Social Art Practice, East London

Social Art Practice, East London

Social Art Practice, East London
2009 – 2012

the drawing shed is led by visual artist / directors Sally Labern and Bobby Lloyd. Labern+Lloyd practice both collaboratively and individually; their work uses diverse media and engages with issues of resilience, resistance, commonality and displacement. Both artists are interested in the edges of spaces and their ‘shadows’ as well as the objects – art and otherwise – whose resonance is changed by interaction. Both explore ideas that interrogate ‘the edges’ of (often contested) places and communities, working with the unseen, the debris and the dis lodged. These are the pathways into a dialogue and creation of a new form and this is integral to our methodology around social engagement. Using mobile studios the drawing shed delivers socially engaged projects, while both artists also respond as individuals and in collaboration to commission briefs for site specific work that extends their ideas and work.

Social engagement

In their socially engaged practice Labern+Lloyd have worked together for the past few years, as well as on independent projects for the past two decades in East London and beyond, working with communities experiencing high levels of social exclusion. They often develop long-term relationships with individuals which allows complex and rich collaborations to emerge as trust develops. Integral to their work is a strong focus on developing dialogue and celebrating difference through the visual arts. Socially engaged projects can lead out of Lloyd+Labern’s collaborative practice and/or run parallel to it. Always the content works in tandem with the form and the work is ideologically charged; or indeed the converse can be true, collaborative practice triggered by the richness of creative and social interactions that unfold in the socially engaged projects.

the drawing shed mobiles

These were established in 2009/10/11 as an artist-led project/resource/collaboration, they form a central platform for Labern+Lloyd’s creative practice and are at the heart of the drawing shed. These three mobile studios – the drawing shed, ClayOven and PrintBike – live in the drawing shed’s two garages on The Drive housing estate E17, from where the artists currently run socially engaged projects both on the local estates, in the YMCA and across London. Through these mobile projects the drawing shed is able to go to where people are rather than waiting for them to arrive, also using online tools, such as Twitter/Blog, where and when it fits.

Well London and Be Creative Be well

As part of the Be Creative Be Well (BCBW) Well London programme in E17, 2009-2011, the drawing shed took a strategic community development role working alongside UEL and London Sustainability Exchange to develop catalytic projects and access to training that could support behaviour changes for local residents. The resulting real changes in the well-being of individuals created the foundations for community led projects by a ‘Delivery Team’ of residents who then set up a new community group (‘…Ask Freda’) to continue and sustain this grassroots development. the drawing shed wove creativity and well-being through a community cohesion approach to supporting a healthier community.

In E17 Labern+Lloyd continue to use the existing signage that looms large and loudly punctuates the estates, creating text/visual posters with participants, developing skills of local people to forge deeper connections with their neighbours. The new Twitter-based ‘conversation’ in the public spaces on the two estates (which are separated by a wide road) changes their tempo and shifts them into ‘common’ space with Labern+Lloyd as artists negotiating the content of the posters as they are made, and working with residents – children, teenagers and adults – to change the conversation.

the drawing shed has also set up a teenage Girls Estate Based Theatre project supported by partnership organisations as part of the Communities Against Gangs, Guns and Knives, building on the positive vision and aspirations of the girls, the families and the community. This project has seen the coming together of five partnership organisations and the local Hoe Street Well Street (HSWS) Network as co-producers, with the girls taking the lead.

We have also worked with local partnership organisations to co produce projects Eg. With Learning Mentors of three schools and an ‘…Ask Freda’ Volunteer we ran a Monoprinting project in the community to attract 20 hard to reach families; we worked together to create an exhibition which went up on the signage on the estate acting as an art trail leading other local people down to the opening of a new community garden created by and for residents at the back of two sets of flats.

the drawing shed seeks to achieve its vision of challenging preconceived ideas through:

  • Developing projects and the drawing shed ‘mobiles’ in other public spaces also using digital/Social Media tools (GPS, Blog, Twitter, film, sound) with particular communities, that are as accessible to adults as to children
  • Setting up ‘the drawing shed’ workshops in ways that create open access and an atmosphere of sharing, understanding of difference and  tolerance within the community ; Fostering community networks to share new experiences and the understanding of the value of innovative arts projects and creativity to Well Being

The VALUES which underpin the drawing shed’s work include:

  • PARTICIPATION – increasing access for people to enjoy drawing, and to confidently use drawing/art making as important tools for imaginative communication and Well Being.
  • Co-producing contemporary arts projects with communities is central to our work as is INCLUSION ensuring that ‘the drawing shed’ activities and marketing are accessible, relevant and attractive to a culturally diverse audience and that ‘the drawing shed’ continues to seek new participants for creative projects that lead to creating new dialogues within and across communities
  • COLLABORATION strategic partnerships with local community groups and organisations (voluntary,arts,educational,community, corporate), developing projects with those who share complementary aims.



City of London Festival, 2011

City of London Festival, 2011

City of London Festival, 2011

Labern+Lloyd with PrintBike were invited by The Campaign for Drawing to take part in The City of London Festival in July 2011, to make mono-prints with office workers, tourists, and literally whoever walked past. Day One was very wet indeed.


