‘A female-led mini-festival to highlight and celebrate the role women in the community played during and after the Grenfell Tower fire!’ As Tom, editor of Urban Dandy, had said: “they were the ones who stepped up and held the community together”.
Sitting in The Tabernacle, planning WeCoproduce’s project for a free gig as part of the “Trauma Matters” event, I remembered Dawn, a mother of three, born and bred in North Kensington.
As an upstanding member of her community, Dawn, among many other locals, quickly answered the immediate cries for help that government was ignorant of. Converting every available space into emergency refuges, donation points, improvised but functioning healing centres; in an outpouring of kindness and an overwhelming wave of support from residents abandoned by their council. North Kensington was standing tall.
Emotional and mental stress have been known to cause the heart to work harder. Dawn suddenly passed away less than two months after the fire, from a cardiac arrest.
Two years on and Kinetic Minds, a local collective led by the talented composer Andre Louis opened this eclectic female-fronted night, as a tribute to Andre’s late mother, Dawn.
The performances were by women who all live in two worlds, heads in the sky but feet on the ground; women who are outspoken and engaged in good causes, with a love of sharing knowledge and healing sounds; intelligent and creative in thoughts and actions.
From the grace and elegance of folk singer-songwriter Helen McCookerybook, to the captivating Desta Haile, a soul-jazz-reggae singer; North Kensington was standing tall.
From the conscious and atmospheric trip-hop artist Ishani, to the most urban classically trained “Avant-Gardist,” the Grime Violinist, North Kensington was standing tall.
From the uplifting and infectious Judi’s Rhythm of Jazz to the late vibrant jazz singer Yazzy, North Kensington was standing tall.
All different in styles, genres, origins, and ages but all the same in being empowering and strong role models who reminded us that everything we do just connects, whether it’s through music, words or actions.
R.I.P. DAWN RENAULT 28/07/1967 – 08/08/2017
This article was first published by We Coproduce CIC
It was a surreal moment for me; Lancaster West estate was where I first encountered Dr Gabor Maté’s teachings on trauma, addiction, mind-body health and parenting. Years on, I meet Dr Maté on Lanc West for a mini tour of North Kensington: through the estate, up Blenheim Crescent, across Ladbroke Grove and Portobello and to the Tabernacle, where Gabor was speaking at the day-long We Coproduce event Trauma Matters.
My meeting with this mentor was even more unreal as this was 15th June 2019. The previous night the community had walked in silence, in our thousands, to honour the dead on the second anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire; a dignified, unified response to a horror and injustice which had seen no arrests.
We Coproduce, based in Hammersmith, intended a neighbourly gesture for the Grenfell anniversary and flew-in this remarkable expert to the most traumatised community in Britain. When asked to engage the North Ken community, I asked Jane, CEO of We Coproduce, “What’s the aim?”
“To get individuals to become aware of their trauma”.
Good answer, because North Kensington had been bought off inundated with money and ego. Here was a thoughtful organisation we – myself and the local artist Woïnkpa – could work with.
Trauma from a huge-scale disaster starts to manifest two years after an event; it is what we carry inside ourselves. So many local people had filled the vacuum left by the council and national government; mindful of those who had lost everything, or everyone, the trauma was suppressed but easily triggered.
I met Gabor near the foot of the burned-out Tower, the plan to equip him with some understanding of the neighbourhood before speaking on such an emotive day.
The injustice and the slow, sure return to the business-as-usual imposition of grinding poverty on this outwardly vibrant neighbourhood darted around in my mind as I tried to capture it in words. Gabor cut through; looking up at the Tower, he said, “I bet those responsible don’t live in housing like this”.
Stopping me short as I started to explain local dynamics, Gabor asked me “What was your role after the fire?” This set the tone for the day.
Gabor was entirely present as we walked and talked, curious about me, my travels, my thoughts. He would stop, look me in the eye and tell me about his trip as a medical doctor to Gaza when he had “cried for two weeks straight’,” or about the treatment of the indigenous population of Canada
Gabor’s assured presence on the street flowed seamlessly into the packed event at the Tabernacle; challenging audience members to go deeper, unapologetically interested in the reality and truth.
