“Do you want a cup of tea?” – Learning from The White House

Thursday, 18 July 2019

by Susanne Burns, Evaluation Support Consultant

Back in late 2017, when I was asked to work with Create London to develop and support their approach to evaluating The White House in Dagenham, I was intrigued. Here was a project that I had not heard of – an artists’ house on the Becontree Estate in Dagenham which was the largest social housing estate in Europe when it was built almost 100 years ago. This was different, exciting and appealed to my need to be constantly challenged.

(c) Emil Charlaff

My initial conversations with the team took place by Skype and I remember being blown away by their openness and determination to embed reflection and learning into the work they were doing in the House and to use it to inform the project as it moved forward. This approach resonated with my own approach and we began working together in early 2018.

Our learning is already rich and is informing the programme in an iterative way. It is being drawn from largely qualitative data gathering – which sounds technical but it really isn’t. It is a joy to visit the house every couple of months and catch up with Dave who is the caretaker, to meet with the poet Terry who is also one of the leading “Keepers” of the House, chat to 19-year-old Aislinn who tells me they have been accepted for University and to meet Paul, Colin and Melody who have been working in the garden.  Their stories tell us about the impact the house is having on the people who use it, who drink tea in its kitchen, who answer the doorbell and who will tend its community garden now it is completed. Alongside this, I have had the privilege of meeting with some exceptionally committed artists who have taken up residence for periods of time in the house’s studios and bedrooms. We have discussed socially engaged art, their own practices and approaches and the impact of working in a domestic environment on their art. 

The house is a domestic space – it has a living room, bedrooms, a garden and a kitchen. The community of people who engage with the space is growing, the programme of activity is being co-created with those that wish to access it and the team who run the house are seen as equals. Artists become temporary community members and traditional boundaries and hierarchies are challenged: “….. living and working with people in The White House makes the usual boundaries less distinct. I have visited a lot of people’s houses and have some understanding of the neighbourhood and the nature of the community as a result. I’ve made close friends with a lot of people.”

(c) Emil Charlaff

What is it that the house has that nowhere else has, that keeps them coming back? It is safe, open and inclusive, it provides a social space. In the words of one regular, “It is a home with a history. A house where artists live upstairs and where there is a kitchen and a programme of workshops for local people downstairs. A friendly atmosphere where the first thing you get asked as you come in ‘do you want a cup of tea?’ A garden with events. Not a gallery or an arts centre …. ”

(c) Emil Charlaff

Importantly, the long-term aim is to work towards a bespoke company model and governance structure that transfers decision making to the community. This will not be an easy journey but is already proving rewarding and is generating a great deal of learning. In the words of a local artist: “For too long, there had been projects here but they would end and there was no legacy. People took things with them. The White House can be a legacy in itself.”

In working towards The White House becoming a truly different kind of space which doesn’t emulate the traditional institutional practices of the art world, there are many challenges. Fairness and transparency, open communication and working in non-hierarchical ways whilst balancing governance and accountability, enabling different voices to be heard whilst working inter-generationally and inter-culturally all requires careful orchestration, careful questioning of ‘the way things are run’ and the traditional practices of running an arts space. 

The White House is different – it potentially represents a new kind of arts space in a community and this requires new approaches to both day to day and strategic management, project planning and facilitation and curation. It is challenging hierarchies, exploring approaches to co-creation and community driven provision and decision making and this requires an openness and honesty from the team as well as the organisation who are ultimately accountable for it. What is being achieved – and what can potentially be achieved – takes – and will take – time and trust and phased approaches to generating ownership and localized empowerment. This is no quick fix.

(c) Emil Charlaff

Getting to know the Create team and their ethos has been exciting and our learning journey has developed into a shared one. We are seeking to use the evaluation of The White House to inform the wider Create London programme, to explore approaches that might be transferable and to develop capacity across the organisation. We are also seeking to find ways to share our learning with the wider sector and to create opportunities where we might learn from others doing similar work.  Why keep it to ourselves? 

Read Susanne’s Interim Evaluation report here.

