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 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-envision 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 embraced the arts in influencing 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 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.
A project with teenage Bengali girls from Bow, East London exploring the theme of their experience of living in two cultures, resulting in a 16 x 12ft (4.8 x 3.6m) photo-mural and touring exhibition.
Digital montage displayed as a 16 x 12ft (4.8 x 3.6m) photomural. Produced with pupils from George Green’s School in East London. Working with a group of culturally mixed teenagers, the project dealt with issues of culture and identity, commonality and difference in an inner city area fraught with racial tension.
Four-projector tape-slide production and exhibition co-authored by Loraine Leeson and Karen Merkel that explores the importance of culture in the lives of five women from diverse backgrounds. The artists worked through the Women Against Fundamentalism group in London to reach women who had suffered under fundamentalism in their family lives.
Awakenings, after Stanley Spencer’s Resurrection was a Tate Gallery commission exhibited at the Millbank site from 1995-96. Digital montage produced with pupils from George Green’s School in East London, displayed as a 14ft x 7.5ft (4.3m x 2.3m) cibachrome print.
Alpona panels and beadwork hangings created with women and children from East London’s Bengali community, combining traditional skills with digital processes. The panels inspired design of the Jagonari Asian Women’s Centre cafe, where they were put on permanent display. Collaboration with Language 2000.
An ‘artists in schools’ residency programme, which gave training and support to six recent graduates who wished to develop their art practice within an educational context. Collaboration with the University of East London and the Tate Gallery.
Commission by the Royal London Hospital for research and development towards the refurbishment of its main entrance. Proposals were produced for permanent and temporary artworks to create a welcoming and comfortable environment reflecting the needs, concerns and cultures of the hospital’s main users and communities. Collaboration with Anne Thorne Architects.
Interactive illustrated story produced with input from over three hundred East London junior school children. Crossing the IT, Literacy and Art areas of the curriculum, the project developed an online creative resource for schools. Collaboration with artist Camille Dorney.
Visit the Infinity Story…
A period of Arts Council funded research exploring the creative and learning potential of the National Grid for Learning – a government initiative which equipped all schools with computers and laid down guidelines for the involvement of ICT (information and communications technology) in the delivery of most subjects in the new National Curriculum. This research was key to the development of the VOLCO project.
Download the Unlocking the Grid report
Ten years of cultural campaigning with the communities of East London around issues arising from the development of the London Docklands. Production of photo-murals, exhibitions, photographic documentation, graphics and events.
Collaboration with Peter Dunn and a team involving graphic designers Sandra Buchanan and Dini Lallah, administrator Belinda Kidd and contributions by Tony Minion, Sonia Boyce, Donald Rodney, and Keith Piper.
The area now known as the London Docklands extended eight miles downriver from Tower Bridge, its most western point, to the Royal Docks in the east, and was described by developers as the ‘largest piece of real estate in Europe’.