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In-Tent-City

30/04/2009

In-Tent City was a project in which artists worked with community groups to transform twelve tents, each based on an individual theme reflecting the particular group it was showcasing. The project involved local community groups and schools who helped decorate the tents both internally and externally. The specifically-created tent panels were made using a variety of materials, including textiles, netting, and found objects and collectively they explored themes of freedom, well-being, inclusion, refuse, peace, shelter, and friendship.

In September 2007, the In-Tent-City project culminated in a vibrant and thought-provoking show held in South Park, Oxford. The project was successful in enabling shared participatory experiences and the coming together of diverse community groups. These groups were able to express their thoughts and views in a dramatic and creative way as each tent made a strong visual statement with commanding physical presence. The project was well-received across Oxfordshire and as a result In-Tent City continues to exist as a source of inspiration for new projects, prompting touring exhibitions and the creation of related works. Other tents, made by primary schools from the Headington and Isis Partnerships, took inspiration from the collections in the Pitt Rivers Museum.

Different kinds of tents, themes and partnerships

The In-Tent-City project built upon a previous project called the Oxfordshire Peace Tent, which was created in March 2004 to celebrate cultural diversity and peaceful co-existence in the wake of the war on Iraq. Ten artists worked with hundreds of participants, representing at least twenty-three countries and diverse religions, to create a richly textured and colourful 3m x 6m tent which became a community resource for a variety of events and activities.

Drawing on ideas from an inset day for artists and school staff at the Pitt Rivers Museum, school children and artists produced three tents inspired by the treasures and objects that they had encountered while exploring the museum’s magical collections. This inset day was followed by an after-school session for each school group and the tents formed part of the setting for a series of artistic performances by the children. Visual artists worked with performing artists to prepare for the In-Tents Festival, which took place at the Oxford Community School in June 2007.

Artists: Emily Cooling, Jane Carey, Sarah Hulme, Clair Aldington, Helen Jacobs, Helen Duncan, Steve Empson

Oxford-based organisation Parasol produced a huge number of varied, textile-based artworks for this tent through their sessions with disabled and disadvantaged young people. Parasol worked with a variety of youth groups to support the inclusion of disabled young people into mainstream play scheme provision, and lead artist Emily Cooling engaged with families to combine the pieces and complete the interior of the tent.

Artists: Emily Cooling as lead artist, and other artists.

Artist Wendy Markham created a visual timeline of the history of the slave trade for the inside of this tent. The Freedom Tent commemorated the end of the slave trade and the struggle for the emancipation of enslaved African people. Wendy created panels through photo transfer and other artistic techniques, drawing from historical archives and other sources. The Freedom Tent was produced in partnership with ACHKI (Afrikan Caribbean Kultural Heritage Initiative).

Fusion Arts worked in partnership with the Oxfordshire Befriending Network, a charity working with volunteers to support families experiencing terminal illness, to create The Friendship Tent. Staff, volunteers, and clients created works for the tent examining issues around life: the celebration of life and the preparation for death.

The Refuge Tent was created in partnership with Refugee Resource. Artists and participants worked with the theme of refuge and mediums of painting, sewing, printing, to interweave found and personal items together.

Refugee Resource is a voluntary agency which aims to relieve distress, improve well-being, and facilitate the integration of refugees and asylum seekers. It provides practical, social, and psychological support to those in the Oxfordshire area.

Artists: Madi Archarya-Baskerville, Mohammed Bushara, BKLUWO, Esmee Philips

The Shelter Tent was developed in collaboration with Oxford Night Shelter. It acted as an exhibition space for Fusion’s homeless people photography project, which was led by a photographer and a sound artist. Photographer Ed Hart ran sessions with several young homeless people and users of Oxford Night Shelter. Through photography, they captured and explored their daily experiences.

Artists: Ed Hart and sound artist.

Blackbird Leys Community Development Initiative is a community charity based in Blackbird Leys. They run youth projects for young people aged 9-19, including arts, sports, and multimedia programmes.

This tent explored the theme of roots, those of the individuals as well as those of the community. The Tribal Tent celebrated the fifty years of the Blackbird Leys estate. BLAG artists Karen Godwin and Debbie Scrivener led this project, involving young people, family groups, and the elderly from the Blackbird Leys estate.

Artists: Karen Godwin and Debbie Scrivener

Wendy Markham and Ally Butler led silk painting workshops for adults in the early stages of dementia, and they produced a panel on the theme of nature and landscape for the Well-Being Tent. At the time, Lizzie Burns had started a residency with the Children’s Hospital School. Di Burch and Jen Chamberlain were working with patients from the Nuffield Enablement Centre. The Arts and Health Network supported this project.

Artists: Wendy Markham, Ally Butler, Jen Chamberlain, Di Birch, Lizzie Burns

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Supporters of Fusion Arts

Oxford City Council Arts Council England National Lottery Funded Project Grant National Lottery Community Fund Oxfordshire Community Foundation Here for Culture Doris Field Charitable Trust BBC Children in Need