“How finding participants becomes a work of art”

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

A report on the experiences of the artist in residence, Wouter Osterholt at The White House – Residency period November 2017 – April 2018

During my stay in Dagenham, I concentrated on the neighbourhood around The White House; the Becontree Estate, once the largest social housing estate in the world but today a large London suburb. My proposal dealt with the huge contrast between the utopian ideals from the time before the construction of the estate and its dystopian reality of today, as Dagenham is known, amongst other things, for its social isolation and low levels of civic participation. These issues seemed particularly important as the organisers of the residency were looking for an artist who could “create encounters with new constituencies” and who would be able to “meet local residents in Dagenham”. At first these objectives didn’t seem impossible but I soon discovered that in Dagenham these things are nothing less than an utopian undertaking in itself. 

As soon as I learned more about the history of the Becontree Estate, I found out that the lack of social cohesion is nothing new and even intrinsically linked to the planning of the neighbourhood itself, almost a hundred years ago. I would even go as far as to argue that one of the reasons for the construction of social housing estates like the Becontree, and there were undoubtedly many reasons, was social isolation. It’s not coincidental that the start of the construction of the Becontree Estate began only a year after the founding of the Communist Party in 1920. The majority of its voters were located in the overcrowded inner-city slums and the fear for a revolution was so big that these neighbourhoods had to be cleared. People from the slums had to find new accommodation and eventually got dispersed over to the new settlements in the periphery of the city. Social housing was part of a large-scale social engineering scheme that would reorganise society after the devastating impact of the first world war. I believe that this violent rupture can still be traced within the Becontree estate of today. 

From its beginning, the estate had to deal with the lack of social cohesion and the absence of proper community life. In an attempt to stimulate a controlled form of civic participation, the NECC: New Estate Community Committee was founded, which promoted a community association on every new estate. The Becontree Estate was made a priority. The NECC believed in education in citizenship and tried to stimulate involvement in local politics. The emphasis on local engagement was important, because there was a growing concern that new uniformity would lead to the coming of a dangerous ‘mass society’ in which the ‘undifferentiated’ mass would present a new political and social threat. Therefore, the NECC established several community centres throughout the estate in an attempt to ‘re-educate’ the working-class tenants. The committee saw themselves as enablers who would provide incentives so that the civic spirit would spring spontaneously from the hearts and minds of its citizens. They believed tenants would have enough leisure time and that they could spend time to work for the community but in reality, people were too busy commuting back and forth to their jobs in the city. Some even needed to work double shifts in order to be able to pay for the high rents. Due to a lack of success, all the community centres where eventually closed and the paternalistic attempt to ‘re-educate’ the residents failed miserably. 

As difficult as it might have been a hundred years ago, it might have become even more difficult during the last decades. Many traditional structures have been replaced by more impersonal relations and social lifehas been hugely influencedby social media. Nowadays, people show more trust in their Instagram followers, Facebook friends or Tinder partners, than in their own neighbours. This indifference to the public realm has opened a dangerous void, which ultimately has led to a political and social crisis as feared by the NECC. It’s not surprising that the borough of Barking and Dagenham was one of the five London boroughs (from the 32) that voted to leave during the Brexit referendum in 2016. But what can we learn from the mistakes made by the NECC and how can The White House offer a more inclusive approach? How can we reach out to new constituencies without becoming fanatic missionaries or paternalistic teachers? 

With these questions in mind I started my project ‘Beacon Tree’. The idea was to develop a participatory project in which I would work together with a group of students from a nearby art college in order to engage local residents in a more spontaneous manner. The plan was to make an illustrated ‘ideological travel guide’ to the Becontree Estate in order to rediscover the Utopian ideals that influenced the design of the estate, such as the idea of the ‘Garden City’, a revolutionary idea from Ebenezer Howard. The book’s aim was to re-imagine the benefits of establishing new sustainable and socially just communities. For the illustrations of the book, I proposed the format of an ‘en plein air’ workshop (the act of painting outdoors) that would take place in public space, so we would be able to meet residents and include their feedback on the design of our reimagined reality.

In the first week after my arrival in Dagenham I presented the idea for the workshop at the local art college and thought I had found a group of interested students. A week later we would come together at The White House to start the production. I had prepared everything in detail and looked forward to getting started, but the students never showed up. When I called they said they had simply forgotten about it. Disillusioned and stressed about losing too much time, I presented the proposal at a local community festival, called ‘Festival for EveryOne’, in the hope of finding participants for the workshop. Despite its promising name, only one person showed up. Frustrated with the situation I decided to skip the idea of setting up a collaborative workshop and I started working on my own. I took the easel and began painting outside on the street. 

