels run an artist-in-residence programme. By inviting an artist or writer to tie themselves to their brand, hotels put themselves on the cultural map, instead of just being supporters and observers.
While artist-in-residence schemes probably bring to mind academic institutions, arts centres and theatres, many writer-in-residence positions are actually in prisons. Howver, The Savoy was the first luxury hotel to have a writer-in-residence,. Among those who have held the prestigious position are Geoffrey Chaucer, Henry Fielding, Michael Morpurgo and Fay Weldon.
Upon the hotel’s reopening in 2010, after extensive renovations, the position was modernised to blogger-in-residence and bestowed upon Stephen Fry.
More recently, The Langham has teamed up with theatre company Defibrillator for a new scheme. Their first writer-in-residence will create a play for the hotel’s 150th anniversary. The Bloomsbury has also appointed a poet-in-residence, Dr Leontia Flynn.
Travelodge even welcomed their first writer-in-residence in 2012. Perhaps differing slightly from the residencies of London’s luxury hotels, journalist and broadcaster Neil Sean stayed in Travelodge hotels across the UK, Ireland and Spain while penning his book ‘How to Live Like a Celebrity For Free’.
And visual artists aren’t overlooked either, though they appear to be less popular than writer’s programmes. This is possibly because visual artists need more space to work and might not be quite so at home working in a luxury hotel suite. Nevertheless, the Intercontinental London Park Lane has hosted artists-in-residence and the Savoy has an artist-in-residence in addition to a writer. The Savoy’s current artist is South African Jonty Hurwitz, whose anamorphic sculptures explore how the brain perceives light and space.
The Corinthia runs an annual Artist in Residence programme, which this year focused on the theme of sleep – a theme the hotel has been celebrating with their Power of Sleep event.
This year’s winners, filmmakers Zawe Ashton and David Petch, each spent a month at the hotel making short films centred around the theme. Both films were screened in May at a private ceremony at the hotel. They have also been entered into the London Film Festival and will be shown publicly at the Corinthia in October 2014.
These artist-in-residence schemes benefit both the artist and the hotel’s brand. As well as being seen to support the arts, the hotels get something to show for their support. Whether they produce a play, short film or painting for the hotel lobby, the artist-in-residence is somewhere between a brand ambassador and an artist with a patron.
Photo credits: See-ming Lee, The Savoy, The Corinthia.