We are looking to recruit a new Chair in an exciting and ambitious new chapter for the organisation. This year, we’re embarking on some of our most ambitious projects to date, with a new building in Barking providing affordable and secure accommodation for 12 artists’ households with a community hall; we are also working on a £1.2mproject to mark the centenary of the UK’s largest housing estate, the Becontree Estate, and more major projects in development.
We are seeking an exceptional individual to lead the organisation as Chair of the Board. The ideal candidate will already have charity experience at Board, senior executive, or Director level, a full understanding of the requirements required for good governance, excellent relationship-building skills and a passion for the arts.
Weare committed to increasing the representation of Black and minoritised people across our organisation. We therefore particularly welcome applications from people in these under-represented groups. We welcome candidates from any sector. Previous experience within a not-for-profit environment as a chair, trustee, or a non-executive director would be helpful. Please see the opportunities section of our website for more detail and a recruitment pack.
We’re looking for photos to help artist, Joy Labinjo devise a new large-scale, permanent mural for Becontree Estate at Dagenham Heathway. As part of the Becontree Centenary 2021 we are collecting photographs of people, homes and celebrations taken on the estate between 1921 to 2021 to inspire a new mural design.
We would like to collect many images of photos from contemporary and past daily life showing residents of all ages, genders and ethnicities.
We’re particularly interested in any photos of:
-Becontree residents – past and present (groups & individuals) -Family gatherings, parties and celebrations -Residents dressed in Sunday best/or traditional dress -Local events, shows and festivals on the estate -Home interiors (especially showing furniture, wallpaper & carpet patterns) -Residents at home and in their gardens
Join artists Verity-Jane Keefe on a virtual walk ‘East to West’ on 29th April, 6.30pm. The walk will be streamed at this time on LT TV. Join for a moment of it, or the full walk. In the spirit of slow television, this is a moving image walk from east to west in real-time, across Becontree. The walking route is available on the map section of www.livingtogether.org.uk for those local, and curious.
LT TV is your portal to Living Together and Becontree. Living Together TV. Events, walks, conversations, readings – everything that we can’t do in physical space together will be broadcast via this stream. It is a screening room, a gallery, a direct line to Becontree and a way to feel close when we are remote.
Living Together is a major art commission by Verity-Jane Keefe which forms part of a wider programme with Create London celebrating the centenary of the Becontree estate in Barking and Dagenham and culminates Keefe’s many years of work in and about the estate. It will look at the past 100 years of social housing through the lens of Becontree, which was once the largest social housing estate in the world; looking at its past, the present and into the future. The project will run live through the year during an urgent period of economic, social and political change and the ever-evolving backdrop of Covid-19, which will be absorbed and responded to within the production of works.
Help us make history by taking part in one of the first permanent artworks commemorating the Windrush Generation.
Thomas J Price is creating a larger-than-life bronze sculpture representing people from the African Caribbean diaspora and he needs people to inform the work. If you’re a Hackney resident, aged 18 or older with a connection to the Windrush generation, we’d love to hear from you.
Participants must be available on 8th, 9th, 10th or 11th May 2021. Please follow this link to complete the application form. Please note organisers will follow Covid safety guidelines. The deadline is 6pm, Monday 3 May.
Living Together is a unique major art commission by Verity-Jane Keefe which forms part of a wider programme celebrating the centenary of the Becontree estate in Barking and Dagenham and culminates Keefe’s many years of work in and about the estate. It will look at the past 100 years of social housing through the lens of Becontree, which was once the largest social housing estate in the world; looking at its past, the present and into the future. The project will run live through the year during an urgent period of economic, social and political change and the ever-evolving backdrop of Covid-19, which will be absorbed and responded to within the production of works.
Using a broad range of artistic strategies this large-scale commission will produce a new collection as an artwork for the estate through site-specific engagement work. Keefe’s research-based multidisciplinary practice includes film, photography, objects and text which is often created in response to encounters with people and spaces. This approach will inform the production of the collection and will be made visible throughout the year in an ongoing public programme, an online viewing platform, LT TV, and an exhibition in the Architecture Gallery at The Royal Institute of British Architects. London.
Taking as its starting point the edges of formal archives, the work explores the complexities of life as it is today, through key issues such as industrialisation, de-industrialisation, immigration, east-end drift, trade unionism, work, workers’ rights, the left, the right, the far left, the far right, regeneration, neoliberalism and some hefty changes to housing policy and notably and visibly, The Right to Buy. It will reveal and give status to the often invisible lived experience of a place which includes wide-reaching subject matter, as well as reflecting upon the anecdotal, recording the local vernacular of people and the built environment which will involve creating a Becontree specific material palette.