I hadn’t painted for almost 20 years but luckily my painting skills were still convincing enough to attract the attention of passers-by. People would stop their cars in the middle of the road to see what I was painting. I had a young guy approach me while his car was left in the middle of the street, with a running engine and music still playing, others would just simply roll down their window to shout for how much I would sell the painting. Children would run towards me shouting “An artist, there is an artist!”. Or people would stand beside me silently, looking over my shoulder. Others would take selfies with me, post Instagram stories or offer me a cup of tea. I had a boy come up to me with a folder filled with his own drawings and an older lady who had gone back home to bring me a framed painting that her daughter had made before she had chosen not to become an artist and study medicine instead. I had a realtor approaching me if I could paint the houses he had sold or another person who asked if I could paint at his wedding ceremony. Everybody approached me for different reasons but they were all amazed to see somebody taking the time to make something authentic with concentration and dedication. Why did I choose to paint in Dagenham, they asked. Why in a neighbourhood that isn’t particularly famous for its beautiful scenery? 

I explained the concept to anyone who wanted to listen. I told them that I made those paintings in reference to the meaning of the name ‘Becontree’, as recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086, an old manuscript record of the “Great Survey” completed by order of King William the Conqueror. Without giving too many historical details, I told them that the name ‘Becontree’ derives from the words ‘Beacon’ and ‘Tree’ and that Dagenham’s beacon tree is an example of what is called a ‘trysting tree’; trees that were meeting places for social, political and religious gatherings. The original tree, once located at what is now known as ‘Becontree Heath’, indicated the location where early hundred meetings took place. The name was then reused by the architect of the Estate, G. Topham Forrest in order to provide the new settlement with some historical continuity. The project proposed a re-enactment of this ancient tradition through a series of paintings of characteristic trees on the green corners in the Becontree estate. 

After each conversation, I asked the passers-by if they wanted to be included in the painting. If interested, I took their picture and added them to the paintings. I made a promise to come back in the next year to give them a copy of the finished painting. This way I collected many names and telephone numbers of people in the neighbourhood. A year after my residency had finished I called everyone and invited them for the final exhibition at The White House. Unfortunately, I couldn’t reach everyone. Some numbers didn’t seem to exist anymore or were written down incorrectly. Out of a total of 80 participants, 20 people showed up for the opening. All received a printed copy and were able to meet the other residents. I asked everyone to sit together in the living room, effectively restaging the paintings that I had made. And finally, after a year and a half, I had managed to bring a new group of people together who had never been to The White House. Although it was a very inefficient way to find participants for a workshop, at least they had showed up and I could do my workshop. 

(c) Indre Neiberkaite

During a short presentation I explained about the phenomenon of trysting trees. One famous example is that of the Reformers’ Tree in Hyde Park in London, where an oak tree became the focus of protests in 1866 by the Reform League, a group campaigning to give all adult men the right to vote. After a few more examples I asked the participants to think of their own reasons why they could have gathered around the tree if the painting would have been real. For which ideal would they want to protest and gather? 

(c) Indre Neiberkaite

The people in the room gave several reasons. One said that they could form a ‘neighbourhood watch group, to “fight crime” or to set up a team of people to “clean up Dagenham, because we are proud of where we live”, after which a roar filled the room. Another person imagined the group to have gathered around the tree to save the trees that are in danger of being cut down. Another person wanted to come together in order to “save the vulnerable in the community”, whereas the person next to her said that she just wanted to organize a street party around the tree. One of the children agreed and wanted the people to dance around the tree. A man continued by saying that he had the wish to come together to “show unity despite our multicultural backgrounds” and “to show peace and harmony”. 

Furthermore, there were ideas to have people come together for an art class, “just to broaden your mind”, because all the people in the room already shared the fact that they were interested in the painting in the first place and thus already showed an interest in art. Then an older lady in the corner began to speak: “I’m probably the oldest person in this room who has lived here for over 60 years. There is a complete change of demographics nowadays. And it doesn’t pull people together, like how it used to be. There needs to be more activities that join people within the community.” She continues: “We have to rebuild the community, because we are losing it. And we need to understand each other more, I used to know my neighbours and now I haven’t got a clue”. I tell her that is one of the reasons we have gathered here today. 