Cycling to our new site at Great St Helen’s on the second day.

This second day was windy!

And the other passing enterprise on wheels needed directions and a print or two…

In the afternoon, the sun came out.

Lots of people made a lot more printing on fluorescent paper.

There were some poetic moments…

And the prints glowed.

Contested Commons

Contested Commons

Contested Commons

Public Signage dialogue, Twitter on the Drive Two, E17 Art Trail September 2011

For the past three years, Labern+Lloyd have used the existing signage that looms large and loudly punctuates the two estates, creating screen-printed text/visual posters with participants, developing skills of local people to forge deeper connections with their neighbours. These temporary Twitter-based ‘conversations’ in the public spaces on the estates (separated by a wide road) change their tempo and shift them into ‘common’ space with Labern+Lloyd as artists negotiating the content of the posters as they are made, and working with residents – children, teenagers and adults – ‘to drag the poetic through the every day’.
Project’s origins:
Twitter on the Drive Two began as a conversation the same week that the Tottenham Riots led to 46 riots across the communities of the UK. Across the duration of the drawing shed’s larger project on The Drive and Attlee Terrace estates over the past couple of years, Sally Labern and Bobby Lloyd have used the existing signage to create posters with residents, developing temporary ‘conversations’ that change the tempo of these spaces, shifting them into adhoc  ‘common’ space’ – exploring the nature of these public spaces and what happens when they are contested.Artists Sally Labern and Bobby Lloyd supported three resident Art Activators to become workshop leaders within their own communities using the disciplined format of Twitter – the Tweet using up to 140 characters to create poetry, prose, print and mehndi within the communities of the Drive, Attlee Terrace and the YMCA. Posters on the signage that punctuates the green spaces across the estates, and poems in Mehndi (henna) on participants arms and legs, came together to form the Twitter on the Drive Two – A Word In the Hand  exhibition.The Art Activators led  a series of workshops in August and September 2012, working together for the first time and to create the text for the posters exhibited as part of the E17 Art Trail, September 4th-11th 2011.This work has been funded by Arts Council England and the Walthamstow and Chingford Almshouse Charity.

Curating the exhibition

Workshopping in heavy rain


Sally holding a split poster: who are they talking to…
Karen with one of the prints

its about being noticed…backdrop of the ‘lost’ tree prints in the wind

Hoe Street community police joined in … from the shape you get ….
hanging their print up on the washing line
William with his 15 minute DJ set

‘The future will show who i am destined to be’

Mehndi poem written on the performance artist ‘Bride’s arm on her visit to the Drive during the E17 Trail –

a life story in the debris of life carried on her dress

Duck House, London E11, 2011

Duck House, London E11, 2011

Duck House, London E11, 2011

The Work: Duck House  July – September 2011

Lloyd+Labern ‘re roofed’ the Langthorne Park’s Duck House in mono-printed tiles to create a temporary work for the London Borough of Waltham Forest as a part of the Fellowship Festival.

The artists created prints based upon the concealed underbelly of the park to create one side only of the roof – each image was veiled  by a suspended and ‘hand drawn off ‘  gold-filmed cellophane tile sitting over each difficult image, which could only be clearly seen by the viewer when it rained and the transparency of the cellophane revealed its story.

Images for the other three sides of the roof were created working with families from local schools and a sheltered housing scheme for the elderly.  Together adults and children collected found and discarded objects of little value in local parks. Participants initially distrusted that this process of collecting rubbish could yield a rich creative resource but were full of surprise at the beauty of some of the objects and the simple pleasure of finding. This process was supported by the artists as they went on to make mono-printed tiles for the roof on fluorescent and coloured paper.

Symbols and letters unique to particular world alphabets (pulled in from a City of London Festival workshop), allude to the multicultural nature of the communities and form the front face of the work.


This is the duck house as the artists first saw it, sitting in the middle of the pond in a park in Leytonstone, June 2011. Recalls of the MP’s Duck Island scandal immediately came to mind.

Langthorne Park, now holds a worn veneer of its carefully landscaped park, with small pockets of tired beauty which are overseen by the energies of Audrey the Park Keeper and the Friends of the Park.

It sits in the south of Waltham Forest, high levels of deprivation echoed recently by gang and other antisocial behaviour. On asking, users of the park do not feel safe to cross the park at certain times of the day and the respected ‘authority’ of  Audrey the Park Keeper is vital to safety and continued community activity in this ‘public’ space.

Concealed here in the Desire Lines that cross the park, youths hold court the outside gym as a fresh air ‘front room’, men drink in small groups, families use the play area, eastern european mums cluster with prams, teen lovers steal a space in hidden places, older people worry constantly about the ducklings dying inexplicably every day.

There is a fragility in this place; it has considerable community use/value alongside a pervading sense of rootlessness, an underbelly; It is in this contested space that the artists chose to work with the Duck House – to re roof and re frame it, to recognise and contain all the contradictions of this place.

