Something Different led by Rosalie Schweiker is the first art in industry project to take place in the McVitie’s factory in Harlesden, London. It is an experiment to see what artists can bring to a large workforce in globalised economies and explore the complexity and multifaceted nature of these types of art projects. Schweiker’s practice is often concerned with labour relationships and through this work she was able to consider both historic and current industrial practices.
The McVitie’s factory in Harlesden opened in 1902, and is one of the longest-established employers in Park Royal, an area characterised by light industry, in particular food production. Taking it’s archive as a starting point, Schweiker devised workshops, with a focus on printmaking, that would be delivered as part of the factory’s annual training programme. Each year, all McVitie’s employees attend two days of mandatory work-related training. The title Something Different is the response given by employees when Schweiker asked what they would like to do with part of one of their training days.
Schweiker collaborated with eight artists and facilitators connected to the Harlesden area: Iman Hassan, Oriana Jemide, Shanade Johnson, Jean Joseph, Heiba Lamara, MOYMA, Aleesha Nandhra and Laura Rae to deliver 31 workshops for McVitie’s 600+ staff as part of their annual staff training programme. The workshops ran for three months in autumn 2019.
During the workshops, facilitators aimed to create an open environment, where the staff could opt into activities designed by Schweiker and the facilitators or use the space in other ways, whether to socialise with each other or use the art materials in any way they wished. The majority of participants took part in activities, which ranged from explorations of the McVitie’s archive, printing, collaging and poetry, to researching economy models and what it’s like to work in a factory today.
Alongside the workshops with employees, Schweiker is co-producing a book, scheduled for release later in 2020, which will include a selection of works, ideas and thoughts generated from the workshops. Accompanying the project, Schweiker is working alongside artist Sophie Mallett, to create a film also to be released later in the year.
Something Different is an artwork by Rosalie Schweiker, commissioned by HS2 and Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation’s (OPDC) Great Place Scheme and co-curated and produced by Create London. HS2 and OPDC are committed to working with local communities to support people who live and work in areas along the route of the new railway and across the wider OPDC area. The Great Place Scheme is supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and Heritage Lottery Fund.