(c) Indre Neiberkaite

Then I ask the last person that remained silent the whole time. I ask him: “Do you have a clue why you have gathered around the tree?” He answers: “It isn’t a great one but it looks like we are all waiting for something, we are waiting for something to happen, could be a concert or a speech, we are all looking in the same direction. Maybe we are looking at you for the answer”.

PODCAST: Space for the Self-Made

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Space for the Self-Made is a new podcast created by Issie Leigh and Jeng Au, members of our youth-led innovation lab, Interchange. The podcast addresses adversities felt by people of colour in the arts and creative industries through reframing the narrative focus from the negative and instead exploring the culture of resilience emerging among young London creatives.

The pilot episode gives a solid springboard as it traverses three major points of contention for young people of colour today; diversity and representation, the necessity of safe-spaces and economic uncertainty seen through the lens of young creatives who are “making their own creative space”.

Guests include musician and artist YaYa Bones, print publication for East and South-east Asian women and non-binary voices daikon* zine and audience members at The Cocoa Butter Club who showcase and celebrate performers of colour.

This work was supported by AHRC grant AH/P013155/1, ‘Who is missing from the picture? The problem of inequality in the creative economy and what we can do about it?’, funded as part of Panic! 2018.

City and Culture: Russia 2019

Thursday, 09 May 2019

In February 2019, our director Hadrian and head of architecture Diana spent three weeks in Russia, with Strelka Institute and the British Council, hosting workshops and lectures on City and Culture in 5 Russian regions, Vladivostok, a port city in the Far East; Perm, in Siberia; Voronezh, in the Urals; St Petersburg, the former capital and Baltic port; and Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave in Europe. 

Diana shares some of her highlights and lessons with us here:

We feel very lucky to have taken this journey across Russia. We’ve seen the sea at the east and west coasts of this vast country, met many inspiring people we hope to stay in touch with, and visited five very different cities. 

Hadrian adds:

For us this was an opportunity, on the 10th anniversary of our organisation, to share some of what we have learned in the UK and to learn from those that we met in Russia. We could reflect on our own practice and see it reflected back in over 20 pitches for projects and collaborations prepared by the participants. We feel that real projects will come out almost every workshop – in some cities we are hopeful that we may see up to three beginning as a direct result of the programme.

Participants in Perm, Siberia, developing a project pitch at Perm Museum of Contemporary Art (c) Olga Sorokina

They say that there’s a lot that they won’t be forgetting any time soon, and a lot that they learnt from the experience:

At the end of our lecture in Vladivostok, a Local Government official read out her mobile phone number to an audience of local artists, architects and activists and encouraged them to be in touch to explore collaborations. This was in response to an audience comment that the Authorities were hard to initiate dialogue with. We’ve spent so many years of our practice building up relationships with local authorities, and so to be able to start some of those relationships in Russia, that are so valuable to the work we do, was really special.

Vladivostok participants (c) Yuriy Smityuk

As is often the case, some of the participants most sceptical about the value of the workshop at the beginning became those who made particularly valuable contributions. An economics student in St Petersburg, a municipal officer in Kaliningrad, a poet in Perm, an architect in Voronezh and an activist in Vladivostok all come to mind as people who managed to really throw themselves into a programme which offered real freedom and challenged assumptions around what formal training can look like. 

One of the best things for us about the trip was how each workshop enabled us to achieve an insight into the cultural life of the city through a diverse and very interesting range of people. Looking at specific sites helped us to get a quick grasp of the specific issues facing each city; because people came at it from different disciplines this perspective felt rounded and was able to be discussed through the course of the workshops. It was a powerful and effective way of getting to know a place and its cultural sector – both for us and for many participants who remarked how surprised they were by the new conversations and issues raised by discussing and visiting sites. 

Voronezh seminar at the UAIG Cultural Centre (c) Kristina Brazhnikova

We learned that some things in Russia are not so different from the situation in the UK. Whether it was the frustrations around connecting with municipal authorities, the challenges around funding sustainable projects, connecting with new audiences in meaningful ways or the role culture has in shaping city development – thematic issues seem to carry from city to city and resonated with our own work in the UK. 

