The Docklands Community Poster Project: a role for art in community-led regeneration

Leeson, Loraine ORCID: (2021) The Docklands Community Poster Project: a role for art in community-led regeneration. In: Montreal 2022 TICCIH Congress 'Industrial Heritage reloaded', 28 Aug - 03 Sept 2022, Université du Québec, Canada. . [Conference or Workshop Item] (Accepted/In press)


The campaigning over the future of the London Docklands in the 1980s was a well-organised community-led initiative that aimed to ensure the redevelopment of this extensive site met the needs of the hundreds of local people who still populated this area. When the Thatcher government came to power they instead saw the area as the ‘biggest piece of real estate in Europe’ and proceeded to sell off the land to developers, sparking a decade-long battle with local communities. Mainstream media falsely branded locals as anti-development, who in turn recognised the need for a better and different kind of communication, and invited artists to join them.

I will describe the unique collaboration that ensued and led to the founding of the Docklands Community Poster Project. The sharing of knowledge and expertise between artists and campaigners not only brought about new forms of cultural production, but also serves as a model for what can be achieved when artists and community work together on an equal footing. The lessons from this hidden history find even more pertinence today when the arts are so frequently employed as an instrument of developers in the remaking of a heritage that can seek to gloss over rather than find its roots in community history and empowerment.

Taking an ethnographic approach and drawing on the experience of my direct involvement as artist/coordinator of the Docklands Community Poster Project, the discussion will be contextualised within current debates on uses and misuses of wider practice of community-based art (Parry 2014, Pritchard, 2018), and as expounded in my monograph Art:Process:Change (Leeson, 2017). It will also reflect on findings regarding the role of the arts in community-led regeneration from a current research project Spaces of Hope: The Hidden History of Community Led Planning in the UK and my article ‘Our Land: Creative approaches to the redevelopment of London’s Docklands’ in International Journal of Heritage Studies (June 2018).

As arts-led research the presentation will take the alternative format of a visual essay. This is in line with the creative approach to presentation formats promoted by this panel.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Presentation)
Research Areas: A. > School of Art and Design
A. > School of Art and Design > Visual Arts
A. > School of Art and Design > Visual Arts > Socially Engaged Practices cluster
Item ID: 33728
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Depositing User: Loraine Leeson
Date Deposited: 12 Aug 2021 12:32
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2021 15:46

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