During breaks, he was surrounded by people seeking one-on-one advice and sat offering the same perfect attention.
For those immersed in the recovery of a community, the Trauma Matters event was a reminder that healing starts with us. Gabor’s unerring eye contact betrays an aching vulnerability and uncanny ability to use words to stir our compassion and wisdom.
We Coproduce had carved out a space for these qualities – vulnerability, compassion, wisdom – to be present in the neighbourhood that needed it most, at the time we needed it most.
This article was first published by We Coproduce CIC
This Saturday evening, as part of the Trauma Matters weekend at the Tabernacle to mark the two year anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire, WeCoproduce CIC is hosting two hours of soulful sounds & soothing rhythms by female artists.
Saturday 15th June, 7-9pm,
The theatre, upstairs at the Tabernacle.
Free entry for all, no need to book.
The show will be entirely led by a diverse range of brilliant female artists as a nod to the essential rol played by women in the immediate aftermath of the Grenfell fire.
The music will be preceded by a book signing by the renowned speaker, author and trauma expert Dr Gabor Maté at 5pm and the launch of the Writing from the Roots North Kensington EZine at 6pm. Tickets for Gabor Maté’s workshop have sold out, but tickets for day two of Trauma Matters are available, with a limited number of free tickets for North Kensington residents. Please email email@example.com.
Lineup for the Community Matters music event:
The Grime Violinist is a unique artist. Classically trained, she is currently the only violinist in the world dedicated to grime and the first violinist to release her own original grime tracks. The Grime Violinist has worked with artists including Giggs, Lethal Bizzle, Mr Eazi and Lady Leshurr. Her performances have ranged from Glastonbury, Wireless and Boomtown Festivals, to The Royal Albert Hall, Hammersmith Apollo and Roundhouse. TV appearances have included performing on BBC 1, ITV, SBTV and Channel 4 on the Big Narstie Show.
@grimeviolinist / thegrimeviolinist.co.uk
Desta Hailé‘s music is influenced by jazz, reggae, soul & the many places she has called home. She has worked an eclectic range of artists, from Joe Bataan to Zap Mama, and recently opened for Sara Tavares at Jazz Café.
Helen McCookerybook was born and raised in Wylam, Northumberland, Helen was the bass player/singer with Brighton indie band The Chefs and guitarist/singer with Helen and the Horns in the 1980s. Both of were favourites of BBC Radio 1’s John Peel. After a break to raise a family, she returned to the stage as a solo artist with a new set of songs, and since then has toured the UK regularly, releasing four solo albums. She has recorded with artists such as Gina Birch of the Raincoats, Vic Godard, Lester Square, Martin Stephenson, and Arrest! Charlie Tipper, and been played regularly by Gideon Coe on BBC Radio6
Ishani is breathing new life into the Trip Hop genre. She has recently been made a BBC Introducing artist by Bobby Friction and is instantly recognisable by her distinctive vocals, and incisive and often challenging lyricism. Brooding, hypnotic and sensual, her songs offer comfort as a shoulder to lean on; a cathartic electronic outpouring of personal relief. “Poetic, magical realism mixed in with Trip Hop” Bobby Friction BBC Asian Network.
ishanimusic.com / @IshaniChakra /
Kinetic Minds is a two-piece collective from W11. Exploring the relation between feelings and motion through sounds, simple and complex dialogue, Kinetic Minds is a tribute to the edge of our culture in the pop landscape.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare”
As people in west London prepare for the second anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire, many continue to suffer the after-effects of the June 14th 2017 atrocity. Much has happened since that date to compound the community’s suffering and symptoms of trauma are evident across North Kensington. A new approach is needed in response to the limited, flawed and sometimes counter-productive trauma relief efforts so far. North Kensington is an appropriate place for some fresh thinking on trauma: how it manifests; how people and communities deal with it and the possibilities available if we are open to braver, better solutions.