What is of course very different is the scale of the role of local Government and its relationship to the cultural sector. We struggle enormously with issues around cultural diversity in the UK context, whereas in all of the cities we visited participants identified two recurring challenges to launching new cultural projects or engaging with the current cultural offer: the lack of sufficient public transport and the lack of city-wide information about events or networks of cultural institutions. 

Participants in Voronezh working on a project proposal (c) Kristina Brazhnikova

These workshops were the first time we have condensed our methodology, based on ten years of work, into a short series of exercises. It gave us a chance to reflect on our own practice. Seeing it through the eyes of another place and other professionals is a good way of understanding our own methodology. We feel the experience has helped clarify and refine our own thinking, and we are grateful for this. 

We come away feeling thoughtful, humbled and inspired, and hope to pursue similar trips in future to share our portfolio of learnings from our 10 years of exploring the ways artists can contribute to city development. 

PRESS RELEASE: The White House, Dagenham announces its Spring Programme 2019

Thursday, 02 May 2019

The White House, a pioneering public space for art and social activity on the Becontree Estate in Dagenham, today announces its most ambitious Spring programme to date. As it continues to establish itself as a leading space for socially engaged artists to explore new ways of collaborating with suburban, predominantly working class communities, it welcomes a new cohort of artists in residence whilst continuing its busy Front Room Programme, curated for and by local residents.

In a major first for The White House, it will partner with the Serpentine Galleries and the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham on Radio Ballads, which marks the anniversary of the 1970 Equal Pay Act and the momentum for change created by the Dagenham Ford sewing machinists Strike of 1968. The White House will support artist Rory Pilgrim’s residency, whose work is centred on emancipatory concerns, and aims to challenge the very nature of how we come together, speak, listen and strive for social change. This forms part of New Town Culture, a project that explores links between art and social care services, supported by the Mayor of London.

The White House welcomes Katie Schwab, who for the first time will collaborate with her father Ed Emery. They begin a one-month research residency this May, and develop a major project throughout the year, incorporating conversations, workshops and archival research to explore their shared interested in production, labour and family. Ed Emery has been documenting labour struggles in the motor industry since the early 1970s, and has an extensive archive which will be the starting point of the residency. Katie’s practice interweaves personal, social, and craft-based histories, often drawing from traditions of living, making and working collectively, exploring ways in which manual and social forms of production can develop within shared spaces.

Showdown Threat at Ford’s

International artist Wednesday Kim will carry out a one-month residency at The White House in May-June in partnership with Procreate Project & the Mothers Art Prize.  Kim is a multimedia artist whose work combines video, performance, installation, and sculpture. She hopes to connect with other artists and families who live and work in Barking & Dagenham to produce green screen performances and a new video work based on experiences and stories of birth and motherhood.

Verity-Jane Keefe, an artist who has worked in Barking and Dagenham for over ten years, will begin a year-long residency across the Becontree Estate through 2019 in partnership with Create London and The White House. Verity’s residency will produce a series of new artworks in collaboration with residents that will lead into a larger scale programme for 2021 to celebrate the Becontree Centenary, marking 100 years since building began on what was once the largest social housing estate in the world. 

(c) Verity-Jane Keefe

The White House also launches two new opportunities this spring to support creative development for artists based in and around Barking & Dagenham as part of its new Make Room programme. Make Roomis a new creative development programme designed to make room for new voices and ideas in its programme, supporting under-represented groups to have agency within the arts and their communities. 

A finally, bringing a busy Spring programme to a close will be the completion of The White House’s community garden, Beacon Garden, which artist collective They Are Here has been working on with local residents since 2017, launching on 21 June for the Summer solstice. Formerly a car park, it is being transformed into a community garden that provides a ‘residency’ space for multiple species, mirroring The White House as a residency site for artists.

(c) Indre Neiberkaite

The White House was opened in 2016 following a renovation led by Create London and architects Apparata, who worked with London Borough of Barking and Dagenham council to turn the unused former farm house which designer Hardy Amies once called home, into a space that would be shaped by and for the Becontree community. 

Over the last 3 years it has developed a reputation as being a place where international, national and local artists and residents meet and work together, a place for socially engaged artist residencies to explore new ways of working in communities, and somewhere for community to come and meet their neighbours – who just happen to be artists. Alongside a busy residency schedule, The White House offers weekly Front Room Programme with and for local residents, including poetry, arts and crafts, social events and co-working. 