Living Together is not the conclusive or exclusive story of the Becontree Estate, nor a history lesson in social housing, these exist elsewhere. It is for, with, about, on and off the Estate. This project proposes the questions: Can a place ever be finished? What makes a town or estate complete? Who records and documents this completion and complexity? The building of Becontree was completed in 1935 when the red ribbon was cut, subsequently, the following years have seen an undoing and countless additions to this complete vision via occupation, living, changes to local and national policy, and the ever-changing and enduring presence of the individual.
Happy-beginning-of-the-centenary-to-you Becontree. Living Together is being delivered with a large supporting cast of local residents, partners and community groups. Keefe has been working for the last two years to test, shape and develop social structures and activities as a way to inform the 2021 programme of activity. The programme will evolve and adapt over the year in response to the process. Working closely with Valence House Archives on the legacy of The Becontree Collection and archival training opportunities with local residents There will be a project HQ at The White House in Becontree which will be made public at points over the year, when safe to do so.
What a year this has been for us all! Working remotely has given us all many challenges throughout 2020 and, especially for an organisation like Create, where our programme and the practices of the artists we work with are inherently social, we’ve had to modify and adapt at every turn throughout this strange year.
Despite the challenges 2020 has thrown our way, we’re immensely proud of the work we’ve achieved. From breaking ground on A House for Artists, to realising two, new public murals in Brent, our work has continued to take us into the housing estates, parks, playgrounds, factories and libraries of London and beyond. Read more about our 2020 programme, including the Hackney Windrush Art Commissions and New Town Culture at The White House.
We hope you, your families, friends and colleagues are well and staying safe and we look forward to seeing everybody in person in 2021, with a range of exciting programming being realised in the new year.
We are delighted to announce news of substantial new funding from Freelands Foundation.
Freelands Foundation today announces £1.27m in grants to Iniva, New Art Exchange in Nottingham and Create London, the first round of a total commitment of £3m and the first step in a bold new plan of action by the Foundation to address the issue of racial inequality in the visual arts. Additionally, the Foundation has pledged to commit 15% of all future grants to initiatives with specific targets to promote the involvement of Black and ethnic minorities in the visual arts.
Create London will receive £270k over two years to deliver an education and engagement programme celebrating and honouring the Windrush Generation with schools and community groups in close partnership with Hackney Council, to complement the borough’s two new major public artworks by Thomas J Price and Veronica Ryan. This programme will activate discussions around diaspora, identity and representation in public spaces with primary and secondary pupils and local residents. Projects will include photography and printing sessions, a public exhibition, symposium and a website providing access to newly developed learning resources and other activities.
“This grant enables us to boost community inclusion on the Windrush ArtCommissions to include young people and residents across Hackney, which is paramount to the success of the project. Through an ambitious programme of educational resources and digital engagement, these new permanent public artworks and their message of solidarity will be able to reach not only residents in the London borough but the Windrush community across the UK.” Lewis Gilbert, Curator, Create London
The first permanent public artwork by leading British-Filipino artist Pio Abad takes the form of two murals on Kilburn High Road (on Burton Road and Willesden Lane) that are inspired by vanitas still life paintings. The objects presented in the murals reveal an unexpected history of Kilburn High Road by bringing together artefacts from the Brent Museum Archives, ornaments of personal significance shared by local residents and items that Abad photographed on the high road.
In creating these contemporary vanitas murals, Abad commemorates how the complex, and often painful, history of colonialism has shaped the communities living on Kilburn High Road, while also celebrating the people from the area, whose stories are embedded within the objects.
In early June, Create released a public statement in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. In early July, we published a pledge outlining how we will deliver our own organisational change and promising to publish an update on progress in October.
Over the past three months there have been a number of changes.
We have appointed David Bryan, a consultant who has been working within the arts, voluntary and public sectors for over 30 years, to assist and guide us in this process. David has been involved in anti-racist work for many years and is committed to supporting and delivering real and measurable culture change. His work with us is wide ranging and includes change management, organisation reviews, leadership training, equality and diversity and much more.
David is beginning with individual confidential consultations with all staff. In response to these sessions, David intends to design a specific programme for his work jointly with the team and to spend at least 12-18 months working with us. We will also invite other specialists to facilitate workshops and discussions.
After this initial consultation period David will make recommendations for actions to tackle structural racism and inequality pertaining to our organisation’s structure, recruitment and HR policies, the composition of Create’s Board of Trustees, our fundraising and partnership policies, our curatorial and project initiation processes and commissioning of artists, creative practitioners and working with grassroots organisations.
Sitting alongside this review, we are now actively recruiting for a new Chair of our Board of Trustees, with up to six new board members to be appointed over the next 12 months.
