set-aside – a Sky.l.Ark project

set-aside – a Sky.l.Ark project

set-aside – a Sky.l.Ark project

set-aside is a new artwork proposal by Sally Labern and Bobby Lloyd of the drawing shed (originally put forward to the ArtAngel Open in 2014). set-aside is created on the ground within an urban soup kitchen and an island community and in the metaphorical ‘mile high’ space above city and sea. Working with the Alauda Skylark’s complex song, its stranger-neighbour dynamics, and the rich voices of the homeless and activists, asylum seekers and birders, Labern+Lloyd will explore through film, sound, social media and text, the critical need for the ‘set-aside’ in the C21st fracture of the [un]civil. Without making visible the dissonance on the ground, this ‘imaginative’ mile high space cannot exist.


set-aside is a Sky.l.Ark project located in ‘spaces above’ that form an arc across the sky and metaphorically replicate the Alauda Skylark’s ‘mile high’ space – for things heard but not seen, seen but not heard, where humanity can be held in mind, where fear of the unknown is suspended, and the question is open for imaginative possibility, absorption, preoccupation and collaboration.

The east London soup kitchen has fed the homeless each night for twenty years and is threatened with relocation to a hostile environment at the edges of the borough; the local MP’s response is to advocate ‘triage’ not campaign.  Nearby, purposeful clearance of undergrowth on the common land at the edges of the skylark’s nesting ground prevents homeless people from sleeping there. Close to a lighthouse on an island off the Dorset coast is a prison recently repurposed as a detention centre for failed asylum seekers awaiting deportation. In the words of their local MP, ‘it’s still a place for incarcerating people, just different people, with no threat to local jobs.’ This is ‘the uncivil’.

The common land is home to the largest population of skylarks in East London; nearby, local people take their campaign against the closure of the soup kitchen to the high court. The patches of ground carved out of crop fields by island farmers so that birds such as skylarks can nest are visible beneath the lighthouse, itself inhabited by a disparate community of individuals who find freedom of expression through the arc of the birds as they map their paths between continents, creating maps of experience that echo a human diaspora. This is the ‘set-aside’.

And just like the skylark’s birdsong at breeding time, the work is a call and response across communities, extending the enquiry to the edges of the known where the poetry of this work hits the discomfort of the prosaic and bounces up into the mile high space.


Labern&Lloyd have become parallel researchers alongside post-doctoral scientist Dr Elodie Briefer who has studied the skylark’s song, carrying out analyses and playback experiments in the field and amassing considerable material as a powerful resource. At one hundred metres high the skylark bird cannot be seen, while its voice can be clearly and distinctly heard. The song is described in terms of dialects (geographical variations) and complexity (ordering of acoustic units). Skylark males produce one of the most complex song among songbirds; geographical variation exists (dialects): in a given patch, males (neighbours) share several sequences of syllables in their songs, whereas males settled in different patches (strangers) have no sequences in common. Using playback experiments (broadcasting songs with a loudspeaker), Dr Briefer has also shown that dialect allows birds to recognise their neighbours and differentiate them from strangers,  reacting with low aggression to neighbours, compared to strangers (‘dear-enemy effect’). Re-organising syllable sequences within the song, she has tested how fragmented it can become before the bird no longer recognises its own voice – just two seconds of reordered syllables played back to the bird leads to a ‘stranger’ response.

Skylarks nest on the ground, and for Labern+Lloyd this is the grit of the project where the collisions of experience, ideas and form take place. Labern+Lloyd will collaborate with documentary film-maker and photographer Sebastian Sharples to collectively research and capture footage and edit film for new works. The artists will draw upon their own extensive work as socially engaged artists on housing estates, homeless housing projects, post conflict zones, refugee camps, transit centres, inner-city refugee programmes, HIV/Aids centres, Traveller and Gypsy sites. They will explore both the perceived and real fear of danger within communities which itself creates neighbour-neighbour, neighbour-stranger, stranger-stranger dynamics between people – this questioning and exchange beneath the mile high space feeding directly into the work.


