#GOOB commissions

  • Rob Sloan

For over a month in the year of 2014, I was missing in action. I hadn’t been in the same room as my flatmates for more than ten minutes and I was considering upping sticks and moving in with the mice at Somerset House.

The reason for this was that we were full steam ahead, curating a pop-up exhibition showcasing the work of three very talented and creative MSers.

You may be presuming that the exhibition was a long, drawn out affair, a week or so perhaps…but no! It was all in preparation for a four hour event.

The good news, however, is that it was all worth it…


It’s almost a year ago to the day that Shift.ms delivered #GOOB.

You’re possibly wondering what on earth #GOOB means…it stands for ‘Good Out Of Bad’. #GOOB is our way of talking about ‘post traumatic growth’ – the positive reaction that an individual may experience following a traumatic event.

In this case the traumatic event was the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.

Through sponsorship we were able to commission three brilliant artists with the same brief, to respond to the phrase ‘Good Out Of Bad’ and create a piece of work that showcased their personal response to diagnosis. Each artist has looked at aspects of their own MS and responded appropriately.

The range of work is a testament to the complexity of the condition: not one person’s experience of MS is the same.

The artists who were involved in #GOOB were:

Bryony Birkbeck – a designer specialising in illustration, hand crafted models, set design and art direction.

A symptom of Bryony’s diagnosis with MS was optic neuritis – a condition that causes a loss of vision. Bryony was about to embark on a trip abroad and as she travelled, Bryony used her imagination to fill the gaps in her vision caused by MS.

When remembering her travelling experience, Bryony remembers an alternative reality influenced by the vibrant sights and sounds that she encountered.


Kirsty Stevens – a jeweller using the shape of the lesions in her brain to make beautiful jewellery.


Hannah Laycock – a photographer who used her medium to explore the idea of self discovery following diagnosis.


There were three key goals for the commission – firstly we wanted to use it as an opportunity to support the ongoing work of three professionals within the MS community.

Secondly, we wanted the artists to visualise a key and frequently talked about topic on our forums – diagnosis, in the hope that the content could be fed back into our website and inform our community.

Thirdly, we wanted to hold an event that was a celebration of those actively involved with Shift.ms and that acknowledged and drew together the ever growing network of creatives that we’re lucky to work with.

So…our learnings.

– Don’t underestimate the work that needs to go into a four hour event!

Practically, this had to be planned very carefully! We only had a space for the day (including the four hour exhibition) so everything had to be designed to be put up and taken down very quickly.

This meant the weeks leading up to the exhibition were spent making sure that we had everything ready to drop in place on the day.

We also had to consider securing the venue, branding, designing promotional material to hand out on the night, curating and setting up the work of each artist…this list goes on. You may be able to see why there were a few thousand yard stares towards exhibition night!

– Decide right from the offset whose responsibility it is to curate the work of the artist and put plans in place as early as possible.

Do this and the set up on the day of the exhibition will be a doddle.

– If you’ve not done something before, don’t make it up as you go along. Use the information and contacts around you wisely.

If you’re doing something new – like I was in curating an exhibition – get the right people on board! there were times when a simple conversation with the right person revealed that I was cracking open a nut with a JCB…I found the right conversations helped manage the whole process.

– Make sure there’s an Anindita Ghosh around

If you don’t have a team around you, things can quickly unravel. I lost count of the moral boosting Byron Burgers we wolfed down, but it was the camaraderie and the late night meals that made all the hard work possible!

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