Tuesday 20 March 2012 – photos and programme (UK)

10.30 Art in the Park, Burgess park LondonPresentation and workshop
12.30 Lunch at the park
 2-4 Group 1: 2-4, Spare Tyre Workshop, RedbridgeGroup 2: 2-4,Arts and Health, 2-4 Arts programme at Guys and St Thomas’ Hospital
6.30  6.30 Wagamama Meal
8pm Can we talk about this?. DV8 Performance, National Theatre

Art in the Park, Burgess Park in Southwark.

The whole group travelled together to Southwark to visit Andrea  at Art in the Park. During a tour of the organisation’s projects in Burgess Park where it is based, Andrea explained the history of the site and showed us some of the artworks and vegetable and herb growing areas. Back at the studio, there was informal chatting with a nice cup of tea and biscuits, after which we settled down to listen to Andrea as she showed us pictures of past projects. Then she demonstrated a simple activity – using cuttings from carriers bags fused together by ironing – and we all got busy making our own version. A lovely lunch was served outside, cooked by the centre’s manager (Name) with the assistance of Cynthia – one of the volunteers at Art in the Park. We were also joined by an artist working alongside Andrea, who is at the moment creating original hand-made tiles to sell on-line – as part of an exploration into additional ways of contributing to the funding of the centre.

Facts about Art in the Park:

The building: a generously proportioned studio with adjoining workshop space, kitchen, toilet, work yard and outbuildings – rent, fuel bills and phone paid for by the local council.

It can be found at the entrance to Burgess Park – billed as one of the biggest parks south of the Thames – and described by Andrea as the only green space for miles. It was created on an old WW2 bombsite by the GLC. Currently renovations to the tune of £6million are taking place – meaning the park has been closed to the public from the end of spring 2011 until summer 2012.

Art in the Park Community Arts has existed since 1996 functioning as a community arts project to serve the neighbouring Aylesbury housing estate – regularly referred to by politicians (in pursuit of a social-awareness-profile) as ‘an area of social deprivation’.

It has never had any core funding and all artists are freelance.

There is one part-time member of staff, who manages admin and finance , Ann Mason

What happens at Art in the Park:

Projects: Schools projects, projects with a range of community groups including senior citizen and people with learning disabilities. Some take place within the park and studio – others within schools or community settings. Some examples: ‘wrapping the pub’ –  wrapping a local pub completely in plastic camouflage material, with the help of cranes; branding images and words into fencing and sculpted chunks of wood; three large mosaics made from found ceramics and other objects around the Thames; metal insect sculpture and so on. AitP buy in the expertise and technical equipment that they don’t have themselves.

Heart Garden: an allotment where vegetables are grown and eaten by different groups including people who have been referred by their GP or the hospital. Currently there is a project exploring wider uses of plants and herbs, funded by the Heritage Lottery. Investigations about uses of plants will be made with the local residents using ‘oral histories’, which will in turn be interpreted in image and words by school children and will result in a booklet and some copperwork.

Spare Tyre’s Tuesday afternoon session at Redbridge Community Centre  (connectedculture).

A group of 7 of us visited Redbridge to meet the group – a company of adults with learning difficulties who were preparing a performance based on machines, with the assistance of Nick – the musician, and Claire, the drama facilitator. This was the 9th week of rehearsals. We were to be the audience for a full practice performance.

We were invited into the drama studio by David, at the head of a ‘human snake’, made up of members of the cast. He instructed us to play follow the leader. Now part of the human snake, we processed together into the studio, copying the arm and leg movements of the person in front of us. This led to an improvised section where we used chairs to move around – echoing the movements of the cast. The participatory performance continued with improvised entwining movement and hypnotic music. The show ended with us all dancing together within a tiny marked-out area. Carefully planned, well-rehearsed and sensitively expressed…a truly inclusive performance.

During the question and answer session that followed, the group showed us a film about how they developed a sequence of interconnected group movement. They explained that they decided to use ‘contact work’ and music – from instruments they had made themselves – to express the idea of a human machine.  Members of the group invited us to try out the instruments – which we did with great enthusiasm!  An improvised music session followed – made possible by the warmth, generosity and talent of the group members.

For the last half hour of our visit, we were included in a demonstration of the group’s drama warm-up exercises: in a circle we passed on movements, from minimal to more expressive gestures, involving interaction with our chairs and moving around the circle.  All the visitors contributed fully and said later how relaxed they felt about joining in. Each visitor said they were impressed by the creativity and discipline of the cast. Some commented that they had never experienced drama activities in a group of people with learning disabilities, and found it inspiring, expressing a desire to find out more. It is probably testament to how involved and absorbed we all were during the session that we completely forgot to take any pictures!

We were thanked with hugs and warm farewells, and left smiling, feeling richer and lighter.

Artie Prashar

connectedculture have their office in Kennington – not far from a handy Pizza Express. Arti, connectedculture’s CEO and artistic director kindly agreed to come and meet us there during our evening meal. She took the trouble of working her way round the table, speaking to us in small groups.  She explained how connectedculture was trying to develop the best creative opportunities for groups of people in London who don’t have any opportunities at all. Consequently, their sessions take place all over London, wherever there is most need. She is very aware of the pitfalls regarding terminology and stereotyping and seemed genuinely concerned about ensuring the sessions offered age-appropriate activities for people with learning difficulties. It was refreshing to meet someone who was not certain of all the answers, but who was aware of the questions and remained open to discussion. All in all a very dynamic and friendly person – who, as luck would have it, we met again at the Because We’re Worth It Conference at the ICA on Thursday 22nd.


Leave a Reply