On 1st July 2018 BBC FOUR broadcasts the first programme in a documentary series celebrating the 70th anniversary of the NHS. It focuses on people’s memories of the health service, and include an interview with Loraine Leeson. It also features the posters on health issues she produced with Peter Dunn in the 1970s. Some of these were in support of the campaign to keep Bethnal Green Hospital open, while others were produced with members of health workers’ unions for East London Health Project to warn people about the impending cuts to services at that time – one of these posters celebrated 30th anniversary of the NHS. A retrospective exhibition of this work was held at the ICA in May 2017.
25th June 2018 saw publication of Loraine’s article Our land: creative approaches to the redevelopment of London’s Docklands in a special editon of the International Journal of Heritage Studies edited by Katazyna Kosmala: Intangible heritage and post-industrial waterfront zones: Ways of seeing.
Large-scale re-development of post-industrial sites can easily railroad 5 over the needs or wishes of its existing inhabitants, or at best involve them in peripheral consultation. However, when a community is highly organised and also collaborates with others to gather expertise and develop effective means of communication, it has the ability to re-envi- sion a future that can meet the needs of all concerned. In the 1980s The Docklands Community Poster Project engaged with a cluster of waterfront communities, which used the arts to influence the regeneration of the London Docklands. Close collaboration between local people, activists and artists led to a range of interventions implemented over a ten year period that included a series of large-scale photo-murals, travelling 15 exhibitions, initiatives and events such as the People’s Armadas to Parliament and the People’s Plan for the Royal Docks. The article makes an argument for how and why art can be an effective tool in social transformation and highlights its role in documenting and making visible the intangible cultural heritage of the communities it serves.
On 9th August 2017 the London Community Video Archive went live. Its aim is to preserve, archive and share community videos made in the 1970s/80s in London Portable video recording — now a technology routinely embodied in smartphones — became available for the very first time back in the early 1970s, making it possible for individuals and communities to make their own television. The medium was taken up by people ignored or under-represented in the mainstream media – tenants on housing estates, community action groups, women, black and minority ethnic groups, youth, gay and lesbian people, and the disabled. With an overriding commitment to social empowerment and to combating exclusion, ‘Community Video’ dealt with issues which still have a contemporary resonance — housing, play-space, discrimination, youth arts.
The archive contains the video Emergency created by Loraine Leeson and Peter Dunn in 1974 in support of the campaign to keep Bethnal Green Hospital open. It also hosts an interview with Loraine that outlines how the making of this video became an important touchstone for her subsequent socially engaged art practice.
The visual arts organisation The Art of Change developed out of the Docklands Community Poster Project, from which it learned key lessons. Importantly it built on methods of engagement giving voice to those with first-hand knowledge of issues, and a pro-active approach to creating alternatives rather than relying on protest in its cultural activism.