The Brain and Trauma
Trauma can manifest in people who aren’t perceived to be unwell enough to be formally diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or hospitalised. The traumatised person might not recognise that they are suffering, but the part of the brain that is devoted to our survival – the sympathetic nervous system – may have kicked in. This is described in simple terms as fight, flight, freeze – although responses differ in everybody. The result is a stream of experiences that are defined as trauma.
Dr Gabor Maté, the renowned speaker, author and trauma expert, identifies disconnection from ourselves as the essence of trauma: “trauma is not what happens to you, but what happens inside you as a result of what happens to you.”
Some typical symptoms include:
Stress hormones are produced
Unpleasant emotions arise
Uncomfortable physical sensations
The person might become impulsive and aggressive
It becomes difficult for the person to filter the relevant from the irrelevant
The traumatised person may feel less alive and less present
The impact of a single disaster trauma event can be large scale, shaping histories and whole cultures. The impact can also be felt on a smaller scale, affecting individuals’ minds, emotions, capacity for joy and physical health. The large-scale societal impact is dictated by the preponderance of trauma among a population. It follows that the ability of a society or culture to move on from trauma is dictated by the ability of the individuals within the population to recover.
Yet trauma doesn’t only manifest following big one-off, life-changing events; it can be caused by a series of smaller continuous events, such as adverse childhood experiences, racism, poverty, bereavement or illness. The link between all of these is that they trigger the same physiological responses. However, those who have already been impacted by long-term experiences of continuous trauma can have less resilience when big events occur.
Traumatic events are, by their very nature, unbearable for humans, overwhelming their ability to cope. As people cannot tolerate the sensation, they instinctively push it away and try to move on in life. For some their experiences cause them to automatically dissociate – or disconnect – from what they are feeling or thinking as part of a survival mechanism. This coping mechanism leaves people unable to move on because they do not process the original experience and the energy charge generated becomes trapped in the physical body, potentially leading to other long-term health conditions.
This effectively means that the traumatising experience is not over. Triggers that cause the person to dissociate can come in many forms – sight, smell, sound, overwhelming situations, shock, anger etc. – and happen without warning. Existing mental health conditions and addictions often deteriorate in these circumstances and new addictions can emerge as ways to proactively disengage from reality or to numb from pain.
PTSD is widespread in North Kensington, estimated to be in the thousands. The trauma has been exacerbated by the prevailing sense of injustice, as if a whole community is paused, waiting for an appropriate response from those with the power to provide one. Vicarious trauma is also rife, with many people stretching themselves to support those affected by the fire. Vicarious trauma, not to be confused with exhaustion or compassion fatigue, is a rational response to the process of prolonged empathic engagement with traumatised people. It is impossible for people suffering from vicarious trauma to be effective in helping others while their own needs and feelings are bypassed.
Additionally for many, the thought of being judged as weak, vulnerable or unable to cope can trigger feelings of shame that add to the anguish of trauma. For many of us in North Kensington, there are people worse off than ourselves: bereaved; survivors; friends; witnesses. In this situation, there is a sense of guilt among those less directly affected.
In response to the 2017 fire, the NHS offers trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It also offers a link to a Kensington and Chelsea council (RBKC) flyer for other services including art therapy, youth clubs, a local charity and the Chickenshed theatre company. The offer is very limited, with figures revealing that hundreds of affected people stopped attending their therapy sessions in the year after the atrocity. The promotion of RBKC services by the NHS is problematic for obvious reasons.
One resident of Lancaster West (the estate where Grenfell Tower stands) engaged in talk therapy at St Charles’ Hospital, but told us that many people won’t go there as it is “too clinical” and “alien to people’s cultures,” especially elders and the young. She managed two sessions there but experienced it as overwhelming and switched to a service at an alternative, culturally-appropriate venue. There, she engaged in talk therapy, which was followed by qigong sessions. But when the funding was cut for that service, no replacement was offered.
On RBKC, North Kensington Law Centre issued a report stating that: “The Council’s interaction with residents in the period after the fire had the capacity to alleviate some of the trauma of survivors, but instead too often only exacerbated it…residents’ trauma has been unnecessarily exacerbated as they wait for what are often relatively simple or trivial matters to be resolved”.
