Barking and Dagenham has some of the lowest levels of cultural participation in culture in Britain, along with some of the highest levels of youth unemployment, deprivation, racist hate-crime and rate of demographic change.
In 2011 the borough was voted the least happy place in Britain. This came a year after the BNP came very close to taking the local council over in the local elections; they were ousted by Labour with the active support of MP Margaret Hodge and all BNP Councillors lost their seats.
The idea for A House for Artists emerged when the borough described the town centre as an Artists Enterprise Zone, to be achieved by repurposing unused ground floor retail spaces as affordable artists’ studios. As part of the plan, a small site was identified as a potential live/work building for artists.
We helped refine the thinking and extend the project’s ambition, proposing a new model of socially responsible tenancy that can support cultural participation, proposing what Leader Darren Rodwell has called “a new and better way to pay your rent by being nice to your neighbours”.