We have prioritised time each week for discussion of our action plan with the whole team and introduced tackling structural racism as a standing agenda item for board meetings. We have also taken actions to bring our staff and board closer together, holding focused discussion sessions on the programme and organisational change with board and team members, to more adequately and openly reflect the changes to our organisation, and to specifically review our progress on anti-racism.
David’s review and recommendations will continue over the next months and we will provide another update on our progress in January. In the meantime, if you have any questions, reflections or feedback about this process, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org
Remember this House, is the first permanent public artwork by leading British-Filipino artist Pio Abad. It takes the form of two murals on Kilburn High Road that are inspired by vanitas still life paintings. Emerging as an art form in the 16th century, vanitas paintings intended to symbolise the fragility of human life through the depiction of objects, which were mainly goods and artefacts brought into Europe for the first time from colonised countries. Abad shares this interest in the lives and meaning of objects which he looks at as carriers of narratives, each one able to contain an entire collection of histories, geographies and emotional journeys.
Join Pio Abad in conversation with fellow artist Minerva Cuevas at 7pm, Thursday 29 October as they discuss their practices and Abad’s murals commission for the Brent Biennial. Find out more/register your spot here.
Minerva Cuevas, born in 1975 in Mexico City, is one of the Latin-American artists renowned for her work based on context research and interventions integrated with subversive visual and socio-political messages. Her works often include participatory elements of endeavors in cultural, urban civic and virtual space exploring the ways in which the mass media is implicated in these activities as a powerful mediating element in society. She founded Better Life Corporation in 1998, became a member of Irational.org, and recently founded the International Understanding Foundation in 2016. Recent solo and group exhibitions include: “No room to play” at the daadgalerie, Berlín and “Soft Power” at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Upcoming projects will be shown as part of the Mediacity Biennial in Seul, Korea and Museo Jumex in Mexico City.
Remember this House, created as part of the Brent Biennale 2020, has now been unveiled. Located on the Kilburn High Road, these two murals reveal an unexpected history by bringing together artefacts from the Brent Museum Archives, ornaments of personal significance shared by local residents and items that Abad photographed on the high road. Among them, an ashtray from the Empire Windrush, a face mask made from African wax fabric, a hand-painted Romanian Easter egg, a traditional Somalian leather bag decorated with seashells and a wooden clock from Fiji in the shape of a turtle.
These are the first permanent public artwork by Abad, a leading British-Filipino. Abad’s practice is concerned with the social and political signification of things. His work, in a range of media including textiles, drawing, installation and photography, and his strategies of appropriation reveal alternative or repressed historical events and draw out threads of complicity between incidents, ideologies and people.
The Kilburn High Road murals are inspired by vanitas still life paintings. Emerging as an art form in the 16th century, vanitas paintings intended to symbolise the fragility of human life through the depiction of objects, which were mainly goods and artefacts that were coming into Europe from the colonies for the first time. Abad shares this interest in the lives and meaning of objects which he looks at as carriers of narratives, each one able to contain an entire collection of histories, geographies and emotional journeys.
In creating these contemporary vanitas murals, Abad commemorates how the complex, and often painful, history of colonialism has shaped the communities living on Kilburn High Road, while also celebrating the people from the area, whose stories are embedded within the objects.
The murals are available to view now and to discover more about Abad’s practice, please see here.
Piling work on the new House for Artists started in the heart of Barking last week. The development on Linton Road will be home to 16 artists in 12 homes and features ground floor studio spaces for the artists as well as a community-focused space. The project is part of Barking and Dagenham Council’s plans to support home-grown talent and to attract artists and creatives to the borough.
Cllr Darren Rodwell, Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, Deputy Mayor for London, Justine Simons, and Hadrian Garrard, Chief Executive of Create London, turned up to break ground. Of the project, Cllr Rodwell said: “The House for Artists is a truly exciting project, providing a home for artists who are prepared to involve local people in their creative work.
The House for Artists will be rented out at 65% of the market-rate, and artists will run workshops, programmes, and activities with local artists and the community to develop creative industries and creative works locally. The development will be built on behalf of the Council by Create London, Be First, and Murphy Group. Read more about the project here and discover the artists here.
Do you have a connection to the Kilburn High Road? What ornament occupies a pride of place in your home? What lives have these ornaments lived? What stories do these ornaments tell?
As part of his upcoming mural commission as part of the Brent Biennale, leading British-Filipino artist Pio Abad is asking local residents to donate images and the stories of ornaments that have significance to their lives. Do you have an object in your home you would be willing to photograph as inspiration for the mural Abad is painting in September 2020 on the Kilburn High Road? Does it have a poignant meaning relating to family, history, place or memories that you are happy to share?