One particular criticism was of the council’s “tick-box” approach: “Too often…Grenfell-affected residents have been treated with a business-as-usual attitude. A tick box approach to assessing needs in these exceptional circumstances will not result in a proper understanding of those needs”.
In a culture that is already trauma-ignorant, RBKC’s at times clumsy, at times callous approach, has not been good enough.
What could be done?
It is important to honour the strength and courage of survivors, to nurture optimism. It is also important to know that people can overcome the symptoms of trauma; humans are very resilient and wired to survive. Studying communities that have been impacted by a single disaster suggests that 9 out of 10 people will learn and grow. People can recover to live hopeful and meaningful lives despite terrible experiences.
Dr Gabor Maté notes: “The essence of trauma is disconnection from ourselves. Trauma is not terrible things that happen from the other side—those are traumatic. But the trauma is that very separation from the body and emotions. So, the real question is, ‘How did we get separated and how do we reconnect?’”
For this reason, a Trauma-informed approach to local residents is crucial, and this should not be limited to the medication and short-term therapy on offer currently. Trauma symptoms can be managed through medication but recalling what has happened or expressing emotions is not enough. Contemporary thinking says that the key is to change the physiology of the body and switch the overactive part of the brain off. By learning self-regulation, the person can begin to master the part of the brain that has switched on overactive reflexes and learn to switch them off. In other words, while trauma can manifest as the disconnection of the person from the body and the present moment; healing comes from reconnecting to both.
It is necessary to see trauma recovery as an ongoing act of self-care and self-love. An event hosted by We Coproduce CIC to coincide with the Grenfell anniversary explores the latest thinking about trauma. It seeks to help people understand how the experience of trauma manifests in the physical body, how the brain responds to being overwhelmed and what can be done about it. Day One sees Dr Gabor Maté discuss his views on all types of trauma in a day-long workshop. Day Two has salon-style discussions and embodied practice workshops to explore various tools for self-care and managing the nervous system.
Self-care was described by the iconic American writer and activist Audre Lorde as “an act of political warfare” – as we mark the second anniversary of the Grenfell Tower atrocity and honour those who were so needlessly lost, perhaps one of the most proactive and powerful things that residents of North Kensington can do is to understand their own trauma and learn ways to care for themselves in order to survive and even thrive in the face of an ongoing injustice.
By Tom Charles and Jane McGrath
Trauma Matters, hosted by We Coproduce CIC, takes place at the Tabernacle on the weekend of 15th-16th June.
We have a limited number of free tickets to give away to North Kensington residents for day two. To request a ticket please email firstname.lastname@example.org
The authors of this article are not trauma experts and those suffering with trauma should consider seeking professional help. We wholeheartedly recommend the talks of Dr Maté, easily found on YouTube, as well as the books ‘Waking the Tiger’ by Peter Levine and ‘The Body Keeps the Score’ by Bessel van der Kolk.
We Coproduce CIC
Wecoproduce.com is a social consultancy owned and run by local people in West London to give local people an equal voice. We start from the position that in the 21st century our health and social care systems are flawed and need to be radically reimagined. To achieve this, we created a disruptive consultancy – ‘We Coproduce.’ We are commissioned to work with our communities to coproduce better and braver solutions to health and social care challenges – and we invest all of our profits into building resilient communities. Our national network of collaborators use authentic coproduction and radical disruptive innovation techniques to challenge systems that are not working. To do this effectively we use the arts, interactive technology and social media to facilitate democratic spaces for local people to collectively reimagine local health and social care outcomes.
We remain a small Community Interest Company.
Dr Gabor Mate
Dr. Maté has received the Hubert Evans Prize for Literary Non-Fiction; an Honorary Degree (Law) from the University of Northern British Columbia; an Outstanding Alumnus Award from Simon Fraser University; and the 2012 Martin Luther King Humanitarian Award from Mothers Against Teen Violence. For his ground-breaking medical work and writing he has been awarded the Order of Canada, his country’s highest civilian distinction, and the Civic Merit Award from his hometown, Vancouver.
