Wandsworth Words by Elly Clarke
Click on the images to be taken to the posters that emerged from these responses.
Click here to go to the index.
Word from Wandsworth – by Elly Clarke
In August I got a call from curator Charlie Levine asking if I would consider putting in a proposal to engage a variety of community groups in Wandsworth around the subject of art. After months of lockdown, of not really leaving my own neighbourhood and speaking to and meeting only those I already knew, I jumped at the chance to have conversations with new people of all ages, in new contexts, about art and its possibilities.
I was awarded the commission and decided to centre my conversations around one key question, which was: ‘What role does art play in your life today?’
Armed with A4 paper and a handful of felt tip pens, I took this question to a kid’s theatre company and to young people in a boxing club. In the searing August heat, under the awning of Trinity Fields Clubhouse, I spoke to teenagers who haven’t been in the UK very long about art in the countries they come from, art in their homes and what art is to them today. At a skate park I met four 18 year olds, who were all about to head off to art school. Our conversation was so lively it could – and perhaps should – have been a podcast. I also had a super fun zoom one Thursday morning with six members of Wandsworth LGBTQ+ forum.
Due to the ongoing pandemic, it was not possible to meet everybody in person or even via Zoom, so alongside phone and email and communicating via people who work at the groups I was looking at, I used Google Forms to gather additional responses and reflections.
The conversations I had and the responses I received were enlightening and encouraging – as was discovering the sheer variety of groups Wandsworth has, as well as the energy that goes into running them – many by volunteers. The work being done with young people I found particularly incredible to witness. I felt honoured to have the chance to speak to these groups and was moved when, on two separate occasions, young people came up to me as I was leaving to look me in the eye and say thank you, I really enjoyed that. One child added, ‘I want to be an artist when I grow up.’ Meanwhile, via email, I learned of someone losing a parent during COVID, but of the joy the weekly zoom choir meetings brought her. And spoke to a man in his 70s, who, missing going to galleries and theatres, was very happy to discover for the first time the wealth of art and culture that exists online.
Each poster represents a glimpse of the conversations I had and the responses I received, along with each person’s age, which organisation they are connected to, and the date of the interaction. All are free to download and to print. Click HERE to see them.
List of organisations involved: Battersea Powerstation Choir – Bounce Theatre – Carney’s Community – Furzedown Arts Community – Katherine Low Settlement: The Elders – Kimber Skate Park – Love to Learn – The Men’s Shed – Soundminds – Wandsworth LGBTQ+ Forum – Women of Wandsworth.
Thanks to all who took part in this project, and to everyone for helping it along.
Click here to go to the Project Index.
Elly Clarke is an artist and photographer and occasional drag queen. Previous community engaged projects include Queer Encounters King’s Cross (2018), Camden Encounters (2015), Half Crowns in their Petticoats (2013), and The Broadway House Photo Project (2002-3).