Labern&Lloyd will create a series of works in both inhospitable and aspirational ‘set aside’ spaces situated in two communities within the UK and held at the edges of city and sea:

  • A Soup Kitchen close to the housing estate in east London where the drawing shed has had its base since 2009, where a growing community of people silently line up for an evening meal, making visible for just one hour a day the local levels of poverty and homelessness. Here, Labern+Lloyd have volunteered, watched closely and joined with local housing organisations to think through the law and the human response.
  • A Bird Observatory at the most southerly point of the British Isles on the Isle of Portland, Dorset, a decommissioned lighthouse with its glass domed light space still intact, where Labern+Lloyd have already to begun work and develop relationships – noting the thousand skylarks landing unexpectedly on the island last winter, logged by the bird keeper as ‘refugees’, as well as the nearby Verne prison now detaining asylum seekers.

Potential ‘other’ communities of interest will surface – voices challenging, beautiful, dissonant, unheard. Like the ‘set aside’ necessary for the nesting skylark’s safety, they are hard spaces to find, have to be fought for or literally opened up. These may also become new sites for contemporary art works.


Grappling with the [un]civil, and the set-aside, Labern&Lloyd will use sound, film, social media and text to create new works which open up questions that make possible the imaginative and the uncomfortable. Labern&Lloyd will ask, how can the song be re-choreographed, re-sung, relocated; how can the ‘set aside’ be re-formed, the civil reinstated – what is its shape?

Made in dialogue with both locations and communities, the works will be shown in the local, on-line, on radio, as projections and across the UK:

– Sound using recordings and playback, cut-in and cut-out text, including sound recordings from Dr Briefer’s extensive archive.

– Film made with film-maker Sebastian Sharples.

– Twitter – a ‘scored’ performative space (a form developed by Labern&Lloyd in E17 2012-14, and for the Text Festival Bury, 2014), embracing dislocation across the ether, inviting others in, asking questions that have always needed to be asked.

Some[w]Here Now – Pump House Gallery

Some[w]Here Now – Pump House Gallery

Some[w]Here Now – Pump House Gallery

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Some[w]Here Now invites artists, local people, and others interested to join the drawing shed for open conversations at Pump House Gallery in Battersea Park, exploring how artists may work collaboratively, with ‘local’ communities and in ‘public’ places, in the context of Now.Co-hosted by a collection of artists, local residents, critical theorists, architects, activists, public and mental health professionals, THE DAY OF SMALL CONVERSATIONS invites participants to talk openly about ideas of ‘social responsibility’ in regards to collaborative making and to collectively question the role of contemporary artists within opposing cultures of resilience, resistance and regeneration.
The frame will be set by the drawing shed‘s playful and critically informed Some[w]Here contemporary arts project over three housing estates in Nine Elms, and will feature video documentation, materials and research gathered over the past nine months of the project. The estates – known locally as ‘the island’ – are situated in the shadow of the Battersea Power Station Development, London SW8 close to the gallery; an area that throws into question the very meaning of public space and value of community in our contemporary society.
THE DAY OF SMALL CONVERSATIONS will be co-hosted by a number of artists and thinkers, including Sally LabernBobby LloydJordan McKenzieBarby AsanteDaniella Valz GenProfessor Adrian RentonCara CourageDr. Debra Benita ShawShahed SaleemDr Chris Wood, and Lois Keidan and Katy Baird (Live Art Development Agency). The days agenda will then be shaped by all of the voices in the room, with conversations passing between small groups throughout, looking towards future possible projects, shared actions, and collaborations. Please bring thoughts, questions, agendas and an openness to unpick.

 Amidst these conversations there will be a large communal picnic lunch provided in the park and a drinks reception at the end of the day for further conversation and informal networking. the drawing shed will also launch the Some[w]Here publication:  Manual for Possible Projects on the Horizon.

Pump House Gallery is wheelchair accessible on the ground floor only. Please get in touch if you would like to discuss access requirements.

For more information, please email: 

Mary Osborn   07792292605


6 – 8 June | 11am – 5pm
Pump House Gallery

Some[w]Here Now – THE DAY OF SMALL CONVERSATIONS follows the drawing shed’s The SoapBox Arts Lab taking place at the gallery in the three days preceding. Here the artists will be taking over the gallery for individual and collaborative making of mobile soapbox structures. These will further be used as a platform for conversations on June 9. The SoapBox Arts Lab is free; please turn up on the day to join in, or email for further information.

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Rethinking, reworking, reusing, retelling, remaking

the drawing shed worked on a project Some[w]Here  on the three housing estates Patmore, Savona and Carey Gardens in Nine Elms, London referred to locally as ‘the island’, the land-locked social housing area opposite the now infamous Battersea Power Station site, with the new American Embassy being built on its flank, to be surrounded by an insulated, ‘double skinned’ layer of privately owned flats for a new richer community.

