Representing for Rich Mix and the New Creative programme, myself and several other members from the team attended the Globe Town Arts and Culture Workshop at Four Corners Gallery on Tuesday, organised by the Roman Road Trust. The evening consisted of a variety of artistic companies coming together to discuss the events that have been and continue to be occurring in the Globe Town and Tower Hamlets. The aim of this was to not only get a greater understanding of several examples of what is on offer in East London artistically and culturally, but to also illuminate the gaps and indeed any room for improvement.
The evening was organised in a way that ensured maximum coverage of the groups present; each artistic company gave a short presentation on their involvement artistically over the past few months, including Rich Mix and the New Creatives.
First presenting was Carla from Four Corners in Bethnal Green, an arts centre specialising in film and photography and, indeed, the venue for the night’s proceedings. The team at Four Corners work with local aspiring visual artists, mainly unemployed people, teaching them how to develop and hone their skills in film and photography. One such scheme is ZOOM: a course that specifically engages minority groups and the unemployed/underpaid who have a keen interest in being involved in the visual arts. For the past 3 years this scheme has been free- Four Corners are hoping to maintain this tradition.
After the introduction from Four Corners, Srivati and Kusalasara from the London Buddhist Centre were next to inform the audience of their artistic and cultural contribution to the Tower Hamlets Borough. The London Buddhist Centre will be celebrating it’s 40th birthday this November. In that 40 years it has provided numerous creative workshops at affordable prices to the east London community, all with a special focus upon the power of imagination. Creative writing, choir practice, mindfulness workshops, yoga classes, painting, poetry appreciation evenings and low cost rehearsal space are just several examples of what the centre has to offer, all of which draw on Buddha teachings to transform the world. Alongside these workshops and classes, the London Buddhist Centre also teaches how ‘art is fundamental to human life’ by being actively involved in the Globe Community Project which was established in 2003. Adhering to this sense of community, the centre offers workshops for ethnic minorities, people struggling with mental health issues, elders, ex-offenders or just anybody who feels as if society pushes them to the outskirts to use drama, art and storytelling as a way of gaining more skills, confidence and friendship. They also work with the unemployed on their ‘bounce back to work’ projects. Personally, I found the work the London Buddhist Centre do truly inspiring and I can’t wit to visit in the near future. Oh and Srivati, if you happen to read this, I really do hope a community play happens in Globe Town!
Next up to present was Baiqu, the founder of Art Represent. Displaced from her birth country of Tibet as a child, Baiqu’s artistic company is dedicated to empowering artists from conflict areas around the globe. Art Represent offers low-cost gallery space to artists who have perhaps also been displaced from their homes and communities who may no longer have the confidence to reach out to people artistically. Art Represent hopes to stop people thinking of refugees or migrants as an ‘us and them’ situation, but as ‘we’. This is specifically significant in East London, Baiqu articulates, due to the great amount of diversity of the area. If you have the time, I would certainly recommend having a gander at some of the artist portfolios that have been shown at Art Represent on their website- they are truly fascinating and unique.
From Rich Mix, it was Margot (Young People Coordinator) up first with information on how Rich Mix are attempting to provide ‘culture for a changing city’. She spoke of the free rehearsal space Rich Mix is able to provide, the gallery space, main stage, offices and cinema that can all be found under one roof in Shoreditch. Margot also talked about some events of interest that are coming up at Rich Mix in 2018: 100 East London Stories, The Takeover Festival (link to 2017 festival) and, our event, FIRSTS. A few of us from the New Creative team then did our small presentation on FIRSTS and what the New Creative programme itself has entailed for us. We used the event as a way of being gifted more stories about people’s firsts and, more generally, spreading the word of the performance!
Before the group discussions, the final presentation was done by Andras from Balik Arts, a company wanting to bring social change through the medium of film. Their main message being ‘cinema for everyone’, Balik Arts focuses a lot on young people by offering training programmes for those wanting to be involved in film. Currently, Balik Arts have a Tower Hamlets pop-up cinema running; every film screened is intended to spark conversation and go beyond just entertainment as a way of creating community both in the area and internationally. The project is running until March but Andras expressed how Balik Arts are hoping to pursue it further so watch this space.
As the presentations came to a close, group discussions began, with the Roman Road Trust posing questions to us surrounding the culture and art in Tower Hamlets, specifically Globe Town, discussing what is going well, what may need improvement and what appears to be missing altogether. Whilst lots of ideas were brought up regarding how to make better use of space and time (something that interested me the most was discussions of the ecology and arts pavilions in Victoria Park- I had no idea they virtually have nothing occurring in them which seems such a terrible waste), the recurring theme was that there was no central hub or sometimes enough marketing for such fabulous events- both on social media and in person. Trying to be mindful of the older generations, the younger audience members suggested a centralised website where all artistic and cultural communities could spread the word of their event whilst also perhaps engaging in more old school (though arguably just as effective) means such as leafleting and purely word of mouth. As you can imagine, the discussion lasted a while, with evermore ideas being presented. However, by the end of the session I felt there was a struggle between the group members with wanting to share what the artistic companies of East London have to offer with the wider world, whilst also wanting to create a close-knit sense of community with the diverse people who reside there.
Ultimately, I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to be present in the group and appreciated immensely how the well-established companies were open to hearing the opinions of the myself and the members of the New Creative team who were also present. The evening completely opened my eyes to the calibre and scope of the cultural and artistic opportunities available in Tower Hamlets whilst still, I presume, only scratching the surface.
Thanks for reading!