This Used to be Fields
Barking and Dagenham, London, UK
September 2013 – October 2014
East London is home to more artists and art organisations than anywhere in Europe, but has low levels of cultural engagement amongst local people. Barbican, who support community engagement projects in east London wanted to run a project to increase local cultural engagement. They commissioned Historypin and Create, who facilitate participatory projects between artists and communities, to run a community engagement project. The project aimed to:
- Engage people with a low frequency of cultural attendance
- Bring people together to create a shared, digital community archive about a shared place
- Increase pride and awareness in the history of the local area
- Create a new work of art, made in collaboration with local communities
- Contribute to strengthening people’s connections with other people in their local area
The project focused on the housing estate of Becontree in Barking and Dagenham, an area rich in stories that weren’t largely known. Historypin partnered with Valence House Museum, home of Barking and Dagenham local archive and hosted a Historypin Community Officer.
Together they worked with 15 local organisations including schools, community centres, local history societies, civic organisations, voluntary groups and libraries to collect as many historical materials and memories associated with the estate as possible.
Over 40 local events were run, varying in format from reminiscence sessions to talks, and film screenings to workshops. All the materials gathered were scanned and uploaded to a dedicated Collection on Historypin.org.
Mural artist, Chad McCail was commissioned to work with the local community to create a new permanent public artwork in Becontree, a giant mural depicting the history of the estate. The design for this was based on stories and memories shared by Becontree residents. The project culminated in a celebratory event displaying materials collected and officially unveiling the mural.
What was created?
- Over 40 community events run, involving 500 participants
- A Collection on Historypin with 155 photos and memories from the local community, 1,000 photographs and 30 film clips from Barking and Dagenham Archive
- The collection received over 2,000 visits by 1,500 people who spent an average of nearly 6 minutes exploring it
- A mural depicting the memories
- ”Mural hailing Becontree estate history unveiled”, Barking and Dagenham Post, 28th October 2014
- ”From Hitler to Gandhi: An arty history of Becontree”, Barking and Dagenham Post, 22nd October 2014
- ”New Illustration Chad McCail, Ian McDonnell, Kristjana Williams”, Creative Review, 28th October 2014
- ”The Painting’s on the wall”, London Evening Standard, 23rd October 2014
WHAT DID WE DO?
Collaborative Partnership delivery
- Worked with an archive (Barking and Dagenham Archives) and two creative arts organisations (Create and Barbican) to deliver an engagement project that brought together arts and heritage practice and audiences.
Local Community Engagement
- A Historypin Community Officer ran community events in the archive, community centres and schools to collect and digitise people’s photos and memories
Design and Digital
- Designed the creative identity for “This Used to be Fields”
- Created a custom collection, with a unique design and partnership branding
Collections and content
- Bulk uploaded historical photos from Barking and Dagenham Local Archives
- Designed and created promotional material
- Supported online communication and promotion
Measurement and Evaluation
- Designed process and materials for measuring the impact of the project
- 91% of participants surveyed would like to see more things like this in their local area and 75% would like to get involved with a similar project.
- Over 60% of participants surveyed met someone new from their local area and 26% met someone new from a different generation.
- 50% of participants surveyed had not been to a cultural event in the past 12 months.
“This is the first time I’ve connected with Dagenham and people here, because I’ve been here for a few times in the UK, and I’m very happy to know this place and the history of this place, because I’m living here.” (Biniam Ghide, Artist who worked on the mural)
“Good to share experiences of others who lived in Dagenham in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Certainly learned more about life on the estate.“
“People come in and ask about the mural in the cafe, and I think there’s real potential there to have a massive impact.”
“Covers much people don’t talk about – gets you thinking about more positive things to do with Dagenham””