Beanfeast: Ghostsigns at Type Tasting

Stencil of Beanfeast by Sam Roberts

This is my/Ghostsigns’ submission to an inspiring project from Type Tasting, part of this year’s London Design Festival. It will be displayed alongside works from myriad designers and artists, including Alan Kitching and Ralph Steadman (Wow!), at the Victoria and Albert Museum, 14-19 September.

The brief was to create a word that completes the sentence “London = …” in the context of creativity in London. I obviously wanted to do something inspired by ghostsigns and ‘Beanfeast’ was the first word that came to mind, based of course on the Highgate ghostsign.

Ghostsign saying 'Catering for Beanfeasts, Parties, Clubs'

To create my piece, Sarah Hyndman of Type Tasting kindly let me into her studio near my home in Stoke Newington to do something experimental with a stencil. This reflects the intersection of the brickwork and the lettering, a key aspect of ghostsigns in general. Here I am at work…

Sam Roberts cutting the stencil for his Beanfeast piece
After cutting the stencil it was over to the spraying station to apply the paint and see how the stencil worked on different materials.
Stencil and result of Sam Roberts' Beanfeast piece

Finally I had to say a few words on why I had chosen the word ‘Beanfeast’.

“My work photographing and researching the fading remains of advertising painted on walls (a.k.a. Ghostsigns) often leads to interesting questions, such as ‘what is a beanfeast?’. The full text of this Highgate sign is ‘Catering for beanfeasts, parties & clubs’. However, beans in this case aren’t the baked variety, but the accounting type. A beanfeast is a party thrown by an employer if the end-of-year ‘bean counting’ has revealed a positive set of accounts. The modern equivalent would be the Christmas party and the deployment of ‘beans’ to pay for it.

When challenged to think of an interesting word arising from my ghostsigns research in London, this, and the painted sign, was the first that came to mind. It resonates at a number of levels, representing London as a centre of finance, but also as a centre of creativity. It provides a glimpse into London’s long history, both in terms of the evolution of language and the once widespread practice of advertising with paint on walls. As a native Londoner I’d also say it says something about our ability to throw a great party!”

Thank you Sarah, Type Tasting and the London Design Festival for letting me take part in this brilliant collaborative and creative project. It really is an honour to be among some heroes of mine and I can’t wait to see the final hanging at the V&A.

You can see others’ contributions on the Type Tasting site [Link expired], alongside articles detailing the creative and production processes used. The results are being shown 14-19 September 2013 and there are free workshops on 14 and 15 September if you feel inspired to have a go at creating your own piece. You might even be fortunate enough to end up with a cool initial as a souvenir like I did…

'S' from Beanfeast