Parrabola consultation workshops

Guest article by Philip Par

Guest article by Philip Parr from Parrabola on their consultation workshops in Camden

On a bright Friday morning, without any fuss or fanfare, a clarinetist began to play in one of the open spaces on the Alexandra Estate. Passers-by gave quizzical looks, some stopped, heads popped out of windows, figures appeared on balconies. Children were intrigued. There were smiles and appreciative glances. The next day, as the sun was setting, a bicycle powered cinema and a dancer set up on the railway bridge at Chalk Farm, short films were projected on to a temporary screen, interspersed with episodes of dance. Small crowds gathered, and applauded. On Monday, the clarinetist appeared in Queens Crescent in Kentish Town. In the nearby café people turned their chairs to listen.

greg goodale
(c) Greg Goodale

The same thing happened around 10 locations across the borough. A performer ‘popped up’ for a short period, playing, dancing, speaking, projecting. Alongside the performance, the Parrabbola team asked those who stopped for a response to the art. “How does it make you feel?” People wrote their response down – a word or phrase – on a card, and then had their photograph taken with their card. Over 300 responses were offered – almost all positive.

A few examples:

  • Very creative, something for the future. Living in the future
  • Relaxed, calm. Thoughtful, emotional - evokes childhood
  • Mixed emotions of happiness and sadness because it is quite rare.
  • It makes a difference to the area. This is a very good place for it.
  • An interesting change to the drab monotony of Queens Crescent. I like it!
  • I’ve had a smile on my face from 20 yards away!

Parrabbola were continuing our conversations with the people who live, work and study in Camden, which we began a few months ago as part of the research for the Cultural Framework.

Greg Goodale
(c) Greg Goodale

Everyone has a response to artistic activity, and no two responses are ever quite the same. We collated all the responses and a small collection were chosen for inclusion in the formal bid book for Camden’s bid to be London Borough of Culture. We sent all the responses to the poet and spoken word artist Polar Bear to act as an additional inspiration for his evocative poem, which is the creative heart of the bid. The poem was launched to the public, and heard for the first time at a special event – back in the Alexandra Estate – on September 28th. We think it represents the spirit of Camden: energetic, rebellious and welcoming. Most importantly it has grown out of the community, inspired by their words and thoughts and by the diversity and dynamism of the borough itself.

The Parrabbola team for the project was, Neyire Ashworth, Rachel Cole-Wilkin, Sovra Newman, Andra Chelcea, David Monteith, Kareem Parkins Brown, Leah Kirby, Jelmer Tuinstra, Greg Goodale and Philip Parr.

Read more about Camden's bid to become London Borough of Culture here!