Our project Some[w]Here explored through the metaphor of the Go Cart and the Soap Box, both migration and the fluctuating gifts of memory in relation to early street play (imagination, resilience, survivability) and the first days of work (alienation) for current residents who have come to live in the area from all over the world.

It was this critical friction of an artist-directed discourse between older estate residents, men and women of 68 – 98 years, that informed the content of the work: contemporary go cart inspired objects and mobile Soap Boxes, built on the streets with architect-makers George Williams and Nozomi Nakabayashi whilst live/performance artists Jordan McKenzie and Daniella Valz Gen made provocative interventions, and we as lead artists created quieter works as individuals triggered by this multi-layered approach and the ‘unfixed’ organic methodologies of the collaborative works we make.

Both this very accessible ‘public’ work and the disruption of the streets created the rupture in dominant ideas that flowed into these quieter individual responses. In this liminal space, and in the case of Nine Elms, a physical in-between space too of an echo chamber within which we found a ‘Point of Resonance’,  creating performative and film-based works as individual artists – like the project’s poetic body piercing.




Artists Labern&Lloyd “trace the curve of the sun’s rays as they just graze the surface” (James Maxwell, Physicist)

What does society keep in the dark, and how can it be illuminated? Labern&Lloyd of the drawing shed, working at Tate Modern as The Light Collectors, collaborated with scientists hosted by The Institute of Physics in November 2015. Together they invited the public to engage in an afternoon of Black Light, with open conversation and research. Hundreds of people throughout the day took part in an ongoing dialogue with top physicists and astro biologists about the science and politics of light.

Framed by an installation drawn from the artists’ ongoing research into the hidden at this critical point in history, ultraviolet light revealed the disjuncture between extra-ordinary scientific explorations across the full spectrum of light and the endemic slow violence caused by human domestic light poverty across the world.

Labern&Lloyd chose the human labour and skill of hand cutting the paper stencils over a period of 12 hours, matching the year round daylight hours experienced daily by people living on the line of the equator; the prints are screened in the same UV used by the British Security Industry to track our movements, identity and money.

The Public Typing Pool©, with its manual typewriters fitted with invisible UV inked typewriter ribbons, welcomed the public to contribute to an ever growing installation of contemporary concerns, made from UV ink texts and drawings revealed through the use of hand held Black Light torches.

Part of the International Year of Light in collaboration with the Institute of Physics.





the drawing shed would like to thank the following people and organisations for their invaluable contributions to this project:

Dr Matthew Clark, Chemist and Education Manager & Richard Ashworth, Colour Experience Manager: Society of Dyers and Colourists

Dr Sergio Ioppolo & Daniel Weatherhill: Astrophysicists, Department of Physical Sciences, The Open University

Ali Hudson: Evolutionary Biology and astrophysics student, Edinburgh University

Toby Shannon: the Institute of Physics’ Coordinator of International Year of Light

Joseph Kopiel, Artist: stencil cutting and screen-printing

University of East London: ADI, Print Studio

Tate Modern: Public Programmes, Community

Brian Rothwell, typewriter ribbons: Inkjet Stores, Bury, Greater Manchester

Simon Foster-Ogg: provider of things interesting and light-related





Started by boys living on the estates, our fabulous baking & mentoring project, now for boys aged 12-16, will be supported by adult men who will train as mentors & encourage boys from the estates to develop their baking skills, learn to sell what they produce and share their culinary creations with families, friends, neighbours & the wider community.

The project was launched in January 2017 with baking workshops led by expert East London bakers at Today Bread bakery and café on Hoe Street. Men and Boys – this project is for you!






Top Boy Bakers is an exciting and innovative baking and mentoring project for adult men and vulnerable boys aged 12-16, living in and around The Drive and Attlee Terrace estates in Walthamstow. The men and boys will participate in a programme of bread and pizza making workshops led by Alex Bettler – a talented local baker and founder of Today Bread in Walthamstow Central.  The men will also be trained as mentors and provide on-going support to the boys to ensure they make the most of their new baking skills.

We would like to hear from men aged 25+ who have some baking skills or an enthusiasm to learn, and who are interested in becoming positive role models to the boys. We are also seeking a professional male trainer to deliver a series of mentoring training sessions.

Please see the brief for the Mentoring Trainer below. If you or someone you know is interested in delivering the training or becoming a mentor, please get in touch with Clare Moloney, Community Development Coordinator,