Creative Barking & Dagenham
This project was commissioned as part of 'Neighborhood Funds', an Arts Council funded initiative seeking to widen participation in arts, culture and regeneration in the borough of Barking and Dagenham.
Scrattons Farm is an estate in Barking with around 250 homes, located behind a large wall along the A13 with only one entrance and exit, making it an isolated community. Scrattons Farm has been described as ‘deprived’ and ‘forgotten’; we found that these labels had eroded confidence in the community. It was our role to work closely and collaboratively with the residents of the estate, to try and reinvigorate the sense of community pride, as well as increase participation using art as the medium to inspire, engage and empower.
6 month project: 2 days/week residency for first three months, 1 day/week residency for second three months.
We began by finding a physical base for the project; this was a disused community shop which had kept its shutters closed for 10 years, along a parade of closed down shops in the centre of the estate. By recreating a shop presence and offering a new, vibrant social hub, we were able to invite residents inside to share their memories and stories with us over tea. We asked residents to consider the question 'what is art?' and open themselves to the suggestion that art can be inclusive and part of the everyday and familiar – in music, books, photography and film.
As well as these 'tea and chat' sessions we were keen to offer regular programming on the estate. We devised weekly craft activities and monthly exhibitions. Some crafts included paper craft, poetry, weaving, ceramics and embroidery. We listened to suggestions of what people were interested in learning and experiencing locally where art was concerned: we invited a potter to teach two sessions, a local cake maker ran a workshop and a mobile cinema transformed the community hall into a theater for black and white movies.
We also worked with a dedicated group to produce a monthly estate newspaper called 'News & Views'. The newspaper team learned to write and design the newspaper and it became a much-loved feature of the estate for people to feel pride towards.
The project culminated in a large celebration event: a sharing lunch outside the shop space, a dog competition to attract the many dog owners living locally and a wall of documentary photographs covering the shutters. Regulars to the craft club had knitted bollard covers to bring colour to the streets and painted wooden cutlery to decorate the lunch table.