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CAVEATS

“Waste is a design flaw” (Kate Krebs, Artist)
This exhibition aims to be as minimal waste as possible. Minimal paper and plastic was used. Every piece in the exhibition will be recycled or given back to its original owners!

“Art is for everyone, not just the elite” (Tracey Emin, Artist)
This exhibition is a democracy, so please help yourself to the artwork available on this website.

“YOU ALWAYS FEEL THAT PULL BACK TO WHERE YOU WERE BORN, DON’T YOU?”

A memory map of Grays.

On the 9th March, we conducted a storytelling workshop at Essex Book Festival, whereby local residents were encouraged to share stories and memories of the local area over cake and tea. This was conducted in order to create a map that reflected the layers of memories, stories and subjectivities present within residents personal maps of Grays.  We heard a lot about the local area, ranging from love stories and long gone pubs to favourite restaurants and memories of the many waves of diverse groups to the local area. The final art piece is a digital map of Grays created by Arooj Khan via the open source Inkscape software. The map is inspired by those who took part in the workshop.  The yellow orbs refer to the pubs mentioned; the red orbs refer to religious and other social spaces and the pink orbs refer to local schools. The three types of spaces most commonly mentioned in a positive context.  Additional places that were mentioned included local pubs, references to past arts and culture related events and other social events such as a local chess club.

“I’D SCRUB THIS PLACE OUT. I NEVER WANT TO GO THERE AGAIN”

A map of safe and unsafe spaces for black and brown bodies in and around Grays

This workshop took place on 31st January at Grays Library. Visitors to the library were encouraged to graffiti on and generally deconstruct a map of Grays. A group of students from the South Essex College contributed considerably and steered the conversation towards the map’s namesake, identifying safe and unsafe spaces for black and brown bodies in Grays.  They identified the following safe spaces: Thameside Theatre, Basildon, Grays Town Park and a local church.  They identified the following unsafe spaces: Purfleet, Grays Town Centre and Tilbury.  They also suggested developing Grays Beach into a real beach; extending the green spaces; and scrapping the High Street in favour of affordable housing.  The final art piece is a digital map of Grays created by Arooj Khan via the open source Inkscape software. 

Additional safe spaces identified by visitors to the exhibition included resident's homes, Grays Beach and local parks (notably Grays Town Park and Parker Road Park) as spaces which provided respite for residents. Additional unsafe spaces identified included the town centre once again, Grays station and the Proctor and Gamble factory, reasons for these choices included experiences of racism, pedestrian danger and pollution. 

“HAVE YOU EVER HEARD THE WIND IN GRAYS? IT HOWLS!”

A sound map of Grays.

Snapped Leg - Grays+Me
00:00 / 00:00

We conducted a soundscaping workshop in conjunction with Quest Music Services and Joe Garwood (an Essex based sonic artist) on 9th February. This workshop spilled into Grays High Street, with a number of local residents sharing their most memorable sounds of Grays.  Memorable sounds included the rattling of the yachts by the river; the church group singing in the town centre; the howling winds near the river; and the sound of children playing in and around the various parks and estates.  Get involved by tagging @artemetpopulis in any sounds that remind you of your local area, we will include them in the second iteration of the soundscape.

“GRAYS”

A spoken word piece by Steve Lawes.

Local artist and poet Steve Lawes was commissioned to create a spoken word map. The final stanza from his poem has been written freehand on the wall in the gallery space. His poem is a verbal map of Grays, taking us on a journey across time and space.

He highlights the origin of the town’s name and documents famous local residents. He also sheds light on a number of local organisations, such as the CVS, Hidden Gems and the Thameside Theatre.

Reflections

Given the short turnaround of the project, it proved difficult to source emerging local diverse talent to commission, however the opportunity to take part in the project has developed fruitful connections, namely through engaging with local organisations and networking events such as TIC Film Club’s ‘Get to Know’ evenings and TIC’s LGBTQIA+ forum.

The interactive element of the project also proved fruitful, as it provided attendants to the exhibition with an immersive experience. It also yielded really important insights and discussions, especially with regards to the use of the term ‘black and brown bodies’ with a discussion surrounding who has the monopoly on definitions of racism.

In the future, cartographic attempts utilising advance techniques will be utilised in order to create more diverse and interactive maps – including but not limited to 3D maps and projections.

Key Findings

Residents homes are often the safest place for people, and hold the strongest memories. Displacement risks sabotaging the fibre of the community.

Arts and culture creates a place.
It develops positive memories in people’s minds. This was evident with references to Village Beach Festival and Thameside Theatre.

 

The sounds synonymous with Grays are often not the loudest but the ones with strong memories attributed to them.
Sounds such as the wind near the river, the sound of the market place and religious music featured heavily within residents feedback.

Safe and unsafe spaces are incredibly nuanced.
Those who took part agreed that it is important to ascertain which areas of a local town make residents feel as though they can be the most authentic version of themselves. The notion of racist gas lighting was also mentioned, whereby issues of racism are downplayed, as residents recalled often being asked by individuals in positions of authority to question their perception of the racist event, and thus their version of reality.

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