Wandsworth’s calendar of Culture

Celebrating a year of championing arts and culture in Wandsworth

As we prepare to launch a new action plan for arts and culture in January, and with 2022 just around the corner, let’s look back at the last year of culture and creativity in the Borough.

Pupils from Albemarle Primary School with their Create & Learn PlayKits

Wandsworth Council kicked off 2021 with a celebration – in February the Create & Learn PlayKits initiative won the national Hearts for the Arts Award for Best Arts Project, and was described by panellist Mariella Frostrup as “a wonderful example of a community responding to specific need and bringing art and creativity into the homes and lives of the children involved… really heart-warming and simple example of what a big impact small targeted local initiative can achieve.”

Focusing on families impacted by digital poverty during the pandemic, cultural organisations from across Wandsworth worked with local schools, food banks and Wandsworth Council to distribute over 6,000 creative activity kits to 46 primary schools and 16 community groups and summer schemes by the end of 2020. In July this year, 4000 new PlayKits were distributed across Wandsworth via 51 primary schools to keep local children engaged in creative play over the summer.

During lockdown in 2020, artist Simon Periton teamed up with Brandlehow Primary School to create a new contemporary public artwork for Wandsworth. Through a series of online workshops, Year 5 pupils explored the heritage of the Thames and Wandle rivers and learned crafty techniques including paper-cutting and weaving. In February 2021, the final artwork Anguilla anguilla was installed along a 27m hoarding on Osiers Road in Wandsworth Town’s Riverside Quarter. When restrictions on social distancing lifted in July 2021, Simon and the Brandlehow pupils were able to meet in person for the first time and celebrate their creative collaboration together.

Brandlehow Primary School pupils with their artwork Anguilla anguilla on Osier’s Road, July 2021

This year saw the introduction of Re:Create 2021, a free, tailored business support programme that served to meet the needs and challenges of Wandsworth-based artists, makers and creative businesses. Between March and June this year, the programme supported 51 local creatives with 1:1 specialist business advice, and a series of informative skills development and networking events, delivered in partnership with Creative United and Hive Collective. Working in partnership with the Wandsworth Enterprise Hub, this programme aimed to help creative entrepreneurs respond to the pandemic and support their growth.

Selected FRAMED artworks, May 2021

In May, Wandsworth’s high streets were transformed into outdoor art galleries, featuring 133 artworks from 130 local artists displayed on lamppost banners in Balham, Furzedown, Tooting, Earlsfield, Southfield, Roehampton, Putney, Wandsworth Town and Battersea. The artworks for FRAMED were selected from artists and makers featured on Wandsworth Art (wandsworthart.com), an online forum profiling hundreds of exceptional artists, designers, makers, poets, and arts organisations based in the borough, which launched in 2020 after the pandemic cancelled all exhibitions and events, including the annual Wandsworth Artist Open House. FRAMED will continue into 2022.

Wandsworth Arts Fringe this year was London’s first hybrid live and digital arts festival, with over 10,000 people coming to live events from across London, and over 3000 people at home, tuning in to enjoy a genre-bending programme of 130 events that took place live and online from 25 June – 10 July.

Free community events around the borough included the WAF Family Day at Furzedown Recreation Ground, Hazelfest on the Hazelhurst Estate, Trees at the Woodfield Pavilion, Roehampton Community Week across Roehampton and West Putney, Hidden Heathbrook at Heathbrook Park, Free-Up Festival at Battersea Arts Centre and Happy Streets festival on Thessaly Road in Nine Elms.

Yes! Performance by Providence House at the WAF Big Top, June 2021

In addition, the WAF Grants scheme which helps to fund a selection of festival projects every year, saw 17 creative organisations awarded a share of £20,000 by Wandsworth Council to help make their WAF ideas a reality. This year, the list of grantees featured a cohort of local organisations including WHABB Studios, The Baked Bean Company, World Heart Beat Music Academy, The Battersea Society, Sounds Minds, Ballet Soul, CoDa Dance, Black Heroes Foundation and Providence House.

A Greener Picture – Spring/Summer 2021
Dear Neighbour postcard artwork, 2020-21

WAF 2021 saw the culmination and celebration of two creative projects with local schools; A Greener Picture: Photography and Climate Change exhibited artwork made and photographed by 670 young people from 15 primary schools in the borough, in an exciting collaboration with the Royal College of Art, aiming to inspire climate change awareness through art and photography. Dear Neighbour saw 2500 postcards created by local 4 – 11 year-olds displayed in libraries across the borough, capturing memories of 2020 – places, people and objects that were important to them during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year’s WAF also coincided with the official opening of London Children’s Ballet’s brand-new, state of the art dance studio provided by The Big Yellow Self Storage Company. LCB was the first in an exciting cohort of cultural organisations (including Matt’s Gallery, World Heart Beat Academy, Theatre 503 and Chocolate Films in Nine Elms) to open a new space in Wandsworth as part of Wandsworth Council’s Cultural Anchor programme, which works to ensure that culture and the arts are woven into the fabric of our neighbourhoods, by bringing cultural organisations into the Borough.

