Last week the world watched in horror as white supremacists marched through Charlottesville, leading to the death of one person and injuring many others. It was the latest and perhaps the most shocking in a series of troubling events that have punctuated Donald Trump's presidency.It's hard to know what to do when witnessing the injustices perpetrated or actively encouraged by the Trump administration. Speaking out and reading up about racism are crucial. Feeling totally helpless and like you want to wrap yourself in a Snuggie and listen to calming waterfall sounds forever is understandable.
London-based television workers Katy McGhie and Annie Hughes took a different approach. Exasperated by the political situation in America, they opened a pop-up bar to raise money for charities that help people affected by Trump's policies on both sides of the Atlantic."We were starting to feel hopeless about the state of the world," says Hughes. "So we were trying to think about ways that we could do something."
But McGhie and Hughes didn't want this to be any old bar. "Twumps" had to look like the President's Trump Tower penthouse in New York, the monstrously diamond-encrusted Fifth Avenue residence modelled on the Palace of Versailles and stuffed with Louis XIV-inspired chairs, gaudy statues, and oil paintings of The Donald himself. (Trump once described it to Forbes as the "best apartment ever built" and worth at "at least $200 million." The publication later uncovered that the space is actually shared with a neighbour and worth around $64 million.)Hughes and McGhie chose Shoreditch arts centre Rich Mix as the location for Twumps. For three days last week, the space was transformed into a disturbing vision of Trump Tower—gold walls, questionable portraits, and all.
"It needed to be something that grabbed people's attention and it's just a very visual theme," explains Hughes. "People are interested and confused before they visit, and wonder what it is we're doing. But when you walk in, it hits you quite hard. You draw attention to how outrageous he is and how much money he has—and he's the President of the United States. It's kind of outrageous."
Much like Trump's presidency, Twumps didn't take long to go from a far-fetched fantasy into a terrifying reality. Hughes and McGhie spent around six months sourcing the gilt couches, marble tables, gold ornaments, and garish carpets needed to align the bar as closely as possible with Trump's eye-assaulting taste in interiors. They also called on local artist Nick Meek and Canadian illustrators Dushan and Tierra Connor to create the subversive art pieces that decorate the walls. The more unusual items were found on eBay."My favourite has to be the Russian dolls of Putin and Trump," says McGhie. "I actually found those on eBay and they came from Russia. I couldn't actually believe it. I just think they are fascinating."
Other details were a bookshelf displaying Twitter for Dummies and a copy of Barack Obama's autobiography, as well as a dart board with a punctured photo of Kim Jong-un and the "Unfit to serve" t-shirts worn by staff. Hughes' favourite pieces are the love letters from Trump to Vladimir Putin, created by illustrator Tom Levinge. Splayed out across a gold-edged writing desk, they begin "Dear Sweet V.""I love the letters," she says. "They just keep me howling."
Trump might not drink anything stronger than chocolate milk but Hughes and McGhie knew that anyone entering their Trump Tower would need a stiff drink. The menu was designed by Hughes' cocktail fanatic brother and featured a Paris Deal Prosecco and Nuclear Negroni. Fifty pence from every drink sold went to charities including TellMAMA and The Kaleidoscope Trust.
Unsurprisingly, ordering Moscow (Was Responsible For The Election Result) Mules and taking selfies in front of gold balloons spelling out "TWUMPS" proved pretty popular. Twumps soon drew attention from Instagrammers and local press, as well as one of the President's favourite "fake news" outlets, the Washington Post.
"People have loved it," says Hughes. "Until people come down, they're maybe not sure what to expect but it's all those little details that help people understand what we're trying to get across. We had lots of Americans who came and it was interesting having conversations with them and explaining it's not a left or right wing thing, it's not anti-Republican or anti-American. It's a very specific message that we're trying to draw focus to."
Hughes and McGhie are currently looking for another location in which to bring Twumps to life again. Wherever they end up next, we're sure it will be huge. It will be a tremendous success. Probably the greatest bar in political history, in fact.