By Leo Hornak
Artists, filmmakers and students had an unusual opportunity to discuss the future of New Cross yesterday, in a special ‘talkaoke’ forum at Dagenham Town Hall.
Hosted by conceptual artist commune We The People, Talkaoke New Cross was an ambitious attempt to combine the vibrant excitement of karaoke with in-depth discussion of local government funding dilemmas.
Participants were seated round a specially designed talkaoke table, containing a built in sound system, neon lights and video cameras. But rather than swapping renditions of Staying Alive or My Way, each member of the group used the microphone to express opinions about the political future of New Cross. To create a positive atmosphere, the debate was accompanied by a faint soundtrack of 90s house music and ambient beats.
“This is the first time I’ve done a Talkaoke event on such a serious topic,” explained Jesse Darlin, who chaired the evening. “Usually, it gets quite lairy and people just start chatting about sex and personal hygiene by the end.”
There were trenchant opinions expressed about the need to preserve the New Cross in the face of possible gentrification. The fate of much loved local coffeeshop Cafe Crema was discussed, as was Prangsta, a nearby costume shop, which is also threatened with closure.
Mikey Weinkove, the inventor of Talkoake, also attended the event, and clearly felt the evening had been a success. At one point he even urged the group to “take this discussion back to the streets”, adding that this was literally possible, since the sound system and mixing desk can run on batteries.
Audience responses to the Talkaoke experience were varied. Bard Aune, a Radio MA student at Goldsmiths, felt that the event was “new and fresh, but also a little bit weird.”
Whatever the outcome in New Cross, Talkaoke seems to have a bright future. The Talkaoke Table is on tour this month, and will be used to host a discussion of the nature of truth in art, and an investigation in the ethics of nuclear power.