Creative People and Places Hounslow: reaching new people through, walking, film and psychogeography
Hounslow is a place of industry, trade, migration and diversity. Creative People and Places Hounslow detail two co-created projects based on walking and wandering, filming and editing to produce a new document showcasing the richness of the borough.
Documents of Place - filming Depictions of Hounslow
Recent, overarching themes of the Creative People & Places Hounslow Visual Arts Programme have included place, memory, mapping and walking as a creative act. Members of the Hounslow Exhibitions Group, which is made up of local people and library staff, expressed an interest in psychogeography, a key art movement of the 1970s, where walking and wandering are the method by which art is created in response to (particularly) urban environments.
The London Borough of Hounslow, located on London’s outer fringes, occupies an interesting position, shifting from urban town centres, to semi-rural/industrial land that was once farmland, as it runs from east to west. It is also adjacent to Heathrow airport, a major transport hub, and home to a diverse community with people locating here from across the globe.
An edge-land, a place between places. Its ‘edge-ness’ is one of the things that makes Hounslow a unique place; a place of industry, trade, migration, diversity. A place where people pass through, but also home to over 270,000 people. The richness of the borough as a hub of global activity makes it an interesting place to explore, both as a local and for those from outside.
Co-created depictions of Hounslow
In 2021, The Hounslow Exhibitions Group initiated two projects that explored these wide-ranging factors. The first of these two projects was a film project by artist Martin Newth which became ‘Depictions of Hounslow’. Martin approached CPP with an idea for a film project, at a moment when the impact of COVID was still being felt (and disrupting usual programming).
A film-based project felt practical and inclusive as it could be hosted live and digitally, offering a hybrid way of working for potential participants.
Martin is an experienced teacher and facilitator with a passion for film and photography, so his involvement felt like an excellent fit for our programme.
To begin with Martin created a film essay, exploring Hounslow from a local perspective (Martin lives in neighbouring London borough Ealing, and knows the area well). He wanted to look at the transient, shifting spaces, and the effects of time on Hounslow. The film also shows how other artists have been inspired by the area, such as Turner (who painted the river at Isleworth), to more contemporary artists such as Chris Petit (creator of the film Radio On). The resulting film ‘In Transit’ was shown to participants at workshops (in person and online), as a way of starting conversations and sparking ideas.
Excerpt from the film In Transit
View time: 2 mins 18
The references to other artists’ work cited in ‘In Transit’ were deliberately diverse in terms of the formats, themes and identity (particularly Gautam Mulkani’s book and Helen Cammock’s film).
This diversity was important as it foregrounded approaches and positions from participants that reflected the target audience for the project - the people living in Hounslow.
This worked best when participants used their own experience rather than translating someone else’s ideas - 'Hounslow to Us’ is a good example of this.
Working with local people to co-create a film
Martin wanted to work with local people to co-create a film. The format was based on a project he delivered for a Late at Tate event at Tate Britain with young people. We discussed how working with Hounslow’s communities might be different, for example working outside a formal structure or venue might create barriers and that varying skill levels might need extra support.
We hosted one online workshop over zoom for a general audience, and an in-person workshop at Feltham Library. We also hosted three workshops for sixth form students at Heathlands School and one online workshop for University of West London BA Photography students. The workshops were well received by the audience:
‘Having known Hounslow for over 40 years the theme was interesting and I wanted to interact with a different set of people…[I enjoyed] the film that Martin had put together’
Another participant expressed ‘the need for much more of this type of event in Feltham’.
Some participants felt that the workshops could have had more structure and practical guidance. The workshops also relied on participants being able to access technology (e.g. via a smartphone) to make their own films, which some people found difficult.
Overall, the feeling was that the project was exciting and inspiring, but Martin had to do a lot of work with individuals to encourage them to make a film and overcome their concerns that it would be difficult or time consuming. Martin came up with a resource that encouraged participants to use simple techniques, and support was offered with editing and subtitling.
Martin Newth filming on location in Hounslow
From this, we learnt that participants were very willing, but not always able to engage. We could have had more resources, more 121 support and a bit more structure and some clearer instructions to help people. This was all available by email but participants had to ask for it, rather than it being actively offered by us.
We had over 45 potential participants across all the workshops, including those at the school and UWL, however only 10 films were submitted and edited into the final film, which became Depictions of Hounslow.
The completed film was screened at an event at Feltham Library in 2022, and was very well received.
One audience member felt that the film was ‘really thought-provoking, Hounslow finally getting the recognition it deserves’.
Another commented: ‘I really enjoyed the film and discussion. This is important work and I hope more people see it. Very inspiring’.
Another wanted the film to be distributed more widely across the borough, for example shown to community groups and schools. The number of attendees was low but their engagement and enjoyment was high, with a more intimate setting allowing for discussion and questions after the screening.
Watch Depictions of Hounslow
View time: 26 mins 53
The desire for reaching more people led Martin to suggest creating an exhibition as part of the Visual Arts Programme Touring Exhibitions. He created a design that included stills from each film, punctuated by text from each participant, and with a QR code for visitors to access the film. Future plans include further engagement events and screenings to ensure the film is seen by more people.
Installation views of ‘Depictions of Hounslow’ installed at Feltham Library. Photo credit: Martin Newth
Artistically, this project was very successful, and led to the development of a subsequent project titled ‘Wanderings’. One member of the Exhibitions Group commented that:
“…the quality of the work is really good, and I think considering these are community projects, I think the work produced is very strong and creative work that is of a very high standard, so that’s why I think it’s very inspiring”.
A member of library staff commented on the quality of the Exhibitions Programme: ‘I love it – it brings colour to the library and its really good to have it there’.
The Depictions of Hounslow exhibition has been a good example of an artist-led project that brings a new experience to participants to make something that is visible, of very high artistic quality, and has created a new document of Hounslow to be enjoyed by the local community, and beyond.