The White House is supported by London Borough of Barking & Dagenham, Arts Council England, Paul Hamlyn Foundation and City Bridge Trust.

The Gran Bretagna (or; The Definite Article)

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Congratulations to Manijeh Verghese and Madeleine Kessler who have been announced as leading on the British Pavillion for the 2020 Venice Architecture Biennale.  We were pleased to be shortlisted this year. You can read our proposal here, which we worked on together with our friends at Apparata and the writer and editor Seb Emina. The proposal centres around our mutual interest in the culture and architectural significance of British Public Houses, from Wetherspoons to pubs as community centres. 

The British Council are commissioners of the British Pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia 2020.

Centenary celebration of Dagenham’s Becontree Estate wins National Lottery support

Tuesday, 09 April 2019

(c) Verity-Jane Keefe

We are thrilled to announce we have been awarded initial *National Lottery support to develop a year-long project marking the centenary of Dagenham’s Becontree Estate, in partnership with Barking and Dagenham Council, local residents, heritage organisations and artist Verity-Jane Keefe. 2021 will mark 100 years since building began on what was once the largest social housing estate in the world.

Living Together will take a critical look at the past 100 years of social housing through the lens of this hugely significant Estate. The project will put the Becontree Estate firmly at the heart of national and international conversations about the past, the present and possible futures for social housing.  Led by the voices of past and present residents, the project will embrace and explore the complexities of this large form suburban estate, which is still home to over half the residents of this London Borough.  The project will provide a platform for the individual spirit that can be found in every corner of the four-square mile footprint of the Becontree.

This project has received development funding of £ 74,700 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to help progress its plans to apply for a full National Lottery grant of £448,000 later in 2019. London Borough of Barking and Dagenham has also received £29,750 of project grant funding from Arts Council England, for a year-long artist’s residency by Verity-Jane Keefe, producing work that will enrich the wider programme in the lead-up to 2021.  The architecture and scale of the estate is well known, but it is the more recent history – how housing policy, such as Right to Buy, has impacted the way that Becontree looks and what it is like to live in, today and into the future.

Living Together will be the largest creative heritage-driven social engagement programme to take place on the Becontree Estate. 

For local residents, groups and organisations wanting to get involved, please contact Verity-Jane Keefe:

Create London appoints Losal Chiodak as its Genesis Young Curator, supporting emerging curators from underrepresented backgrounds

Monday, 25 February 2019

Welcome to our new Genesis Young Curator, Losal Chiodak

We are thrilled to announce that Losal Chiodak has joined the team as our new Genesis Young Curator, a role supported by the Genesis Foundation.  Offered in partnership with Tate Britain and Chisenhale Gallery, Losal will spend three days a week working with us and, for the first six months, will spend the equivalent of one day a week with the curatorial team at Tate Britain, working on all aspects of the exhibitions and displays programme. For the subsequent six months, Losal will spend one day a week at Chisenhale Gallery, working on the organisation’s Engagement Programme.

By working across the three institutions, Losal will gain practical insight into the process of curating and producing ambitious art and engagement projects in a range of settings, both within and outside of a gallery context.  The aim of the role is to support Losal to develop in his career, build his knowledge of contemporary art and surrounding discourse, and establish new professional connections, including other young curators from a range of backgrounds currently underrepresented in the arts.

This year-long position responds to the acute lack of representation in the visual arts in the UK of young curators from diverse backgrounds which was highlighted in our ground-breaking Panic! report, published in Spring 2018. The Panic! report highlighted that of people working in galleries, museums and libraries, only 2.7% are from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds.

We hope this position will also encourage other organisations to create new, entry level roles for those from underrepresented backgrounds, to ensure routes in to the creative industries become as open and varied as possible.

Losal will start on 25 February and joins us from Counterpoint Arts, an organisation that engages with refugee and migrant experiences and expression, where he was part of their communications team.

Losal Chiodak says:

“I’m extremely excited to be joining the Create team and to have the opportunity to learn from new colleagues across the three institutions involved in this venture. I plan to make the most of this role and bring everything I can to this opportunity. I hope that I will be able to take and expand on the innovative ways Create considers participatory arts, and find new ways to give back to our local communities.”

