Socially engaged practice, East London: Well London

the drawing shed is led by visual artist / directors Sally Labern and Bobby Lloyd. Labern+Lloyd practice both collaboratively and individually; their work uses diverse media and engages with issues of resilience, resistance, commonality and displacement. Both artists are interested in the edges of spaces and their ‘shadows’ as well as the objects – art and otherwise – whose resonance is changed by interaction. Both explore ideas that interrogate ‘the edges’ of (often contested) places and communities, working with the unseen, the debris and the dis lodged. These are the pathways into a dialogue and creation of a new form and this is integral to our methodology around social engagement. Using mobile studios the drawing shed delivers socially engaged projects, while both artists also respond as individuals and in collaboration to commission briefs for site specific work that extends their ideas and work.

Social engagement

In their socially engaged practice Labern+Lloyd have worked together for the past few years, as well as on independent projects for the past two decades in East London and beyond, working with communities experiencing high levels of social exclusion. They often develop long-term relationships with individuals which allows complex and rich collaborations to emerge as trust develops. Integral to their work is a strong focus on developing dialogue and celebrating difference through the visual arts. Socially engaged projects can lead out of Lloyd+Labern’s collaborative practice and/or run parallel to it. Always the content works in tandem with the form and the work is ideologically charged; or indeed the converse can be true, collaborative practice triggered by the richness of creative and social interactions that unfold in the socially engaged projects.

the drawing shed mobiles

These were established in 2009/10/11 as an artist-led project/resource/collaboration, they form a central platform for Labern+Lloyd’s creative practice and are at the heart of the drawing shed. These three mobile studios – the drawing shed, ClayOven and PrintBike – live in the drawing shed’s two garages on The Drive housing estate E17, from where the artists currently run socially engaged projects both on the local estates, in the YMCA and across London. Through these mobile projects the drawing shed is able to go to where people are rather than waiting for them to arrive, also using online tools, such as Twitter/Blog, where and when it fits.

Well London and Be Creative Be well

As part of the Be Creative Be Well (BCBW) Well London programme in E17, 2009-2011, the drawing shed took a strategic community development role working alongside UEL and London Sustainability Exchange to develop catalytic projects and access to training that could support behaviour changes for local residents. The resulting real changes in the well-being of individuals created the foundations for community led projects by a ‘Delivery Team’ of residents who then set up a new community group (‘…Ask Freda’) to continue and sustain this grassroots development. the drawing shed wove creativity and well-being through a community cohesion approach to supporting a healthier community.

In E17 Labern+Lloyd continue to use the existing signage that looms large and loudly punctuates the estates, creating text/visual posters with participants, developing skills of local people to forge deeper connections with their neighbours. The new Twitter-based ‘conversation’ in the public spaces on the two estates (which are separated by a wide road) changes their tempo and shifts them into ‘common’ space with Labern+Lloyd as artists negotiating the content of the posters as they are made, and working with residents – children, teenagers and adults – to change the conversation.

the drawing shed has also set up a teenage Girls Estate Based Theatre project supported by partnership organisations as part of the Communities Against Gangs, Guns and Knives, building on the positive vision and aspirations of the girls, the families and the community. This project has seen the coming together of five partnership organisations and the local Hoe Street Well Street (HSWS) Network as co-producers, with the girls taking the lead.

We have also worked with local partnership organisations to co produce projects Eg. With Learning Mentors of three schools and an ‘…Ask Freda’ Volunteer we ran a Monoprinting project in the community to attract 20 hard to reach families; we worked together to create an exhibition which went up on the signage on the estate acting as an art trail leading other local people down to the opening of a new community garden created by and for residents at the back of two sets of flats.

the drawing shed seeks to achieve its vision of challenging preconceived ideas through:

  • Developing projects and the drawing shed ‘mobiles’ in other public spaces also using digital/Social Media tools (GPS, Blog, Twitter, film, sound) with particular communities, that are as accessible to adults as to children
  • Setting up ‘the drawing shed’ workshops in ways that create open access and an atmosphere of sharing, understanding of difference and  tolerance within the community ; Fostering community networks to share new experiences and the understanding of the value of innovative arts projects and creativity to Well Being

The VALUES which underpin the drawing shed’s work include:

  • PARTICIPATION – increasing access for people to enjoy drawing, and to confidently use drawing/art making as important tools for imaginative communication and Well Being.
  • Co-producing contemporary arts projects with communities is central to our work as is INCLUSION ensuring that ‘the drawing shed’ activities and marketing are accessible, relevant and attractive to a culturally diverse audience and that ‘the drawing shed’ continues to seek new participants for creative projects that lead to creating new dialogues within and across communities
  • COLLABORATION strategic partnerships with local community groups and organisations (voluntary,arts,educational,community, corporate), developing projects with those who share complementary aims.