If you do and would like to participate, we would love to hear from you! For either more information on the project or to send an image of an object please email email@example.com or send us a direct message on Instagram.
Images: Heirlooms from Casa Latina and the Patel Family, with their respective drawings
Brent 2020, London Borough of Culture is presenting the first Brent Biennial taking place in public spaces, libraries, and streets across the Borough, from 19 September – 13 December 2020.
The programme includes 23 new commissions and projects that will be presented in locations across the Borough and features international and Brent based artists. The Create curatorial team are working with artists Pio Abad and Dawn Mellor to help realize two major works in the Kilburn High Street and the Kingsbury Library and High Road.
Pio Abad Pio Abad will launch his first permanent public artowkr as part of the Brent Biennale 2020. Abad will create a large-scale mural on Kilburn High Road that depicts personal, significant and idiosyncratic objects/ephemera collected from residents that live in the area. Kilburn’s rich history of migration as well as, today, being home to people from a number of countries including, Ireland, Pakistan, Ethiopia and Turkey will inform the work.
Abad is interested in the lives of objects. He looks at them as carriers of narratives, each one able to contain an entire collection of histories, geographies and emotional journeys. The value of an ornament is often reliant on the narrative that it holds: as a souvenir of a place, as an heirloom from an ancestor long gone, as a reminder of a milestone in someone’s life, even as a private joke shared between family members.
Dawn Mellor British artist Dawn Mellor has been commissioned to create their first permanent public artwork: a large-scale mural in Kingsbury, Brent, celebrating the life of singer-songwriter George Michael, who lived and went to school in the area. Co-commissioned by Studio Voltaire, Brent Borough of Culture 2020 and Create London, Mellor will create the nine-metre high artto be unveiled in September. A programme of free activities and learning programmes will take place with local schools that George Michael attended, as well as talks, walks and workshops.
Brent Borough of Culture Brent is The Mayor’s London Borough of Culture for 2020. The programme explores the stories, art and emotions that hold life in Brent together, uncovering and celebrating the borough’s untold tales and unheard voices. To discover more about the Borough, please see the Brent 2020 website.
Today we are announcing that John Studzinski CBE is to retire as Chair of Trustees this December. Create’s Trustees currently serve a maximum of nine years and our Chair reaches the end of his final term at the conclusion of 2020.
Our Board’s search for a new Chair, an open process, will be led by our Nominations Committee and we will be inviting applications through an open call. Details on the specification of the role and the application process will be released in the coming weeks.
We would like to take this moment to sincerely thank John for his dedicated service, leadership and his commitment to the organisation as our founding Chair.
We are deeply saddened by the news of Tony Elliott’s passing, last Thursday, 16 July following a long illness. Tony founded Time Out in 1968 and grew it into a major publishing firm covering events in cities around the world.
We were proud to have Tony as a trustee of Create London since 2012. In him, we found support, warmth, ambition, and boundless enthusiasm. Tony provided valuable insights for our work, equally interested in the game-changing big ideas and the tiny tweaks that made things work better. The last time we saw him was when he brought his dog to The White House garden party in August last year. He was a real friend and we will miss him terribly.
Time Out have announced that their first post-lockdown print magazine, on 11th August, will be a special issue dedicated to him. Read more about Tony’s remarkable life at Time Out and The Guardian.
In early June, Create released a public statement in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and the campaign to end systemic racism and inequality against Black people. We recognise that a statement of solidarity is not enough, and that as an organisation we need to act now in order to bring about significant and long-term change.
Social justice and working for equality are central to our values and we are committed to being an anti-racist organisation. We recognise that we have much more work to do to challenge structural racism and to pursue greater diversity and equality in all we do. This means reflecting on who we are as an organisation, how we work, who we work with and the projects we deliver. We acknowledge it has taken the global Black Lives Matter protests to make ending structural racism a top priority and that we could, and should, have acted sooner.
We will accelerate positive change on a structural level, and in this process, we include our board, our senior leadership team and our working and employment practices. We acknowledge the need to redress the underrepresentation of Black people as well as other minority ethnic groups across our staff, leadership team and board. We recognise this is not acceptable and we are now taking urgent action to improve representation across every aspect of our organisation.
By the end of July 2020, we will appoint an independent consultant to work with our staff and board to review our current practices and policies, as well as to highlight and respond to the specific barriers that Black people and other minority ethnic groups face in our sector. We recognise that we need support and expertise in making change and taking positive action against racism. With guidance and with the engagement of our board and team, we will develop and publish a detailed plan that will be based on a clear set of measurable actions, accountabilities and timescales against which we will be judged.
