Communities Countering Climate Change

On 20th September 2019, as millions of school children, workers and trades unionists across the globe commenced a week of action for climate justice, the Active Energy project celebrated how older and younger people have come together to work for environmental change in their community.

The event was held in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, close to where the water wheel is located. It was opened by Paul Brickell, Executive Director for Regeneration and Community Partnerships at the London Legacy Development Corporation.

Following this artist Loraine Leeson outlined how the project had developed after the last twelve years and engineer Toby Borland described the mechanics of the various turbines and water wheels the team have created over this time.

Ray Gipson explained how the Geezers Club had become involved, and the importance of involving older people in the development of new technologies, since none of this would have taken place without The Geezers’ input. Pupils from Bow School, where The Geezers have recently assisted with the making of model turbines, showed their creations to the audience and spoke themselves about their concerns regarding climate change.

Philip Kyeremanteng of Canals and Rivers Trust then went on to demonstrate urgent environmental issues for our rivers, while James Hardy, Senior Manager for Energy and Climate Change at the Greater London Authority outlined policy level planning to counter climate change in London. He was then questioned on these strategies by the pupils and Geezers.

The event was closed by Bridget McKenzie from Culture Declares Emergency, who considered what can be done by each of us to support the planet at this time of climate crisis.

The Geezers are not quite finished with the project however. They will be helping with some more workshops at Bow School, and still want to pursue the idea of how renewable energy can be built into sheltered accommodation in their borough to reduce energy costs for the older population, who are often unable to heat their homes.

Students making a difference at Middlesex University

On 12th September 2019 masters students following the specialism in art and social practice led by Loraine Leeson and Alberto Duman exhibited the results of their study in the MA graduate shows.

Wendy Charlton, Alison Lam, Dorottya Szilagyi and Natalia Talamagka have focused on topics as diverse as the regeneration of a North London housing estate, carer experience of autistic children, the recycling of plastic and survival strategies for victims of domestic violence. The media on which they have drawn  has included film, photography, live events, sculplture, installation and app design. Tragically the MA Art and Social practice that was supporting these students, has been discontinued by the university for financial reasons. However social practice work at Middlesex continues through other specialisms such as MA Fine Art.

Active Energy: Olympic Park

2-4pm Friday 20th September 2019

Loraine Leeson and The Geezers invite you to celebrate their latest venture in the Active Energy arts project. A floating water wheel has been installed close to the London Aquatics Centre in the Waterworks River to drive an aerator that will help counteract the effects of pollution on the river’s fish and wildlife. Meanwhile pupils from Bow School have constructed their own working models of turbines using designs suitable for the generation of renewable energy.

The Last Drop
5 Thornton Street, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London E20 2AD

Close to the ArcelorMittal Orbit
queenelizabetholympicpark.co.uk
Nearest tube: Stratford
Map

Pupils create turbines for sustainable energy

Pupils at Bow School, East London have been taking part in workshops led by engineer Toby Borland as part of Loraine Leeson’s Active Energy project.

They were supported by members of The Geezers Club from AgeUK Bow, who have been a central part of this project for the last twelve years – it was their idea to find out how the River Thames and its tributaries could be used to power their community. Students from the MA Art and Social Practice at Middlesex University also assisted.

The young people’s working models will be on display at a public event to be held in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on the afternoon of Friday 20th September. Watch this space for details.

Active Energy in the Olympic Park

On 4th July 2019 an Active Energy floating water wheel was installed in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in East London.

 

This is the latest initiative of the Active Energy project led by artist Loraine Leeson with members of the Geezers Club from AgeUK Bow. With the help of engineer Toby Borland they have developed different schemes over a period of twelve years, which demonstrate how sustainable energy can be used to support their community.

The floating water wheel can be seen in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park between Thornton and Iron Bridge, where it has been installed to help the survival of fish and wildlife. In certain weather conditions sewage finds its way into the river, where it uses up oxygen and can cause fish to die. Lock gates along the river are raised intermittently to allow water to flow, and at these times the wheel turns, driving air into the river.

Collaborations and alliances in Barcelona

On 30th May 2019 Loraine Leeson gave the keynote address at the Aliar-se conference in Barcelona, which explored how collaborative artistic practice could begin to inform cultural policy in Catalonia.

