Awaken Dreams

2016-18
Participatory workshops and community-led exhibition, in collaboration with Becky Seale, Maisha Chowdhury, Reverend James Olanipekun and Nina Begum
London, England

A neighbourhood in the future

What could Bromley by Bow look like in the future? The local community worked together to design an imaginary city.

In 2017-2018, I developed a long-term participatory arts-based workshop at the Bromley by Bow Centre (BbBC), a pioneering charity in Tower Hamlets, one of the most diverse and economically disadvantaged boroughs in the UK. I was invited to develop a collaborative project as part of the ‘Unleashing Healthy Communities Project’, a two-year qualitative research initiative lead by a team of BbBC researchers, Catherine-Rose Stocks-Rankin, Becky Seale, and Naomi Mead, in partnership with Public Health England. The goal of this research project was to understand the effectiveness of the programmes offered by the Bromley by Bow Centre (.e.g. GP practice, Community Centre, “Money management”) in improving the health and wellbeing of its community members.

For six months I worked both independently and in collaboration with Becky Seale, core teams of community researchers (people living in the BbB neighbourhood) and the designer Axel Feldmann to develop the workshops, which then resulted in an exhibition led by community members that was guided by the question: ‘what makes a good life for you?’.

Each weekly workshop explored four themes related to the notion of a “good life” that had emerged from the previous two-year research study: (1) wellbeing & confidence, (2) connection, (3) work and volunteering, (4) home and environment. I facilitated each workshop, in collaboration with the team, by using a participatory approach inspired by Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, which also involved a process of discussion and art-making. The local community was involved in each step of this process, from creating the artworks for the “Connected Dreams” exhibition to designing the exhibition itself and the poster for its promotion.

The workshops and the resulting exhibition followed a grassroots model, that is, the initial aim was based on the ideal of distributing power so as the local residents could devise changes in the community of Bromley by Bow.

The one-day exhibition attracted over 200 local people and included a programme of free activities, including a discussion that turned into a debate with John Biggs, the Tower Hamlets mayor, entitled “How do we make our dreams for Bromley by Bow real?”.

Catalogue

A booklet edited by myself, Becky Seale and Axel Fedmann was published online and in print in order to share the findings of the workshops and the exhibition with policy makers and the local communities.

Publisher: Bromley by Bow Centre (BbBC)
72 pages
16cm × 21cm
Format: Paperback
2018

Credits

Awaken Dreams was commissioned by the Bromley by Bow Centre (BbBC).

Artist: Romeo Gongora
Participants: Local communities of Bromley by Bow (London, UK)
BbBC Researcher: Becky Seale
Community Researchers: Nina Begum, Maisha Chowdhury, Reverend James Olanipekun
Designer: objectif design (Axel Feldmann)
Social Media: Sergio Del Prado
Risk Assessment Officer: Simeon Tubi
Partnership: Public Health England, The Health Foundation, Welcome trust
Acknowledgements: thank you to the participants for their generosity.

Awaken Dreams (2016-18), a neighbourhood in the future

Table of Contents
  1. Description
  2. Catalogue
  3. Credits