We are already implementing change and we will publish our plan after further examination of our structures, policies and practices. We will outline how we will undertake further work with our many community partners and stakeholders to build on this plan. We commit to reporting back on our progress in October 2020, and every six months thereafter.
This review will examine and agree recommendations that will include, but are not limited to, the following:
Establishing an anti-racism working group, spanning our staff and board.
Anti-racism will be a standing agenda item for board and team meetings.
Changes to the make-up of our board and senior leadership team over the next 18 months. We recognise we need to transform as an organisation to reflect the communities we serve in terms of ethnicity.
Support for all staff and board to engage in anti-racist learning. For staff, this will be within working hours and resources and space for discussion will be provided.
Reviewing the nature and frequency of mandatory training in unconscious bias for staff and board.
Strengthening and changing existing recruitment measures to improve representation, development and pathways for staff.
Addressing how to build greater provision for Black-led and grass-roots organisations into future fundraising.
Formalising our curatorial policies in regard to providing more opportunities for Black and other minority ethnic artists and creative practices.
Amplifying and expanding our project initiation process to ensure that our critical and ethical voice underpins all our work.
Establishing a new fundraising and partnership policy that ensures we only work with funders and partner organisations who share our values and have a firm stance on anti-racism and anti-discrimination.
We recognise this pledge is only the beginning, and that we have significant work to do. Our pledge and intentions are part of a global systemic change in how we can achieve greater equality. We will ensure our work has meaningful impact as part of this movement.
Following from our statement last week, we want to talk about Create as an organisation, as well as some actions we are taking.
We are a relatively young charitable organisation. We have existed for nine years and during this time and going forward, we continually review our policies on equity and diversity across our programme and recruitment. As well the artists we commission, we want to have a board and a team that reflect the communities with whom we work. We recognise that we have much more to do to achieve this.
We are acutely aware that the arts workforce shows less socio-economic, ethnic and disability diversity than almost any other sector. Data from the Panic!report shows that only 2.7% of the workforce of museums, galleries and libraries are from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups. The numbers are not much better in the performing arts, visual arts, film, television and radio.
Our board currently has two vacant positions, for which we are seeking to recruit from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups. We are now accelerating the process for filling these positions.
At Create, around two thirds of our team are white, and we want to address this under-representation. We take positive action on under-representation in our recruitment processes and will prioritise this in two new roles we are advertising this summer
We know this is just the start and see these actions as small but necessary steps towards improving who we are as an organisation.
We stand in solidarity with black communities in the UK and across the world, and with those protesting the murder of George Floyd.
We stand against racism in all forms and accept that we have a duty to do more to actively support racial justice.
Structural racism continues to be embedded across our society and is prevalent in the creative industries, of which we are part.
We continue to asses our work, who we are as an organisation and as individuals and we seek new ways we can become more active in the fight against racism, and will be highlighting some of the concrete actions we are taking as an organisation in the coming weeks.
But we know we need to do more and to do better.
We encourage our partner organisations, our families, our friends and colleagues to spread awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement by donating, learning, listening and changing.
Working away from each other has been such a change for everyone at Create. Our programme and the practices of the artists we work with are inherently social.We depend on togetherness and person-to-person connections – things which are all so suddenly absent. For us, work usually takes place on housing estates, in parks, playgrounds, factories, former farmhouses, potteries, libraries and workshops. The impossibility of being able to come together is felt not just by our team and the artists we work with, but by the many community members we support and collaborate with.
like everyone else, learning and adapting. For us, this means finding new ways
of connecting with artists and communities, embedding participatory and
collaborative approaches into remote and digital working, and finding ways to
continue that seem relevant and make sense. However, we know it’s not as simple
as carrying on as usual or moving everything online. We are committed to supporting
and paying artists to make work in this period and we know that art can continue
to bring a sense of possibility and comfort.
For now, we
have closed The White House, Open Access at Rabbits Road Press is on hold, our
programmes in Park Royal and Waltham Forest have paused and we’ve stopped making
pots with young people at Hoxton Gardenware.
projects we’ve commissioned and supported over the years have their own
challenges too. Baltic Street Adventure Playground is closed and we can’t help
feeling sad for the many children and parents who have come to rely on that
special place. Blackhorse Workshop is closed for now and the sounds of
drilling, cutting and sanding have fallen silent. Associates at Open School
East will see their year of learning in Margate extended and this year’s
Walthamstow Garden Party won’t be happening.