London Children’s Ballet, May 2021
Wagon of Dreams at the Ashburton estate, August 2021

As part of Wandsworth Council’s commitment to supporting health and wellbeing through arts and culture, the Arts Service partnered with Enable Leisure and Culture, Bounce Theatre and Southwest London Law Centres throughout the latter half of 2021 to deliver a pilot programme, Turn Up Join In, a social prescribing project delivering welfare advice and support (provided by Southwest London Law Centres) and art and cultural activities (provided by Bounce Theatre), at a weekly a creative lunch club. Turn Up Join In offers an opportunity for people to get together, make art, share stories and eat, based at the Home Café in Earlsfield.

Wandsworth Council’s Grant Fund projects have had a fruitful year too. After a successful test-drive at WAF 2021, children’s theatre company Jellyfish Theatre took their free outdoor family show, The Wagon of Dreams, on a 9-day tour of Wandsworth’s housing estates during the school summer holidays, and in October, Wandsworth Council celebrated Black History Month with Black Heroes Foundation, supporting them to deliver a Windrush Gala event at Battersea Arts Centre.

Black Heroes Foundation Windrush Gala at Battersea Arts Centre, 1 October 2021

Beginning in November 2021, Wandsworth Council launched A Place To Call Home, a major collaborative art project establishing exciting partnerships between Wandsworth’s state and independent schools. Led by local artist Alexander Mourant, and working with more than 40 local schools, pupils from years 5, 6 and 7 have spent the autumn term in creative workshops, each class working to create an artwork panel. These panels will be assembled into a group installation, due to be exhibited in 2022. The project aims to ignite the belief that the power of local communities comes from celebrating difference and diversity and working together to achieve a common aim.

Line of Light Festival, October 2021

In Nine Elms, the Line of Light Festival at the end of October celebrated the communities who live and work above the new Northern line extension running between Battersea Power Station, Nine Elms and Kennington Tube stations. A daisy chain of light beams painted the route of the tunnels in the sky that created a ‘Line of Light’ across the south London night. A selection of buildings along the route were lit up with visual projections, accompanied by soundscapes available as podcasts, created with local groups to make a specially commissioned ‘album’ of the area.

The festival included the area around the new Arch 42 route, which connects locals and visitors to the new Northern Line Extension, New Covent Garden Market, the US Embassy and the River Thames. The old railway arch will soon be transformed by architecture practice Projects Office, who won the Arch 42 Gateways design competition run by Wandsworth Council and London Festival of Architecture in February this year.

Line of Light – Battersea Power Station
Line of Light – Community Choir

This month, Wandsworth’s new ten-year Arts and Culture Strategy was officially adopted. Wandsworth’s new cultural strategy embeds arts and culture at the heart of council’s work, promoting the Borough’s cultural life over the next ten years. To support and develop artists, creatives and audiences, the strategy sets out the following key principles and aims between 2021–2031: Place-shaping; Economic Growth; Communities and Partnerships; Learning and Education; Health and Wellbeing; Access for All and Climate Emergency and Sustainability.

Working collaboratively with local partners, Wandsworth Council aims to ensure a thriving arts and cultural offer that benefits not only individuals, but also families and wider communities, as well as contributing to the vitality of the Borough’s neighbourhoods and town centres.

AkomaAsa performance at the WAF 2021 launch, June 2021

Over the next ten years, through the strategy and three-year action plan, Wandsworth sets out to work proactively with partners to deliver shared ambitions for arts and culture within the Borough, and to establish Wandsworth as one of the country’s leading examples of how to integrate cultural opportunities and engagement into the delivery of all the Council’s priorities. As the vision is ambitious and set for the whole borough, the Council will work with a myriad of both big and the small actors on the borough’s cultural stage, supporting the wide range of expertise and community practice that already exists in the borough. To support these partners, the Council is developing three new five-year tenders of £20,000 each over 2022 for organisations to bid for, to support creative Health and Wellbeing programming.

Councillor Steffi Sutters, Cabinet Member for Community Services and Open Spaces, stated:

“With the ongoing pandemic 2021 has been a tough year for everyone, but through Wandsworth’s wide range of creative programmes we have tried to find means to support our residents and local businesses. Opportunities to engage with arts and culture has proved a lifeline for many, be it young people working on their Dear Neighbour postcards, to the work being done with adults through Turn Up and Join In, and the support, both financial and logistical, given local artists to ensure that they can keep their businesses going. The adoption of our ten-year strategy gives us the framework to continue to support our creative communities, which will in turn help improve the lives of all our residents, support the economic growth of the Borough, promote routes into local creative jobs, and develop thriving cultural local neighbourhoods. Our vision is to ensure that arts and culture is part of all residents’ lives, no matter their age: for enjoyment, wellbeing and to develop new skills or discover new talents.”