Focal Point Gallery is delighted to announce an exhibition by local residents on the theme of ‘Imagining a New Future’, which will be presented along Southend High Street.
Residents were invited to tell their story of activities or new experiences during the first lockdown, and to submit ideas for imagining a new positive future for Southend. These artworks are currently on view safely from outside in the open air in Focal Point Gallery’s (FPG) Window Gallery at The Forum and on the Big Screen Southend until 2 May.
Working in collaboration with Southend-on-Sea Borough Council and the Southend Business Improvement District and funded through the European Regional Development Fund, a selection of works will also be presented by FPG as banners along Southend High Street, seen from Victoria Circus to Pier Hill from 1 April throughout 2021.
In July 2020, FPG commissioned three local artists, Josephine Melville, Scotty Brave and Laurence Harding, to make an activity pack that inspired and encouraged people of the town to try out new creative skills, inform about their experiences during lockdown and to submit ideas for imagining a new positive future for Southend. The packs were distributed widely around Southend, as a printed booklet, and via the downloadable PDF, which remains available on the FPG website to be enjoyed at home.
The project was conceived in conjunction with Focal Point Gallery’s ambitious group exhibition, ‘To Dream Effectively’, which brought together international artists whose work offers inventive, and at times cautionary reflections on a future that is conditional on how we dream it to be.
Katharine Stout, director for Focal Point Gallery, said: “We received over 100 drawings, photos, written text and video, submitted by individuals, family groups and schools. The theme was interpreted with ideas about the environment, health, wealth and structural inequalities. Many were inspired by the peaceful protest of Black Lives Matter in Southend and to the growing awareness of the Climate Emergency.
“Students in formal and informal educational settings, including those undertaking their Arts Award at FPG, were able to use the packs as a focus for their projects and to build confidence in resuming their artistic pathways after the first long break. We worked with council colleagues in Children’s Care to send out to young people across Southend, and with the help of South Essex Homes to distribute the packs to self-isolating residents. On returning in September last year, local schools, including Chase High and Cedar Hall Special School, took up the opportunity to re-engage with their creativity, show their talent and voice concerns.
“We look forward to resuming our exhibition and events programme when it is safe to reopen on 19 May with a solo exhibition, ‘Practice Makes Perfect’ by Rosa-Johan Uddoh, an interdisciplinary artist working towards radical self-love, inspired by black feminist practice and writing, which will be on view at the gallery until 29 August 2021.”
Responding to the closure of the council’s cultural venues to help prevent the spread of Covid-19, Focal Point Gallery set to work on online activities and downloadable art activity packs, which can be found on the FPG website. The gallery continues to work on imaginative ways to engage the local community during the pandemic and will soon be launching a family art trail pack to accompany the Southend High Street banner project, offering activities for families.
In addition to the ‘Imagining a New Future’ exhibition, FPG was also commissioned by Historic England to produce a film about ‘The Future of the High Street’. Local film maker, Aaron Shrimpton, was commissioned to make a film, ‘S for Southend’, resulting from over 40 interviews with local residents, businesses about stakeholders. The film is available online.
Scott Dolling, director for culture and tourism for Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, said: “Focal Point Gallery have been instrumental in providing innovative and creative sessions and projects to keep residents, families and children occupied during what has been an incredibly challenging time for us all.
“The latest exhibition will provide an insight into what our residents imagine to be a new, positive future for Southend. Anyone visiting the town centre should take some time to view the various pieces dotted across the High Street.”