Dr. Maté is the author of several best-selling books:
Scattered Minds: A New Look at the Origins and Healing of Attention Disorder;
When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress;
Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers and
In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction.
It’s theage of uncertainty, overuse of the word ‘terrorism’ and common sense gone digital. If what the astronomers tell us is true, we’ve moved light years away from the cosmic location we were at just four years ago and you can kinda tell. Yet, Mario’s key cutters, Poundland and Tesco’s all seem to have remained in the same location as I look through the eyes of a child.
The said amount of time has passed since we shared, right here on Urban Dandy, how the natural falling of a tree on our block inspired the locals to spill out onto the streets and finally make themselves known.
I don’t know if it’s time, frustration or just karma for me, but it seems that the neighbourly thing is at an all time low. The same eleven-year-olds that used to humbly greet me on my way out the door are now fifteen and just about neighbourly enough to replace those kind words with a nod and an ice grill and if I’m really lucky it may also be the waft of urban incense of the green variety. I can’t tell you how many times my doorstep has been littered with rolling papers, Subway sandwich wrappers, rappers and pitiful young girls, a few months into puberty and possibly a couple of years from single motherhood. They would exchange a type of loud poetry of the sailor type among themselves and upon any young ears that are unfortunate enough to be near their fruitless performance.
I remember the gradual build up to this and the times when my suspicions of drug activity were vague and unsubstantiated, but I never expected to be welcomed home with an offer to buy drugs on my own doorstep.
Yep, it’s certainly a different time and place in space and you’d easily be forgiven if you don’t remember the tree that considerately descended on the very same block, even though, at the time, it was the most activity we had seen and the main focus of conversation for months. Now two years on, teams of mopeds turn the streets into Silverstone as they wheelie up the track block dropping off their illegal supplies under the diffident noses of the police, the housing association, the moon and even the mid-day sun, for that matter.
Rumours spread of the neighbours’ children having knife tussles in the street and of warning shots being fired in a place that celebrities could never imagine while they strut with all their pretense, trying to ignore the echoes of their own name. It’s hard to believe that one area could support such opposing lifestyles but Notting Hill is such a place.
The local news is sometimes national news, depending. It could be about the actress Eve strolling through her new manor, a sixteen-year-old laying in a pool of blood, Rita Ora doing a photo shoot, or a mob of eleven police restraining a wannabe thug child. Considering the later; this not yet man will no doubt only use this encounter as a badge to show the peer group that he has achieved a Netflix version of manhood. Meanwhile, the Beckhams will do the school drop off oblivious to this. But all of this in one stretch of concrete.
These are not incidents but everyday life. It’s like a kind of trash bag made of diamonds. It’s odd knowing that Princes William and Harry went to the school up the street and just feet away from that ambitious parent attending a school viewing, hoping to give their child the same Prince Harry experience they may experience the polar opposite. It’s also a Big Issue magnet, a haven for the more ambitious of the homeless. I know this because it took me two years and some strong language to be rid of one such aggressive Big Issue seller and to have him accept that I was a regular guy. He eventually dissolved our tacit contract and moved on to more supportive folk to maintain his structure.
Home and Away
Elsewhere in the world there are at least a few miles between these opposing classes. I find the choice to park your car in the centre of a spot, that could hold two vehicles, snooty and sub-civilised; but no less churlish than maneuvering a 60 lb leather sofa into a parking space in front of your own home, but who cares? Damn right it’s an environmental crime but not to be declared in Orwellian style with the hope of profit but just to dispense a call for the raising of one’s personal standards, empathy and maybe a little shame. Yeah, the mice come out knowing that the neighbourhood ugly gives them hope that there will be a serving for at least four when they carelessly drop pizza and other food items on their own doorstep, but who gives a..?
