26 July 2021

Budding artists bring defining era of local history back to life

Film comp

Multimedia showcase by young people celebrates punk ‘Birth of Cool’ youth culture that put west London at the centre of a worldwide cultural shift.

London’s latest must-see immersive art exhibition is ‘Birth of Cool’ – an interactive history of Chelsea’s iconic Kings Road that showcases the work of local young people from Octavia’s eponymous digital media project.

Funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Arts Council, ‘Birth of Cool’ is a collection of film, photography, fashion and design that explores the area’s unique history of sound, look and attitude through the eyes of today’s youth.  

Inspired by the revolutionary youthquake culture, the heritage-based exhibition explores how the Kings Road moved from being the birthplace of a new ‘swinging’ London in the 1960s into a fashion melting pot that exploded into the 1970s punk movement.

Premiering at the 508 Gallery on Kings Road, it features two broadcast-standard documentaries that were filmed, directed and produced in the area, including the award-winning ‘Punk Road’ that was selected for five film festivals worldwide. A wide range of artists, designers and creatives feature in the documentary including Terry Jones, co-founder of I-D magazine and previous Art Director for British Vogue.

Other highlights include:

All creations were made through Octavia’s ‘Birth of Cool’ youth project – a holistic development and skills-based training programme for local 18-25 year olds seeking a career in the creative industries. The project enabled 139 young people, many from under-represented, to work closely with leading design and media experts, gaining invaluable experience and industry knowledge, as well as opportunities to develop their technical and creative skills.

‘Birth of Cool’ is open from Wednesday 28 July to Tuesday 3 August at 508 Gallery, London, SW10 0LD

Suzie Zabrowska, leading fashion designer, said: “Avant-garde fashion burned bright on the Kings Road from the 1960s to the 1980s, a time and place synonymous with teen rebellion and counter-culture movements. As punk became the soundtrack for a non-conformist generation – the punk look became the uniform. Birth of Cool invokes the revolutionary spirit of the era, capturing and preserving this iconic time and illuminating it for a new generation.”

Tommy Edwards, Digital Media and Remote Projects Manager at Octavia, said: “The creativity generated by Birth of Cool perfectly epitomizes this vibrant period of trailblazing expression. I have been so impressed with the professionalism of the young people involved and the quality and originality of their creations. They absorbed an impressive array of digital media skills during their time on this project and it has been fantastic to see their confidence and their ambition for the future grow.”

A host of engaging events have taken place as part of the project, including fashion expert Amber Butchart’s ‘Unclothing the fashion history of the King’s Road’ masterclass. Hosted at Octavia’s flagship community hub, the Reed, Amber’s talk explained how the area’s melting pot of artists ignited an evolution of truly original clothes design in the 1960’s that became entwined with a revolutionary youth culture.

Notes to editors

About Birth of Cool

Birth of Cool is a National Lottery heritage funded initiative run by Octavia, a homes, care and support provider based in west London. The free project is empowering young creatives aged 13-25 to learn about the industry, acquire new skills and be inspired through meeting and working with industry professionals.  


About Octavia  

Octavia helps thousands of people in central and west London through providing affordable homes, support and care.

Established by the social reformer Octavia Hill in 1865, we manage around 5,800 homes, including seven extra care schemes for older people.  

We provide a range of support for people of all ages, through befriending, financial advice, and help with training and employment. Our youth projects work with hundreds of young people every year, providing social and culturally stimulating activities through our digital youth club, including access to industry standard media equipment.  


About the National Lottery Heritage Fund

Using money raised by the National Lottery, the National Lottery Heritage Fund inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future. Follow @HeritageFundUk on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund