Olivia Plender presented her video Bring Back Robin Hood in the Picture Gallery at Nottingham Castle as part of Disclosures II: The Middles Ages. The video weaves together a number of stories, from gentrification in present day London, to the legend of Robin Hood, to the 2001 economic crisis in Argentina. The key story is that of a British youth movement, the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift, established in England in 1920 by a left-wing group of renegade boy scouts led by the charismatic John Hargrave. Camping was a ritualised spiritual activity for the Kibbo Kift, who quickly became laden with mysticism and bordered on being a religious cult. Plender is interested in the way history is manipulated and mythologised. Bring back Robin Hood follows her research into the Kibbo Kift. She attempts to access archives and contact former members and academic historians, each of whom perpetuate a different view of this movement. During the economic crisis of 1931 it evolved into the Green Shirt Movement for Social Credit. Advocating a method of economic reform called Social Credit, they took to the cities, participating in hunger strikes and agitating for change.
Although the video returns to many different points in history, it is as much about the present day. It opens with the declaration ‘Bring back Robin Hood’ graffitied on a London social housing block, which has been recently privatised. The video considers the recurring dream of returning to a golden age: an idealisation of the past, especially in the face of economic and social crisis, personified by figures like Robin Hood. Alongside the video Plender will display two replicas of the Kibbo Kift’s brightly coloured, futurist-inspired ceremonial costumes and a banner declaring ‘War Won’t Work’.
Plender will also present Set Sail for the Levant, a board game inspired by the 16th century Royal Game of the Goose. Players start the game as poor peasants expelled from their land. Equipped with dice, cards and counters they face the various perils and opportunities that come their way. They take a historical journey from agrarian society through the cities of the Industrial Revolution, to post industrial England structured around a knowledge economy. The artist has also been commissioned to produce a version of the work that reflects the particular history of Laxton. It will be played by teams as part of the day’s events on 6 September.