The bigger picture
Truth is, beneath all of this is a fight between two demogra-folks, both too smart to actually realise they’re in a war over a silly name. I’m not sure who named Ladbroke Grove Notting Hill but the two gangs have both been co-living on the same turf for some time now. As Notting Hill gets written into the history books, Ladbroke Grove makes its own history reminding us of the area’s past like an immortal storyteller. Immortal because, much to the disappointment of some locals, it just won’t go away. This neverending story is what opened the doors to make it Notting Hill (Ladbroke Grove or whatever you choose to call it), Marvin Gaye, The Sex Pistols, Malcolm X, Muhammed Ali, The Rolling Stones and all.
Rough Trade Records started out in Ladbroke Grove and without moving an inch has become Notting Hill’s musical pride and, somewhat organic, record shop. Yet who remembers when they sold NY W.B.L.S. radio mix-tapes and when people sprayed the bricks with Sham 69? How about, graffiti artist Futura 2000 knocking around with the Clash or Queen Latifa searching the crates for her little-known single?
Synonymously the neighbouring food equivalent would be The Grain Shop that still lives opposite Tavistock Square on Portobello Road, Notting Hill, or is it Portobello Road, Ladbroke Grove? Even regular healthy food got caught in this name politics and was changed to organic without its consent. Even though The Grain Shop still services the area for their food needs, the name of the food they offer, although it’s mostly organic, refuses to boast, because unlike most other things their attitudes have not changed. But you would have to remember Ladbroke Grove to know that. To know that the owners care more about the nutrition that they provide for their community than giving it a fancy name.
Then there’s The Tabernacle: it still sits in Powis Square but seems to be wanting to slide up the hill rather than down the grove. Thankfully, it is regulated by culture. Every time a hundred pound designer Champagne creeps onto the drinks menu a Jerk Chicken wrestles it down to the ground, sometimes it’s a saltfish fritter fighting with a Greek Salad or even an unexpected Chicken Saint Lucia being drowned by the soup of the day.
Yep, most of us are just casualties of a war of status and as soon as Notting Hill recognises that it’s Ladbroke Grove is the moment that Ladbroke Grove will see that it is Notting Hill. Gentrification will then become an organic process with the participation of locals. The area’s potential will then be clear and we can concentrate on bigger things like what the fuxit our exit from the EU actually means and how we need each other more than ever, NOW.
Whether it’s your micro neighbour or your macro neighbour we need constructive communication and not snobbery. Coming to accept that there is not, and has never been, a middle class may be a little hard to swallow for some but for God’s sake get over it quick because at this time if you’re not excelling to new financial altitudes whereby work is but a choice, then your choice of neighbours is not a choice at all. It’s Russian roulette, only now there are three slugs in the chamber of the proverbial gun to your head. It’s easier, far easier for somebody to complain about their co-inhabitants rather than to seek resolve with each other. Whether you dropped down from Knightsbridge with high expectations or you have never left the area and cannot quite grasp the gentrific change, it’s time to talk; otherwise, the government (or foreign corporate interests to be precise) will be only too happy to play your friendly mediator.
If you’re like me and have lived in any of the other communities that are globally accepted as parallels, you’ll know that there is not another area on earth like this one. New York, Paris, and Los Angeles all boast of multiculturalism but even as diverse as they are, the local cultures have enough distance between them to never meet.
Not so with us, just look at the size of our streets, somebody sneezes, you feel it across the road. We live in a very claustrophobic space of scraping buses and folding wing mirrors but with that comes the unique advantage of having to interact and survive within each other’s world, yet without each other in this little village. It makes sense for us to finally define it ourselves with the help of those who bring their foreign experiences if they are only willing to introduce themselves and share rather than seize real land, by any other corporate term.
I believe that on this third rock, in this western hemisphere, in this Royal Borough, while the world divides itself in the hope of the government submitting a plan for re-uniting it we have the potential to become a beacon to the world but we have to stop the selfishness and start participating, preserving, embracing and becoming curious about our homies, and each other’s welfare not farewell.
