‘A Local Dialogue’ on Marks Gate

I was commissioned by Creative Barking & Dagenham in 2014 as artist in residence on the Marks Gate estate in Dagenham for 6 months as part of their neighbourhood series. The residency began in May where I ran a series of free pop-up events, tea parties and art activities across the estate to provoke some curiosity amongst the local community, and raise awareness of our project in interesting, meaningful and thoughtful ways, over 100 Marks Gate residents attended the pop-up interventions.

We made tea a big feature throughout the project, hosting a regular weekly ‘Tea-Time Tuesday’ at the Community Centre throughout the course of the residency, hosting innovative craft projects for local residents to pop in and get involved in all whilst supping on our favourite cuppa. A definite recipe for success! Our first project was the ‘Marks Gate Bunting’, in which we asked residents to get crafty and make a flag to add to our growing mission, we wanted to decorate and bring colour to the spaces that we were present in during our residency, once the residency was over we intended to donate the bunting back to the Marks Gate community for them to continue to bring colour to their own community events. Residents could stitch, draw, paint their own individual flags, this project ran throughout the course of the 6 months and in total 356 flags were made creating over 100 metres of bunting!

During our weekly tea fests we met some really interesting and creative Marks Gate residents who we then invited to run guest workshops as part of our Tea-Time Tuesday programme; workshops included candle making and decorating, jewellery design, cupcake decoration, card making, design a ‘doodle’ postcard, create your own loom bands and more. Enabling these residents to run their own workshops was both empowering and a celebration of their creative skills and passions, but also enabled them to share their skills with other local residents, this was a really successful way to introduce new variety to our Tea-Time Tuesday programme and engage more people locally. We loved being able to share and celebrate the creativity that was on the Marks Gate estate!

Here is what one resident said about our Tea-Time Tuesdays; ‘Working with Sadia over the past few months has been such an amazing journey for me & my children. Sadia is truly inspirational, her Teatime Tuesdays have allowed me to be as creative as I was as a child and my children had lots of fun. Sadia has been really supportive of my own creative project and gave me the opportunity to deliver my candle making and decorating workshop during her sessions. I would very much love to work with Sadia again!’ Cassandra Frederick

Our residency also supported the creation of the Marks Gate Arts Collective (MGAC), a new community collective of artists and creative people on the estate; we could never have hoped for such a great outcome and legacy to our work in the area. The Collective will be running their own creative activities in 2015. MGAC also helped us to deliver our two showcase events of the project the ‘Marks Gate Arts Day’ and the ‘Marks Gate Arts Festival’. The Festival has to be our final and most defining highlight of the project; it enabled us to leave the estate on a big high with over 200 people attending our final bonanza. The occasion took place on Tuesday 28th October and it will remain for us a day to always remember! The event was a ‘tumble down the rabbit hole’ for a unique Mad Hatters Tea Party with a multitude of creative activities including; hat making, cupcake decoration, street dance, candle making and decorating, loom bands, street art and an exhibition of the ‘Framing Marks Gate’ films and photographs.

John Grocott, a local resident who got involved in many aspects of the project had this to say about the event; ‘I was very encouraged to see so many Marks Gate people of all ages (two years to ninety three) enjoying this unusual event which was a culmination of the arts activities delivered over the past few months, each week on Tuesday, by Sadia Ur-Rehman as part of the project A Local Dialogue.I met several people who like myself realised a strong common interest in various arts activities introduced in a friendly way which promoted a really sociable atmosphere at the community centre. I hope to keep in touch with Sadia and her projects to be further inspired.’

Here are some photos that capture the great day had by all:

In total over 750 people engaged with the project during the 6 months we were on Marks Gate.

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