We look to
our collaborators and the wider Create community for inspiration. Company
Drinks are doing an amazing job staying in touch with the many residents they
work with in Barking and have produced great resources for safe outdoor activities. The commitment to overcome what
we’re going through and to support people has been so clearly expressed by our
communities, artists, partners, collaborators and other organisations, and makes
us hopeful and proud to work with such imaginative, dedicated and resilient
For now, we’re
focussed on staying in touch with the members of our local communities for whom
many this is a particularly difficult and lonely time. Some don’t have access
or experience of using computers, others live in especially difficult housing
situations and we’re on the phone and using the postal service to stay connected,
providing support where we can.
lucky to have projects and a programme that can continue during this time and we
will be sharing more about these over the coming weeks. Next week, terracotta pots,
fired just before lockdown and made by young people at Hoxton Gardenware will go on sale – the launch event
and sales in local shops won’t happen for now, but we will be celebrating the
achievements of these young people by selling online and delivering locally. Money
made through the sale of the pots will go to all the talented people involved
in this brilliant project.
coming months, like so many others, we will be working reduced hours and
adapting in order to survive. It is essential we protect our cultural and
social infrastructure as much as possible through this crisis. It will be
instrumental in bringing people and communities back together – to help rebuild
on the other side of isolation.
We’ve got new programmes in Dagenham, Paisley, Brent and Park Royal planned for theAutumn and into next year and it’s this, and the certainty of being able to come together and make a positive contribution on the other side of this, that keeps us all going for now.
We hope you, your families, friends and colleagues are well and staying safe.
Create has been closely monitoring national and international advice on the spread of coronavirus and has been taking steps to safeguard our participants, artists, partners and staff, especially the most vulnerable in our communities.
Public-facing activities have been paused until further notice. These include The White House, Hoxton Gardenware, and our partners at Rabbits Road Press. The Create team are working from home and all meetings are being held digitally. We are all available by email – please see the ‘About Us’ page on our website for contact details.
We are working on contingency planning for all our projects, continuing to plan and manage, postponing where necessary. Create’s work is rooted in collaboration and we are consulting with funders and partners on projects in Brent, Barking & Dagenham, Hackney, Newham, Old Oak & Park Royal, Paisley and Waltham Forest to adjust timelines for delivery.
Along with Arts Council England and colleagues in the sector, we aim to support the artists and freelancers we work with to continue their work on our projects as far as possible while keeping themselves and others safe, and will advocate for sector-wide approaches helping individuals and organisations in these particularly precarious and uncertain times.
In 2019 I devised and directed You Are What You Eat 2 with 40 eleven year olds from Earlsmead Primary School, Tottenham. Both seasons were the outcome of a 2-year project, built on learnings from Chicken Town – a childhood obesity intervention that ran from 2015-2017, and a particularly close relationship with the teachers and students of Earlsmead Primary School.
The aim was to create a peer-to-peer health and wellbeing project, putting children’s voices at the heart of a discussion about their own health. Health which, from my perspective, encompasses physical, mental, and social wellbeing, security in identity, environment and community.
While it is acknowledged widely that obesity is a complex issue, my experience of the cultural analysis of contributing factors were that they were frequently based on assumptions (for example, that children from deprived areas were unfamiliar with vegetables), muddling a public health crisis up with a fat-phobic culture, and making too little space for a deep understanding of the relationship between the political, social and individual decision making over an individual body. With an over-emphasis on ‘one’s own (individualised) body’, and a lack of nuance regarding who has the power to make genuine decisions about said body, and what empowers – or disempowers – those decisions.
Over the years working within a childhood obesity intervention, I had been very frustrated with adult assumptions that they had the solutions for young people and childrens’ problems – solutions which were rooted in altering their behaviour, top down, without listening to their needs and desires and involving them in the design and decision making of interventions. To me, this at meant the interventions felt at best irrelevant to their target audience, and at worst disciplinarian, taking away the power from children that could be used to support confidence, determination and genuinely beneficial behavioural change. I don’t pretend to have any scientific answers for obesity, but I do know the importance of self belief and confidence when challenging adversity.
London communities and environments are going through precarious and difficult times, and children in places like Tottenham are feeling the brunt of it – both because of their histories and their present. If we want to create empowering, supportive environments for change in the face of this (seemingly unwavering) precarity, without having the power to transform the political and economic environment, we need to do so by recognising, de-stigmatising and reinforcing what the children do have – in their communities, families and environments – so that they can stand strong in accessing their personal material and their resilience as fuel to push themselves further than precarious environments might allow, to create change for themselves.
It goes without saying that children are hilarious and intelligent creatures that have an enormous capacity to learn, and comprehending how their behaviour has an effect on their own lives and environment is a vital part of their development and building resilience. And so, I decided to make two series of films with the children of Earlsmead Primary School, so that they could represent themselves, and see how much they contribute to their culture and environment. Expanding conversations with them about health beyond eating salad and excercising, to understanding how their culture, their environments, their communities and their bodies support them in being healthy.
