After ‘The Drawing Room’, some reflections from the Circus of Illustration.

On the 18th August 2012 250 members of the public and a team of illustrators known as the Circus of Illustration transformed an empty shop in Bedford into a mass doodle in the art installation ‘The Drawing Room’. The Circus had been successful in our first round of the We Are Bedford Bursary, a tiny fund we set up to mop up the last of our funding for empty shops work. They originally applied with a much broader project in mind but we urged them to simplify, simplify, simplify. One thing we have learned with regard to ‘pop up’ ventures is that they can only carry one concept. Make it too confusing and you lose the audience. To ‘pop up’ well you must simply do one thing brilliantly. And so the Drawing Room was born.

It took us a long time to find a willing shop but with the help of our partners Stimpsons Eves we finally found on in August of this year. The Circus found that the new space helped to refine their idea, and unless you have prior knowledge of the space that you will be using this will invariably be the case with pop ups. There is a reciprocal relationship between idea and space which requires a robust flexibility and the Circus were able to take one large deep window space as their stage within a much larger shop.

Individually the illustrators collected old furniture and trinkets and painted or papered them white. These furnished a pure white room shop front, which acted as a canvas for people to doodle on throughout the day. People were encouraged to scribble on the papered walls, floor and furniture to create a literal drawing room.


Using the existing shop fittings they were able to create a temporary 3D canvas that could be dismantled without the need to add any extra fittings or fixtures that would permanently damage the property. Marisa from the Circus reflects,

“We made the project as democratic as possible, which funnily enough resulted in what looks like anarchy. It was free to join in and the only rules were no swears and no saucy body parts.  The rules were broken, and we found that supervising children to make sure that they only drew on the allocated spaces for doodling was a challenge, but once we made signs to clearly indicate where and where not to scribble, it was fine.

People of all ages, cultures and abilities got stuck in together. Families and individuals arrived to find a welcoming lively creative space.

The room was a shop front, so passing pedestrians would stop, and have a good look at the hustle and bustle of the spectacle inside. Some were intrigued enough to join in and find out more, others took photos. The public seemed genuinely amused with what was happening.”


The public did seem to enjoy themselves, leaving comments on the comment wall

“It is a very creative idea. Very enjoyable”

“Brilliant. 10/10”

“Bedford needs more of this xxx”

The project was delivered under the £250 budget (less than a £1 per person!).

For more info and images check out these blog posts by Marisa AKA Madame Bogg about the preparation and the day itself and the Circus of Illustration communal blog (not bog) here.