Liberties of the Savoy

Ruth Ewan (2012)


‘The idea for Liberties of the Savoy came from a number of places including a folk song called ‘The Cutty Wren’ which talks of the 14th century Peasants’ Revolt. The site of The Savoy is key to the project. I want Liberties of the Savoy to create a unique situation, all be it for one afternoon, in which the young people involved are unrestricted in their desire and ambition, where they can temporarily experience liberty of sorts.’ – Ruth Ewan

Summoning the spirit of John Ball, Wat Tyler and the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, Ruth Ewan invited 200 teenagers from east London to take over The Savoy’s Lancaster Ballroom for an ambitious event, Liberties of the Savoy, which addressed the social history of the site: the immunity from prosecution wealthy debtors were offered by the historic Precinct of the Savoy, and the freedom of opulence and indulgence offered to those who can afford to guest at the hotel. Through a process of workshops, interviews and essays, young people respond to the demands of liberty through questions of injustice, class division, riots and racial inequality, in voices that resonate with the ancient call for freedom, common ownership and equality.

The book presents the plans, drawings, photographs, interviews and texts led by the students, and gathered throughout the project, alongside commissioned texts, and recipes by Martin Chiffers, executive pastry chef at The Savoy. The film, edited by Sam Hepworth, features video footage recorded by the young people, documenting both the event and the work of making it happen.

Ruth Ewan, a Scottish artist based in London, is known for creating context specific art projects, which highlight the continued relevance of particular historic moments to the present. She works with collaborators to realise her projects, which are often grounded in focused research into the social and political history of the site in which they are based.

Liberties of the Savoy is edited by Caroline Woodley and co-published by Book Works and CREATE London as part of Co-Series. Printed in an edition of 1,000 copies, full colour, 136 pages, soft cover. Designed by Åbäke, 160 x 320mm.

ISBN 978 1 9060125 42 7 – £10.00

This project was produced by Frieze Foundation as part of Frieze Projects East, with the additional support of The Savoy. It is the winner of the 2012 CREATE Art Award, the largest participatory art award in the UK and was a part of the fifth, annual CREATE summer programme alongside commissions from David Bailey, Jeremy Deller and Frieze Projects East. CREATE is a socially focused arts agency, rooted in east London and aims to open up exciting opportunities for artists to work with their neighbours in east London.