Having seen the outcome – both on and off screen – of You Are What You Eat 1, I knew I was right about the self-affirming potential of the project. And so for this recent series I was determined for it to be a child-led process. In the first year, I set the overarching content and structure, with multiple spaces for the children to devise their own skits and stories. For the second series, I began the process by asking the children to interview each other on the issues that were most effecting them at the time. We then went on walks in the local area, taking photographs, collecting found objects and buying ingredients from the South Asian, Carribean, African, Latin American and Turkish shops surrounding the school. These images, objects and ingredients formed an archive, through which the children told stories about themselves. We related those stories back to the issues that were said to be most facing 11 year olds to create the form and content for the episodes, and then collaboratively devised, filmed and edited each episode with a team of storytellers, actors, set designers, producers and editors.
The process was a dialogical one – with me creating structure, reacting and responding to the children’s ideas, and then feeding structure back to them. At times it worked better than others, and I was able to see clearly that my own ideas were creating structure for the children, rather than being imposed on them – a tricky line to tread when aiming towards a pre-conceived outcome.
I was working with far more children than before, with less of the incredible support I was used to available from the school – thanks to a three-form entry year and the inevitable strain this put on already stretched resources. This meant a lot of time managing groups and schedules, which very honestly led me to being too wired to build equal relationships with each of the children and to respond as well as I had to small nuggets of genius and humour. I felt very much what teachers struggle with constantly, and was even more admiring of them than ever. And what I learnt from this process was that, while I am – we all are – enabled by the community I am part, I am also limited by it, and I can’t expect to successfully break the boundaries of those limits, Guinness world record in hand, without being effected by them too.
If there is an unfortunate characteristic of Londoners, and believe me there aren’t many, it’s that we often don’t know much about the history of areas that aren’t our own. London’s North, South, East, West divide looms large enough that just going to another part of the city can seem like a mission let alone immersing yourself in its background. The polished blanket history of London is one we are all too happy to accept, as local stories of inequality and activism that still impact our lives today are left bubbling under the surface.
As a West Londoner I always took it for granted that the history of my area was relatively well known compared to others. Watching people make the effort every year to get to Carnival, reading the annual news articles on its origins and going to school in the richest borough in the country instilled within me a sense of comfort. I knew lots about my local history, my home and resultedly myself. So when I signed up for Activating Newham, and prepared to help produce an exhibition on its history of anti-racist activism, I did not have a real personal connection to the discomfort of such important local histories being hidden.
The first Activating Newham session I attended was an arts workshop where we were tasked with making blue plaques to wheat paste onto boards. These plaques were to be based on an aspect of Newham’s history, information on which lay about the room. It was here that I first discovered the Newham 8, eight Asian youths who defended themselves against plainclothes policemen in 1982. Their story was one of a number that particularly resonated due to significant modern relevance. As I later learned of an anti-racist school strike in the borough, numerous articles I had seen questioning the validity of current youth activism came to mind. This hidden local history was proof that youths in London have long been subjected to varying forms of violence and rebelled against this. Ignorance of these stories had allowed a modern lack of understanding.
The arts workshops became some of my favourite parts of the Activating Newham project, largely because the forms chosen were absolutely relevant to the themes being discussed. If you are outraged by essential histories being ignored, why not make versions of the most iconic memorials in London and learn how to stick them up around the city yourself? When you are feeling proud of the work done by activists who came before you, come and make badges to wear this pride. Not only did the workshops allow us to create beautiful pieces for our final exhibition, they were an important method of documenting an emotional response to the history being explored which at its core dealt with difficult everyday lives.
The other main section of the project was a series of panels in which activists from the area, both historical and contemporary were invited to come and share their experiences of anti racist activism in the borough. These sessions provided an indispensable insight into the lived experience of NMP and how the issues the project addressed are still being tackled today. Many of the Newham Monitoring Project speakers who attended were still involved in similar work and were happy to talk about their experiences and answer our eager questions. I admit I did lament not getting to talk to more former NMP members, particularly those who had not since been involved in any activism. Unfortunately, with pre-organised speakers and events laid out there was no great scope for building relationships with less willing potential speakers. The panels we did have remained fascinating. As Dr. Adam Elliott-Cooper spoke of knife and gang injunctions currently affecting disadvantaged youths, it was one of many moments in which I was struck by how vital these discussions were for preventing stories from being buried.