Objects in plastic bags found in the park, to be used for mono-printing

Objects in plastic bags found in the park, to be used for mono-printing

Workshopping at a Jenny Hammond Primary school

Watching how to make a mono-print at Buxton all through school

Parent shares new Print making skills

Prints drying on floor.

Sally on the roof with the first prints after wading through the pond

Two sides of the roof holding images made by children, their parents and older people of objects found in the parks, the brighter images grouped together in contrast to the more sombre images on the right hand face.

The gold film, now transparent, reveals the artists’ images of the difficult objects.

Duckhouse starting to fade with summer sun

The duck house, faded further by September

Duck House patched up on a bright, windy October day





‘Sadaa Thakerat al Makan’ is an Artist-led Arts Project Proposal, delivered by Sally Labern and Bobby Lloyd of the drawing shed following a site visit to Doha in January 2011. It begins with the Collection of the found objects taken from the demolition of existing buildings – homes, businesses and social spaces from the Musheireb, Qatar’s earliest suburb (1951) – to make way for a new sustainable architecture at the heart of Doha (2015). The most recent residents being the migrant workers who make up the majority of Qatar’s population, who have been moved out to develop the Musheireb. In response to this ‘In between Space’ that has been thrown up as the present communities move out, Labern+Lloyd began a dialogue about ‘How Newness Enters the World’ – to reflect this cultural regeneration – as future ‘culturally sensitive’ (” middle eastern”) community spaces in the city’s Musheireb are created almost in front of their eyes.

In recognition of the lack of residential status of the migrant communities, whose presence is imperative to the Qatari ruling class for the servicing and development of the richest state in the world, Labern+Lloyd wanted to work both with the uncertainness of identity that comes from the both the assumed birth right of the ruling elite and the lack of rights of the migrant population: without equal human rights, there is no recognition of the value of diversity within a nation however rich it may be, and no space for cultural identity to develop or differences to be celebrated or recognised. The proposal of an international residency programme alongside the development of a mobile artists’ studio came out of the visit; it is ideologically different in context and intent, to the externally perceived current Qatari project of collecting and curating ‘Contemporary Middle Eastern Art’ from across the region as a means of constructing and underpinning a national arab identity for Qatar.

In the context of the new Musheireb development in the city of Doha and complementing the newly launched Mathaf, The Islamic Art Museum, The Knowledge Enrichment Centre, the proposed Cultural Forum and so on, a rigorous piece of work took place in partnership with the drawing shed during the four day site visit in January, and begun a year a half ago as an idea proposed by Isaa Al Mohannadi. The summary of this proposal is for a project with a discrete identity that feeds into, interfaces with and would take its own part in underpinning the overall Musheireb Art Strategy for Doha.

The  Artist-led Arts project sets out, at its heart, to foster and develop dialogue between the diverse communities of Doha in recognition of its migrant nature. It suggests that using the potency and inspiration of the found ‘objects’∗as a rich resource, the Project will support, reinterpret and create both a new ‘architecture’, metaphorically (and influence physically), and art works that are poetic, contemporary and questioning – where the porosity of territory, time, memory and identity are explored through art making and participation by the whole Doha ‘community’.

Where the rush of nostalgia and construct would flood in, artists could instead bring big questions to the most potent and the most (seemingly) trivial objects, poetic interpretations, decoding, ideological challenge, imaginative friction and new meanings, reflecting sentiment and not sentimentality. These would be ‘transmitted’, passed along if you like, into public spaces, with an intention of creating mostly temporary art works in public spaces, community spaces, and by doing this, keeping the conversation open …. this report was of course written before the Arab revolutions across the Middle East and in this sense the agenda for many has shifted dramatically, though perhaps not for Qatar as yet.





the drawing shed’s PrintBike work “An Assembly of Opinions” was shown throughout August across the window of the People’s Supermarket WC1, as part of the Adhocracy Festival, August 6-7, 2011 @ Rich Mix, Bethnal Green, E1 (

FOR THE CENTRAL WINDOW, Labern+Lloyd mono-printed images of food aid, barricades of white sacks, body bags, oil… as ‘one offs’ in repeat patterns on British newspapers carrying stories of world political crises …

The use of the mono print acts as a contradiction to the continual occurrence of media reporting on the ‘natural disaster’ of man made world famine, creating a work that is eerily poetic, ghostly even & draws the viewer in to read critical fragments of reportage juxtaposed with recurring  world famine & so exposing/inviting the connections.

On July 28th, the drawing shed artists Sally Labern and Bobby Lloyd took PrintBike to The Peoples Supermarket ( to workshop on the street for eight hours. Inviting members, shoppers and passersby to make a mono-print of a staple food found in the shop, while at the same time drawing focused attention to the war and famine in Somalia, the day generated an incredible two hundred prints. Yellow paper and black ink were used as a visual connection with the supermarket’s own branding and the work linked to the shop’s appeal for donations for Somalia through the DEC East Africa Crisis Appeal.