The conference was organised by Ramon Perramon and Montserrat Moliner and supported by CONCA, Catalonia’s National Council for Culture and Arts.

The objectives of the conference were as follows:

  • To analyse artistic practices as a mechanism for organisation, and at the same time for political and cultural action, assembled through collective participation.
  • To advance a cross-sector view which moves beyond professional sectorial specificities.
  • To generate debate regarding issues related to artistic production in collaborative and participatory assembly-constituted processes.
  • To bring other perspectives which may enrich cultural policies.

Loraine spoke about lessons learned from her own art practice and introduced the work being done by Arts for Labour to inform cultural policy in the UK.

Culture Declares Emergency

cSPACE declares a Climate and Ecological Emergency We pledge to work with and support our community and local government in tackling this Emergency, and we call on others to do the same.

THESE ARE OUR INTENTIONS
1. We will tell the Truth
We will communicate with citizens and support them to discover the truth about the Emergency and the changes that are needed.
2. We will take Action
We will actively work to imagine and model ways that our organisation can regenerate the planet’s resources.
3. We are committed to Justice
We will do what is possible to enable dialogue and expression amidst our communities about how the Emergency will affect them and the changes that are needed.
DECLARATION ENDS

MA Art and Social Practice – first graduation

Highlights from the first MA Art and Social Practice graduation show at Middlesex University.

 Feedback from Allan Struthers:
”Congratulations on teaching/facilitating such a great cohort. The students I spoke to last night are incredible.”

Jenny Dunn’s project was excellent, her selection of what to show from an embedded position felt well distanced enough from her own personal experience and perspective for it to function at this secondary level of reading as a tactful and highly moving piece of social representation.

The experience of getting caught up in its latent utopianism was a beautiful one.
I mean this in the sense of how it prompts the viewer (in this case, me) to imagine the possibility of every estate having someone who’s principle occupation it is to make, take, and implement suggestions about how the quality of life can be raised.
It’s a work that demonstrates what I’ve heard autonomists and anarchists talk of as ‘radical care’, and insofar as the narrative’s content prefigures a future society freed from the determining force of capital upon social relations, the image given is politically hopeful.”

JAL! Celebrating Cultures of Water in Rural Rajasthan

A one-day seminar in Bristol

Culmination of an AHRC funded arts-community network project between UK and India addressing water scarcity in rural Rajasthan
https://rajasthanwater.weebly.com/

9:30 for 10am start – 4:00 pm
Friday 5th October 2018
M Shed
Princes Wharf, Wapping Rd
Bristol BS1 4RN
https://www.bristolmuseums.org.uk/m-shed/

This one-day seminar will reflect on the potential and role of the arts and creative practice to address critical global challenges:

  • Where and how artists are engaging with social and environmental issues.
  • The challenges, opportunities and implications of accessing and engaging vulnerable individuals and communities through the arts.
  • How community-based arts can contribute to improvements in the welfare of those living in tenuous conditions.
  • Interdisciplinary challenges associated with bringing together science and arts perspectives in addressing critical social and environmental issues.

Presentations by Michael Buser, Loraine Leeson, MS Rathore, Nina Sabnani,
Anurupa Roy and Neelam Raina

REGISTER HERE

FREE, but places are limited

For further information contact Michael.Buser@uwe.ac.uk

Photomontage Then and Now

Picture collages or political weapons?

Artists Peter Kennard and Loraine Leeson with writer David Evans will be discussing all things photomontage – exploring the history, techniques and effects of photomontage, from darkroom collages to digital manipulation.

A Four Corners archive event for anybody interested in the art of protest, radical culture or community activism.

6:30 PM – 8:30 Thursday 20th September 2018
Four Corners
121 Roman Road
London, E2 0QN
Map

REGISTER HERE
free

The NHS: A People’s History on BBC FOUR

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.

Loraine Leeson on the London Docklands

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.

ABSTRACT

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.

Art as Social Action

In May 2018 Art as Social Action: An Introduction to the Principles and Practices of Teaching Social Practice Art was published by Allworth Press, New York. It contains a chapter by Loraine Leeson and Alberto Duman on Experience as Art: Fine Art Social Practice at Middlesex University, which draws on their experience of teaching the MA Art and Social Practice and BA Fine Art Practice at Middlesex University.