Create Artistic Director, Hadrian Garrard, says:

“We look forward to welcoming Losal to the team here at Create London. We were blown away by the amount of applications we received for this post – a sign of how few and far between such positions are. We also hope more organisations will consider learning from Panic! and introducing further roles which address the systemic issues embedded in our industries.”

Harriet Capaldi, Genesis Foundation Managing Director, says:

“When the Genesis Prize was awarded to Hadrian in 2016 it began a discussion between us about the need for a programme that addressed the lack of training opportunities for young arts professionals from minority backgrounds. Hadrian devoted his prize money to starting Create’s first Young Curator Award programme and everyone at the Genesis Foundation is delighted that this programme has now been extended and that they’re partnering with Tate and Chisenhale Gallery.”

Since the publication of the Panic! report, authored by Dave O’Brien, Orian Brook and Mark Taylor, we have continued to look at ourselves and put its findings at the heart of our projects. It’s informing all our work, from the way we recruit staff and artists, to the type of projects we take on, whilst consistently making sure we share our learnings at every opportunity. In the 10 months since publication, the Panic! report has inspired podcasts, conferences, press campaigns, MP inquiries and more. Read the report here.

Create London heads to Russia

Monday, 28 January 2019

This week, Hadrian and Diana are heading to Russia for three weeks to host 5 seminars in 5 different cities, hosted by the British Embassy and the Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design. We were invited by the British Council to lead seminars around the theme of city and culture, in the context of our 10 year history of exploring how art and artists can be a vital and more integrated part of London. We are happy that our work is recognised in this way and are looking forward to working with and learning from a range of organisations, architects and urban planners in Vladivostok, Perm, Voronezh, St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad.If anyone is in these cities or knows anyone who is, please get in touch and come to the lectures! Details here:


The White House welcomes a new curator

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

We are hugely pleased to announce that Charlie Gregory will join the team as the curator of The White House this summer. She will steer the project, which is now well-established in the heart of the Becontree Estate, towards becoming an independent organisation, and will work with the community in Dagenham to develop a collaborative vision and future for the house. This is a huge step for The White House, and one we are incredibly excited about.

She will start with a residency in the autumn with the Barbican and local Sydney Russell School, as well as oversee the completion of The White House’s Garden, led by collaborative practice They Are Here.

Charlie joins us from The Newbridge Project, where she has been Director since 2013 and led the project towards achieving Arts Council NPO status. She has previously worked with ISIS Arts, Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival, AV Festival and Wunderbar.

“I’m thrilled to be joining the team at Create, an organisation I greatly admire and respect, to take up the role of Curator at The White House. The role will allow me to pursue my passion for supporting artists to explore different models of collaborative arts practice embedded within a community context. The White House is unique in providing a space where artists and communities can experiment, think, play and ultimately create new ways art can form part of our everyday lives. I look forward to working with the communities of Barking & Dagenham to help develop a collaborative vision for The White House, creating an artistic and community resource with real impact.”


(c) Kuba Ryniewicz

OPDC launches Open Call for Artists’ Expressions of Interest

Wednesday, 09 May 2018

Together with OPDC, we are looking for expressions of interest from artists to develop and deliver a major new socially-engaged artist led project which uncovers, celebrates and showcases the industrial heritage of Park Royal by connecting it to the lived experience of its contemporary communities and businesses.

The project can take any form and we are open to ideas which encourage us to think about the heritage of Park Royal in new ways and that can respond to local socio-political themes and the wider London and UK context.

Proposals should clearly demonstrate how they will embed and engage local communities, artists, workers, businesses and/or schools throughout the process. Proposals should also describe how the work will be presented in a way which is fully accessible to a wide and diverse audience, both locally and from across London.

Commissions should start in Autumn 2018 and finish by Spring 2019, lasting a maximum of nine months with at least one public output expected in 2018.

Up to £50,000 is available, which includes all artist fees and production costs. Deadline is 10 June 2018.

Please read the full Open Call Pack for further details on the project and on how to apply.

Find out more about OPDC and the Great Place Scheme here.