My early incredulity during Activating Newham arose from the revelation that the history of a borough which had set precedents for the rest of the country (first to evict a family from council housing for racism et cetera) was not even known to someone from the other side of the city. I have since fixated on what we can do to end this. How do we ease the discomfort this erasure causes? It is my opinion that even on this dedicated project we have not had enough time to make a serious dent in the amount of uncovering and sharing necessary. A tight schedule meant that our curatorial steering group only had a few meetings to plan our final exhibition and the incredible final film was made separately with no real opportunity for our input. However, what we did produce with our final exhibition was an engaging and informative space in which important stories were given their due prominence. It has encouraged me to continue spreading Newham’s legacy and tackling the issues that strip London communities of their histories.
Over a period of 8 months, Create London hosted a series of talks and workshops centering on the history and work of anti-fascist activism in Newham. I was excited to learn more about this history, not only due to my own interest in social justice, but as a lifelong resident of Tower Hamlets. I was already vaguely aware of local movements against fascists, such as the Battle of Cable St in 1936. However, the extension of this history into the recent past was something I was still unaware of.
At the first session, the participants discussed our desire to learn more about local histories. We were a group made up primarily of women of colour, with personal commitments to politics and society. We spoke of having a deeper and broader understanding of modern American history with regards to anti-racist activism, with figureheads such as Martin Luther King dominating the public imagination. This highlighted two issues – the failure of education within the United Kingdom, as well the US-centrism of race discourse. This is bolstered by the investment the UK and Europe have in externalising the ‘problem’ of racism, thus deflecting attention from domestic institutional racism. Our history lessons may cover Tudor monarchy, but the silence around an important part of British history was deafening. We knew of Rosa Parks, and we knew about Henry VIII’s wives – but what of those who were on the frontlines here, in our own backyards? How do we begin to rectify the erasure of those who fought for rights and protections? I saw this project as the beginning of an answer, and the lessons imparted as an ongoing dialogue between the present and our contested history.
Newham has been home to Asian and African-Caribbean communities since the 1950s. Following the end of the Second World War and the break up of the British Empire, the UK saw an influx of migrants from former colonies. South Asian and Caribbean communities could be found throughout the country as the economy relied heavily upon their labour. Despite their importance to postwar recovery, Asian and African-Caribbean people were subject to racial discrimination in all spheres of life: housing, employment, education, social life and the streets.
Discrimination was institutional, woven into the structures that provided the basic requirements for living. For example, in 1975, Newham councillor Bill Watts openly admitted that Newham council had changed their housing policy in order to avoid housing Asian families. In our first session, two members from the Newham Monitoring Project told us of the rampant violence that Asian and African-Caribbean people faced, all within the near vicinity of where we were gathered at Old Manor Park Library. We learned of how the police and judiciary system worked to deny that racism motivated the violent attacks and murders of people such as Akhtar Ali Baig, the Virk Brothers, or the 10-year-old Kennith Singh. Self-defence against racist violence received sentences harsher than convictions of racist murders. It was up to local communities to come together and effect change.
The murder of Akhtar Ali Baig sparked a huge community response. The Newham Youth Movement formed, and around 2,500 people marched in protest. A second march had 5,000 people in attendance. Eventually, the judge serving on the Ali Baig case finally admitted that racism motivated the attack. As part of the series, we had Unmesh Desai and Jasbir Singh, both of whom were involved with these movements to come in and talk to us. This was a reminder of how recently these events occurred.
But what of the role of women in local activism? Without an understanding of gender injustice, anti-racist movements will always be lacking. However, during this era of rampant activism, feminists fought to meet the specific needs of Asian and Black women. Gulshun Rehman, as part of Asian Women’s Project was instrumental in opening the first Asian women’s refuge in the country (Lambeth) before opening the second in Newham. She delivered a talk alongside Lola Olufemi, a member of Sisters Uncut. Sisters Uncut had taken over the visitors’ centre of the closed Holloway Prison in order to protest the land being sold for luxury homes. Sisters Uncut repurposed it as a community centre, which remains occupied today. This serves as a reminder both of the efficacy of direct action, but also the constant and ongoing fight for women’s rights, and how they’re connected to many other issues – domestic violence, the carceral state, homelessness, poor housing policy.
Throughout this series Daikon and OOMK ran workshops. As part of this, we made alternative blue plaques. This was a response to the blue plaques that can be found around London, denoting areas of historic significance. We also had the chance to learn how to making risograph collages from photocopies of ephemera provided by the Institute of Race Relations. These workshops provided a space for discussion and memory as we reflected together over the materials.
It is important to know the history of where we are – it helps guard against apathy and activist burn out. When remembering what has been achieved, it is a reminder of how powerful grassroots politics is and still can be.
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.
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.”
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 …. ”
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: https://strelka.com/en/events/events/lectures
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.”
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.
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.
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.