The book is edited by Greg Sholette and Chloe Bass who teach one of the few masters courses on this topic at Social Practice Queens, City University of New York with an aim of gathering together knowledge available to support teaching in this area.

With content arranged thematically around such topics as direct action, alternative organizing, urban imaginaries, anti-bias work, and collective learning, among others, Art as Social Action has created a comprehensive manual for teachers about how to teach art as social practice. Along with a series of introductions by leading social practice artists in the field, valuable lesson plans offer examples of pedagogical projects for instructors at both college and high school levels with contributions written by prominent socially engaged artists, teachers, and thinkers.

 

Book Launch

 

symposium and conversation on art and social change

6.00-8.30pm, Friday 2nd March 2018

Four Corners
121 Roman Rd, London E2 0QN
http://www.fourcornersfilm.co.uk

Join Loraine Leeson for the launch of her new book where key artists, activists and writers will lead a conversation on the role of art in social change

Ailbhe Murphy
Dr. Ailbhe Murphy is an artist and Director of Create, the national development agency for collaborative arts in Ireland. Create is a resource organisation for artists working cross art form and in collaboration with diverse communities of place and of interest. Ailbhe is also a founding member of the interdisciplinary art and research platform Vagabond Reviews. www.create-ireland.ie

Jane Trowell

Educationalist, artist and longstanding member of Platform, an artist-led, London-based collective that brings together artists, activists, researchers and campaigners who collaborate to make work on social and ecological justice. Jane Trowell’s work particularly focuses on pedagogical and social process. https://platformlondon.org

Hilary Wainwright
Widely published researcher and writer on new forms of democratic accountability and driving force/editor behind Red Pepper. She has written for many publications including The Guardian, and makes regular television and radio appearances. A member of Arts for Labour, her forthcoming book A New Politics from the Left is soon to be published.

Kerstin Mey
Professor Kerstin Mey is the newly appointed Vice President for Academic Affairs and Student Engagement at University of Limerick and previously Pro-Vice Chancellor and Dean of Westminster School of Media, Arts and Design. Kerstin’s research is concerned with the ‘situatedness’ of art, its underlying value hierarchies and public pedagogies.

With video interventions from:
Conrad Atkinson
Known for his visual art that challenges the boundaries between art and politics, Conrad Atkinson has been described as ‘one of the most important fine artists in the world who specialize in social and political concerns’. He is also Professor Emeritus of Art and Art History University of California at Davis, Distinguished Visiting Professor/Artist in Residence of the Courtauld Institute and Honorary Fellow of Cumbria University.

Javier Rodrigo
Researcher and art educator based in Barcelona who has developed projects and collaborative exhibitions on dialogical practice for cultural institutions throughout Spain and writes on the subject of community, cultural policy and education. Javier has also been the coordinator of the pedagogical-cultural project Transductores.

New article by Loraine Leeson on Cultural Democracy

 

Loraine Leeson explores the idea that art is a vital part of civilised society and should be a method of self-expression for everyone rather than the privileged few

https://mdxminds.com/2018/01/04/cultural-democracy/

Workshop by The Common, a collective of students studying Art Practice and the Community at Middlesex University. Photo ©Kerri Jefferis

Cultural democracy is not new, but rather an idea that has found a newly conducive context. This is much to do with the growing belief amongst younger generations that change is necessary and that they can and will make it happen

London Community Video Archive

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 GLC Story

On 8th May 2017 A Greater London published interviews on its GLC Story web site together with a new zine to commemorate the achievements of the Greater London Council (GLC) in the 1980s.

Loraine Leeson was interviewed in relation to the work of the GLC’s Community Arts Sub-Committee, on which she served during the Labour administration of the 1980s. During this period the most radical re-working of cultural policy that this country has seen took place in the capital, with £millions transferred from London’s ‘centres of excellence’ into cultural projects in which ordinary citizens could participate.

In 1986 the GLC was abolished by Thatcher, but A Greater London aims to recover that lost history, and uncover lessons for today. A group of volunteers collected and recorded these memories, which can be heard here. The oral history project is now complete and to share it with a wider audience a paperback zine has been published, which can be downloaded here, together with transcripts of the interviews.