Drawing on the history of the Old Manor Park Library building, Rabbits Road Institute was established in 2015 by artists Ruth Beale and Amy Feneck, who work together as The Alternative School of Economics. It was commissioned by Create London, and made in collaboration with local people, volunteers, community groups and collaborators. Rabbits Road Institute was developed as an experiment in making a public space, drawing on the history of public libraries and the worker’s education movement. As a space for community, education & creativity, its vision included free community use for local people and non-profit activities.
During 2015-2016, The Alternative School of Economics co-produced talks, workshops, study groups, film nights, symposiums, and a summer school, including: ‘Economics for All’ study group, ‘Story of Money’ family workshops, ‘The Rich as a Minority Group’, an exhibition of work made with young people from Little Ilford School, a weekly ‘Conversation Club’, which included field trips to Parliament and Chelsea Physic Garden, and numerous talks and events such as An Evening of Questions’, a ‘Why Study the Rich?’ study day, an ‘Untold Histories’ talk about radical archives, and ‘Ways of Working’, an afternoon workshop about alternative and radical education in schools.
Rabbits Road Institute Library was developed near the end of 2016, and is a collection of books nominated by individuals and groups involved in and supportive of the projects at RRI. The library includes fiction, non-fiction and poetry, with an emphasis on activism, culture, public space and social history.
The Alternative School of Economics‘ last public event was the Lantern Lecture by Shami Chakrabarti CBE in January 2017.
From 2017-2018 Create took forward the vision of Rabbits Road Institute, including the managing and creative programming of a community programme by Laura Owen, supported by volunteers. This included, among many other things, the continuation of a weekly Conversation Club, the Maghreb Cine film club, Tech Tribe children’s coding workshops, Second Saturday Cinema and a Young Artists group.
Supported by Arts Council England and Newham Council.Ruth Beale and Amy Feneck are artists with individual practices, who started working together through a shared interest in The Working Class Movement Library in Salford, which holds a vast collection of material on labour history, trade unions, political philosophy and class struggle. Both artists draw on histories of radical politics and alternative pedagogy within their own practices: Ruth Beale employs performance, discussion and archival processes to identify relationships between culture, governance, social discourse and representation. Amy Feneck works with film, video and photography, focusing on the relationship between instinct and the political. Their on-going collaborative project ‘The Alternative School of Economics’ uses the practice of self-education to study economics, creating a framework for investigating political, social and cultural issues. The ASE is in part a reaction to the 2007/8 financial crash, a situation that has created a new demand upon the public to understand the workings of the economy and how it effects day to day life. Recent projects for the ASE include: Pensions and Pricarity, for ‘Labour of Love’, Collective, Edinburgh, The Fiction of Money for ‘MirrorCity’ Hayward Gallery, London and Money, Money, Money for ‘Now I Gotta Reason’, Jerwood Space, London.