Books & Print

Fire Assembly Point: Gather Here

Lauren Varley

Writing for students can sometimes appear as an entirely academic construct, plagued by the associations of grading and strict assessment criteria. Even when student magazines and blogs are made available, they can seem staunch and removed from young interests. At the Courtauld Institute, there is a movement towards a digital, free-thinking art writing matrimony: Fire Assembly Point. I spoke to India Picton, who pioneered the magazine from its early stages into the dazzling and exciting space it exists as today. This interview highlights some of the main issues that students face with academic writing and the steps we can take to write creatively and without restriction.

Why did you feel the need to bring Fire Assembly Point into existence?

Fire Assembly Point came about for a variety of reasons, but mostly just due to a number of conversations with people around me. A lot of us also haven’t been creative in so long because of our academic responsibilities, and Fire Assembly Point became the place where these two things could co-exist. I am obsessed with magazines, and creating my own was something I’ve wanted to do for ages, and finally thought – if not now, when? Finding out people believed in the idea was the first step. We did already have a student magazine, but we didn’t like the fact they were seen as the ‘final say of the Courtauld voice’. I think that’s also what separates Fire Assembly Point. We’re frustrated at large with the peak liberal friendliness of the art world and wanted to create a platform were people were allowed to be angry. FAP has come into existence to create a platform which we all believe is necessary in our environment, as a political and creative outlet, and to kind of prove that our views aren’t outliers. 

What do you love most about running this magazine?

My favourite thing is reading and seeing submissions. It’s so exciting to receive amazing new content and to think about the ways we can use them in the magazine. I love the idea that a few of us are on the same wavelength about what FAP can become, and this gives me hope that there are so many young people out there which feel this is a gap which can be filled. When I receive submissions, it’s great to see just how many amazing people are out there and that they want to contribute to the platform we’re creating. I love that it started as just a little personal project with my friends, but it’s already starting to become a much larger community, and one which can function as a collective body to represent and advertise young creatives.

What counts as art in your curative process?

I wouldn’t really say curatorial process is Art (with a capital A) in that sense. I haven’t really thought of it that way at all. I do, however want the magazine to function beyond being a traditional one. I want it to function as a kind of art object in itself, I think that’s the beauty of them. I’m really inspired by magazines like Middle Plane, which focuses on stretching editorial possibilities beyond framing text. Photography series or even essays then can function much more independently and then I guess, more like Art. I think this also is important with the ongoing climate crisis, there are obviously worries about paper and ink. I don’t want the magazine to function as a throw-away item, and so all current news is online only, and we keep slow journalism and creative work for print. Combining this with the creation of a FAP aesthetic, we can produce a print object which could fit on a bookshelf.

What’s the future for FAP?

There are so many things we want to do! I would love to be able to commit more time next year and expand outwards. I really like the idea that Fire Assembly Point can function, as the name implies, as a refuge point. For now, it’s an online place where people can reflect and contribute to the world around them, but I think the future could be a more physical platform, where all kinds of creatives can interact and work together, kind of modelled on artistic collectives. I would love to have a project space where this could all happen.Obviously, things like this which exist in London are struggling right now and we have begun to think about how we can make this work. I think expanding the idea of the refuge point will be our best bet. We all love going out, and we see these as our refuge points of the week, and so we’d love to put events on in the future too. As the world continues to increase in speed, I think little bubbles to use as safe spaces will become even more important. 

Is it important to give people free access to writings about art?

None of us would be where we are now if there weren’t free writings on art. I think that is kind of what brings us close together. We can see right ahead of us how hard it is going to be to enter into the ‘art world’, and we’re not really sure if we want to. But we all knew how important it was for us to see people trying to create something themselves. Just as it is important for it to be free, we also believe creatives need to be paid, which is why we have both the print and the online. Everything we produce will be available on mass, and it’s an important part of our ethos.

Fire Assembly Point exists as a place where creatives are free to be expressive, passionate, weird and wonderful, without fear of judgement or a harsh editorial hand. The project is inviting submissions all the time, and it is a brilliant space to show off the corners of creativity that are angry or bizarre- and very beautiful. If you would like to seek refuge from the flames, contact India: india.picton@fireassemblypoint.co.uk