Dedicated to: *The Krew: Shaban, Drew, Kevin Wez, Nicky and Jeff (RIP). Song: The Escapades of Futura 2000 – Futura 2000 and The Clash
It’s pretty interesting to me how, as an Artist I’m always looking for new ways to transform one dimension into another in a multi-dimensional fashion. I find it quite cheeky because really, if God wanted sound to be visual I guess she’d have made it just that yet the interconnectedness of all things fascinates me and compels me to want to share. One such example, whether by human consciousness or universal intelligence, occurred on the 25th of May at a gallery in The Tabernacle in west London.
Artists Emma Mudgway and Alexia Villard created an exhibition of their thoughts and experiences working within the legendary building in a way that can only be described as ‘Personal’.
I met Emma Mudgway (one half of the expression) in Queensway, west London, on a fine, sunny, Thursday afternoon. I asked Emma…
UDL • Is this your first exhibition in London?
Emma • Yes
UDL • Where else have you displayed your work?
Emma • I’m from New Zealand and have exhibited there. If you are interested in my exhibition history it can be found on my website.
We did precisely that. Emma has exhibited at the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts, Toi Poneke Arts Centre, Wellington, NZ andExpressions Arts and Entertainment Centre in Upper Hutt, NZ.
UDL • Has Alexia had any in London?
Emma • Yes she has…
Alexia has previously worked on projects such as Cinema du reel Festival, Paris Cinema Festival, Cannes festival, Feast Festival and National Portrait Gallery.
UDL • Is this the first time you’ve done a joint exhibition?
Emma • With Alexia, yes it is. We met in Canada on an artist residency. I was on my way to London, and Alexia was already based here. We kept in touch, ended up working together at the Tabernacle, and often found ourselves sitting around Alexia’s Kitchen Table discussing our work. That’s how the Kitchen Table Collective was formed, and how we ended up exhibiting together.
UDL • What are your feelings about working together with somebody else?
Emma • It pushes you to think differently. You make decisions about your own work that you may not have otherwise made which to me is interesting.
UDL • I know that Alexia is not here but do you think her experience of it is similar?
Emma takes off her shades, it seems this question requires some concentration.
Emma • I don’t know we haven’t really spoke about it yet, so I don’t really feel that’s something I can comment on.
After trying to answer, a sensitive Emma apologetically replied in the best way she could with a very caring consciousness to not misrepresent the absent artist’s viewpoint.
UDL • I understand. So what is the exhibition about in your own words?
Emma • Our idea for the exhibition was always to do something that related to the space. There are many stories that could be told about the building, its history, and the unique place it holds within the community. We began by looking back at archives from the building, and in the meantime we were collecting little bits and pieces from the restaurant. Alexia collected food tickets and handwritten notes, and I worked from the architectural plans of the building. We were paying attention to the conversations we were having with staff and customers. It grew to be an archive of sorts, of our interactions as servers.
UDL • Were your expectations met from the exhibition, if you had any at all?
Emma • I don’t think I really had any, because I was so busy right up to the exhibition with the work, and with some other important things that needed to be sorted out in my life. I didn’t have time to form any expectations. It felt like it wasn’t even going to go on the wall. If I had a hope for it, it would be that it would engage the people who the work was about, the people who are regulars in the building, and that it would get them into the gallery. People seemed to really like it, and appreciate it, they connected with the work, the people who came to the space regularly.
UDL • Your piece in particular was to me an emotional expression on an emotional expression. By this I mean in the piece you express in words as well as you express in design. How did it feel baring this all with the extra dimension?
Emma • I was a little bit worried about how emotionally honest the work was. I thought people might find the work too earnest, d’you know what I mean? But I don’t….Emma pauses to find the words… Sentimental. I think whatever I’ve made has always been tied to where I am emotionally but I don’t think it’s ever been so obvious. But what was really nice was I might have been speaking about my experiences and interactions and how I reacted to them within that space but people related to it which was nice. People came up to me and told me it made them consider their own experiences, like the last time they cried. A friend said she thought the work was very Human, for me, it was the best compliment I could have received.
UDL • You painted the walls of the gallery. Is this something you have done before?
Emma • No, that was Alexia’s clever idea. Because most of the work was very white, it made a huge visual impact when it was hung on a black wall. I think whenever you have a show you need to think about how it works as an installation, as a whole. The whole space needs to be considered.
UDL • As a creator myself my initial conscious expression emerged out of the culture of music in the 90s which was my introduction to the combining of genres that created something appropriately named Hip Hop. Because of this mind state I enjoy listening to and creating various types of music equally. Sometimes I would attempt to translate in musical expression the feelings of an inanimate object such as a bike represented in phonics. I mean how would a bike talk if it wasn’t seen? This understanding of merging platforms as an expression of dimension is similar in your work.
Emma • Artists have the choice to work in any medium that they want and many are multidisciplinary. It’s really about finding the best way to say what you want to say. What I’m saying is that …Emma giggles… I feel that I have to watch every word that I say..more giggles… No, you find a way that best expresses the idea.
UDL • Yes I love the idea of transferring one dimension into another dimension this is why I was so deeply affected by the work.
Emma • I don’t make work thinking about what I want to say to someone, it’s a way of processing my own thinking. If there is one thing I would like people to take from the work, it’s that it is about interaction and connection, and how that is fostered within a space. No matter how small and insignificant the transaction may seem, even if it’s just making someone a coffee.
UDL • Have you met any other artists in London or anywhere else in the world that you like?
Emma • I have met so many interesting people in London, sometimes in the most unlikely of places; artists, creatives, people from all the around the world. I value their perspectives and have learnt a lot in the short time that I have been here. The access to art and culture here is something I don’t take for granted. Alexia and I met in Canada- I like her work because I feel like she quietly demonstrates that there is beauty and value to be found in places that others overlook. I also work with young adults with learning disabilities in an art class one morning a week, I love the quirky art they make and I find they can be as sophisticated and uncompromising in their vision as anyone else, and shouldn’t be underestimated.
UDL • Now that the pieces are taken down and packed away, what happens now?
Emma • The installation of the work in the space is finished, but there is still work relating to the exhibition to be done. For example, websites need to be updated, and there are some last little admin tasks to wrap up. Most importantly, its time to build on what we have started and the opportunities that arise from the show. On a personal level, that means reflecting on the work I made, and not losing momentum in my own making practice. Its also important to me that the Kitchen Table Collective continues to grow as a platform for our ideas, however they are manifested.
I feel honoured to be included or at least a thought in both Artists expression on paper. An exhibition that was every bit emotionally, touching and personal, not only to the staff and patrons of the Tabernacle but, also to those who render services (all of us) and hold such expressions locked up deep within. I have to bow to the execution of the many forms that these feelings have been transmitted through their Art.
Please explore more of Emma Mudgway and Alexia Villard below.
An edited version of this review has appeared on MyVillage.com An inspiring and moving art collection sees the Tabernacle’s boutique gallery plastered floor to ceiling with colourful sketches and painting. These disarming works are unique, refreshing and offer an uncontrived view of Ugandan village life. The images created by the children of Masindi are in London as part of an educational fundraising effort that ends 24 September 2011.
Numbered pictures are accompanied by delightful business card mini profiles with pictures of each artist. Bios include informative gems such as talented 12 year old Vanny Aheebwais does traditional dance and wants to visit London or self-taught 14 year old Peter Guma creative, experimental and hoping to study art at University.
Works are “sold” by silent auction and tagged as bids are received so you can see if there is competition. The money (minimum bid 20£) contributes to a good cause and the winning bidder leaves with an original piece of African art. A drinks evening will be hosted September 24thallowing for last minute offers and the announcement of the winning bids.
RedEarth Education provides teacher training: devising methods and strategies for the classroom with guidance manuals so that trained teachers can share their skills and cascade learning. The current fundraising effort is for the construction of a “Teacher Training and Resource Centre” and the establishment of the first ever Ugandan Nursery Practitioner model facility.
Pick up an original at a snip or, for those with the means, dig deep to empower a worthwhile programme.
Additional works are available for immediate sale.
Until 24th September @ The Tabernacle
Powis Square, Notting Hill, London