Wouter Osterholt finishes his winter residency at The White House in Dagenham whilst Alice Theobald makes a welcome return to the community

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Today Dutch artist Wouter Osterholt finishes his winter residency at The White House, Dagenham, which sits at the heart of the Becontree Estate. Selected in collaboration with the V&A Research Institute (VARI), the Berlin-based artist took up residency in November 2017 for five months developing his project ‘Beacon Tree’. During his residency, he has been exploring the utopian origins of the garden city movement so as to re-imagine new models of communal living within Dagenham’s Becontree Estate, the biggest municipal housing project in the world when it was built in the early 20th Century.

Following Osterholt’s residency, artist Alice Theobald will return to The White House, following her residency in summer 2017. Her show, We May Believe Or We May Never Know, will open at The White House on 27 April 2018. It will be open every weekend until 27 May, and will include a performance event featuring the poets and musicians she worked with during her first residency, as well as a two screen video installation.

Read on here.

Create London statement in response to Common Wealth

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

A statement by Create London in response to Common Wealth’s statement on the similarities between their performance work ‘CLASS the elephant in the room’ and Create London’s commission of Ellie Harrison’s ‘The Elephant in the Room’, which is nothing more than an unfortunate coincidence.

It is clear that all parties care passionately about the growing inequalities which divide our society and have extensive track records in research and active engagement attempting to address these. We therefore enter into resolving this issue with the spirit of solidarity that is required for us to build a fairer world.

In October 2017, Create London selected Glasgow-based artist Ellie Harrison from a shortlist to make a new work as part of Panic! 2018 It’s an Arts Emergency. Her proposal, with a working title ‘Power & Privilege (The Elephant in the Room)’, was devised as a response to a major new research paper on inequality in the creative and cultural sectors written by academics from the Universities of Edinburgh and Sheffield (due for release on 26 March 2018). This research builds on the well-known survey Create London initiated in 2015, Panic! What Happened to Social Mobility in the Arts?

From October 2017 – March 2018, Harrison has been working to develop her work with Create London’s team, and, on Friday 9 March she launched an open call for people to take part in a Power & Privilege Workshop in London on 14 April 2018 as part of the project.

On Saturday 10 March, Harrison received an email from Rhiannon White of Common Wealth alerting her to the similarities of her project with their work ‘CLASS the elephant in the room’. In her reply on Saturday 10 March, Harrison explained the provenance of her idea:

“Thanks for your message and the link! Yes, I see there are some similarities in the aesthetic and themes of the work. I was not aware of your project until now and derived my concept from my experience of doing Power & Privilege Workshops… when on the Campaign Lab course in London in 2013-2014. The elephant costume idea came to me from my Desk Chair Parade/Disco which I did in… Newcastle in 2011 and via a quote from Loki writing about my The Glasgow Effect project in 2016.”


“…people are actually annoyed at the big floppy-haired elephant in the green room: they are annoyed at rising social inequality and how this expresses itself culturally.” ―Loki writing on The Glasgow Effect in 2016

Harrison has not yet had a reply from White and is very keen to meet and discuss possibilities for collaboration in tackling the important issues they are both passionate about addressing in their work.

We acknowledge more diligence could have been given to researching the title of the work before its launch, however, as Loki’s quote (above) suggests, this idiom is often used to refer to social class. We are aware of another event addressing social mobility in the arts held at the Royal College of Art in 2015, which was also called ‘The Elephant in the Room?

In order to resolve this issue and ensure there is no further confusion with Common Wealth’s work, Harrison has decided to change the title of her project to ‘Power & Privilege’. She will be working over the course of this week to remove online references to the previous title.

Create London would also like to stress our full support for Common Wealth’s work. Create London’s drive to commission and publish this research is to create conversation and action around social mobility in the arts and are therefore happy to see that Common Wealth quoted the 2015 Panic! research in their report. We support any other work created in the UK to promote these conversations and address the issues the creative and cultural sectors face. We encourage Common Wealth to continue their important work.

Create London announces new projects for 2018

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

We today announce our 2018 projects, which include three major new capital projects and the release of the Panic! paper which extends our 2015 survey on the issue of social mobility in the arts. Our upcoming projects represent our continued work around the edges of art, architecture and society, its commitment to establishing long-term community-facing projects and are spurred by some of London’s most pressing social issues: affordable housing, access to art and questions around social mobility in the creative workforce. Click here to read more.