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Community Engagement 2019 – Year in Review

Hannah Lambert
Hannah Lambert
Photographer: Thomas Angus
It’s been a busy and varied year for community engagement at the RCA. We’ve developed the relationships and pilot projects I started when I joined the College in 2018 into a rolling programme of events and activities that run throughout the year. Within the College it’s been brilliant to strengthen relationships, with a growing database of students who engage as volunteers or on paid projects with community partners. 
Here are some of my favourite projects this year:

Mudlarks

Mudlarks was a pilot project co-organised by the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham and Urbanwise, a voluntary organisation that teaches people about the local environment and environmental issues. 

Local primary schools were partnered with organisations in the borough who provided a different approach to thinking about our environment, to raise awareness and influence local change in environmental practices.

Five students from our School of Communication (Andrea Popyordanova, Betty Brunfaut, Claire Mouton, David Sappa and Roland Ross) worked with lecturer Laura Gordon to design and deliver workshop sessions for Year 4 pupils at St John Walham Green Primary School. They co-produced a beautiful calendar which gave daily tips about how to reduce, reuse and recycle plastic. The calendar was printed on paper and as a large scale fabric print which was presented at a conference at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith in early July. 

Mudlarks will take place again in 2020.


Great Exhibition Road Festival 

GERF family workshop
GERF family workshop
Photographer: Piers Allardyce
We were really excited to collaborate with a number of our closest cultural neighbours on the inaugural Great Exhibition Road Festival (GERF) at the end of June – a free festival open to all, bursting with arts, science and curiosity. 

Over a blazingly hot weekend that coincided with our Show, a number of RCA staff, students and alumni presented talks and workshops exploring ideas as diverse as tailoring clothes for space, designing happy cities and innovative design solutions for iron deficiency and dementia. 

It was fantastic partnering with the Natural History Museum to deliver workshops for families from North Kensington in the lead up to the festival.  This enabled us to place local voices at the heart of the programme alongside professional artists and scientists from our world-class institutions. 

GERF will take place again between 3–5 July 2020.


Wandsworth Artists’ Open House 

Wandsworth Artists' Open House group shot. Photo: Heather Sibly
Wandsworth Artists' Open House group shot, 2019
Photographer: Ollie Mackay

For the second year, we partnered with Wandsworth Council’s Arts Team to offer five bursaries to young artists living in the borough so that they could take place in the annual Wandsworth Artists’ Open House (WAOH).

Through these bursaries we connected with local, emerging artists and gave them an opportunity to showcase their work in a professional environment. They had a group exhibition in our Dyson Gallery in Battersea and mentoring sessions with RCA staff and students. We also invited a group of GCSE Art students from nearby St John Bosco College to visit the exhibition and have a tour of our print and photography workshops in Battersea. 

We’ll be offering more bursaries for WAOH 2020. 


Christmas 2019
Christmas 2019
Christmas, 2019
Photographer: Stephen Pover

It was wonderful to finish a year of vibrant community engagement events with our Christmas carols evening in early December: a new Battersea tradition which I hope will grow and connect the RCA with more people each year. 

For the third year running we collaborated with local community partners and organised a Christmas tree to be installed by Battersea Bridge. The Mayor of Wandsworth came to turn on the lights, with carols sung by the Battersea Power Station Community Choir. Over 200 local people attended and we invited them back to the Dyson Building for mulled wine, mince pies and more singing from the choir. 

It felt to me like so many strands of work from the last 12 months came together in a unique and warm event – attendees included local residents, young people from Providence House Youth Club who we worked with over the summer, members of the Battersea WI, Wandsworth Older People’s Forum, Wandsworth Council, The Battersea Society, Friends of Battersea Park and Age UK Wandsworth.


Find out more about Community Engagement at the Royal College of Art.