Company: Movements, Deals and Drinks

Exploring the relationships between east London communities and the countryside

Winner of the Create Art Award 2014 Company: Movements, Deals and Drinks sets-out to establish a community-run drinks enterprise in Barking and Dagenham. Developed by international artist group Myvillages and led by artist Kathrin Böhm, the project takes inspiration from the remarkable history of hop-picking in east London.

The hopping tradition dates back to the early 19th century when over 200,000 east London residents, mostly women and children, would ‘go down to Kent’ for temporary seasonal work harvesting apples, berries, hops and other crops. This annual event came to an end in the 1950s, but Myvillages revisits the tradition by facilitating new connections between contemporary east London, nearby urban spaces for food growing and the Kent countryside.

In early 2014 Myvillages started to explore what could be picked in east London and in the nearby countryside today. A plan was devised not only to pick, but also to keep the harvest and to make drinks and trade them, with the profits feeding into a new community owned drinks enterprise. The aim was to extend the collective Labour process to complete a whole cycle of production, trade and reinvestment. The resulting company is as much about economics and a profit in the long-term as it is about social and cultural impact, and about shaping a new public space for collective production in Barking and Dagenham.

Company produced 20,000 bottled drinks between May and September 2014 through a wide programme of activities across Barking and Dagenham including hop-picking reminiscence sessions, fruit harvest trips, cola and lemonade making workshops and farm visits.  The resulting drinks range launched nationally at Frieze Art Fair in October 2014 and is currently available in selected stores across London.

The project is now permanently based at the Parks Centre in Dagenham, where a programme of regular events and workshops are coordinated.

For full event listings and to find out how to get involved please visit the project’s dedicated website.

Follow the Company: Movements, Deals and Drinks project on Twitter: @goingpicking

Watch a short film documenting the project’s hop-picking trip to Kent below:

Company: Movements, Deals and Drinks has been commissioned by Create and is supported by Bank of America Merrill Lynch and London Borough of Barking and Dagenham.

Myvillages is a pan-national artist group founded in 2003 by Kathrin Böhm, Wapke Feenstra, and Antje Schiffers. Its work addresses the evolving relationship between the rural and the urban, looking at different forms of production, pre-conceptions and power relationships. Current and recent projects include International Village Show (2014 – 16) for the Museum of Contemporary Art Leipzig, Germany, Umeå Pantry for Bildmuseet Umeå, Sweden and Farmers and Ranchers with M12, Colorado, USA and Fries Museum, the Netherlands.

Kathrin Böhm is a founding member of Myvillages and the London-based art and architecture group Public Works, whose participatory and collaborative public realm and design works include Park Products for Serpentine Galleries, London and 1000 bags here and now for Whitechapel Gallery, London. Böhm has recently curated ‘Trade Show’, together with Gavin Wade, for Eastside Projects in Birmingham and RUrban in Paris and her exhibition ‘Money Making Machine and Other Useful Contraptions’ will open at Peckham Platform on 20 May 2014. Kathrin is also running ‘Haystacks’, a series of monthly informal talks, in various London locations, about rural realities and links.