Venue: Taylor Digital Studio, Tate Britain, London SW1P 4RG
This Learning Lab reflects on three place-based projects – each forming part of a Paul Hamlyn ‘Explore and Test’ programme run by Counterpoints Arts.
Developing new partnerships/collaborations between local arts and civic organisations in addition to community groups and wider networks, the three projects below engage in different ways with the impact of austerity policy on local communities, specifically in areas of high migration and/or with low access to the arts.
Tom Molineaux: Blackburn with Darwen
Tom Green’s Tom Molineaux works with theatre and playwriting to forge links between local boxing clubs and arts and community organisations in areas of high migration. In collaboration with Kerry Tuhill and a team of volunteers at Blackburn-based arts organisation Action Factory, the project ran workshops with boxers from diverse backgrounds, refugee groups and schools. It did so through highlighting and staging the life story of American boxer, Tom Molineaux, who came to the UK in 1810 as a freed slave and ended up fighting for a national title in front of 20,000 people. With a methodological mix of creative writing, producing, theatre and youth workshops, Tom Molineaux taps into young people’s feelings about sport, identity and the local communities that they live in. The project was supported by funders including Arts Council England.
Gresham’s Wooden Horse: Gresham, Middlesbrough
Isabel Lima’s Gresham’s Wooden Horse, is set in the Gresham area of Middlesborough in a diverse community that has experienced a stalled re-generation of housing scheme. Through a series of workshops led by Lima and her collaborators (including the artists TILT), and a group of local people, Gresham residents crafted a giant wooden horse. This site-specific and co-producing methodology offers a vehicle for residents of Gresham, both old and new, to establish a sense of ownership of their neighbourhood – enabling the collective process of re-imagining the area’s identity via informal cultural exchange and skills sharing. The wooden horse was wheeled through the streets in a procession from Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA) to Gresham. Gresham’s Horse has kick-started a process of community activity that will include gardening and football. The project was part of a commission for MIMA with funders including Arts Council England.
Forage: Newcastle & Northumberland
Developed during an ISIS Arts research residency, Henna Asikainen’s Forage is set in the rural landscape close to Newcastle. With the support of free-access to National Trust land, newly arrived refugees and asylum seekers, local ramblers and other community members walked together and simultaneously engaged in conversations about ‘belonging’, dis/placement’, the right to visit state-funded cultural institutions, the concept of ‘roaming’ and the ‘commons’. Implementing a mix of walking methodologies and storytelling, the project enabled refugee and asylum groups to form relationships with local residents and vice versa, to share comparative stories, knowledge and skills related to the natural environment and to access long-term settled locals’ experiences and knowledge of their communities. During the walks, participants gathered foraged materials, which were transformed into an installation on the bandstand at Nunsmoor Park during Platforma Festival in October 2017. Funders for the project included Arts Council England.
Learning Lab will combine a series of artist presentations and open discussion with contributions/feedback from project participants, partners and invited respondents and evaluators. Discussion topics will include: building new ecosystems and creative infrastructures through participatory arts; the power dynamics and challenges of place-based, durational work; working with unusual allies and sustaining community connections and co-production; understanding the importance of securing local legacy and cross-sector collaboration and cooperation.
Moderated by Áine O’Brien, Co-Director – Counterpoints Arts