Junna Begum: My first foray into Trellis 2
By Caroline Francis, on 22 October 2020
Newly appointed Trellis 2 Project Manager, Junna Begum, reflects on her first few weeks in post.
So, joining a new organisation during a global pandemic, midway through the project’s term — how’s that for a challenge? Well, it’s no easy feat… unless you have a wonderful new team of colleagues to support you. And in Sam, Rosie, Caroline & Briony that’s exactly what I found on my first days working on Trellis 2.
The team consists of a group of creative professionals that has a vision to bring artists, communities and researchers together to co-create accessible, responsive and meaningful art in east London. And as you will know, this is all part of the vision for UCL East.
I am very excited to be part of the initiative. I grew up in Tower Hamlets, at the heart of the East End, quietly observing the changes happening to my neighbourhood and the emergence of new creative communities. I continuously ask how this change can be more inclusive of existing communities and people like myself, my children, friends and neighbours.
Trellis is working to that same end. Now, midway through its second year, projects are well underway with researching, filming, documenting artists and community collaborations across east London.
Last week’s highlight saw enthusiasts join the Mulberry – Tree of Plenty project on a ‘Mulberry Taste and Walk’ event with guest speakers. Together they explored local heritage and Mulberry trees located in the area between Bethnal Green and Victoria Park. The talk spanned from the Romans’ introduction of the Mulberry tree to Britain, via a silk worm’s preference between white and black Mulberry tree leaves; the Huguenots’ contribution to weaving and a brief history of Victorian London’s East End Dwellings Company. One of the last buildings constructed by this philanthropic society was named Mulberry House, in case you were wondering!
Art met with activism as participants heard about the fight to preserve east London’s oldest tree, the Bethnal Green Mulberry on the site of the old London Chest Hospital. However, the 500-year-old veteran faces an uncertain future as a housing developer seeks to relocate it to build new flats. The Mulberry – Tree of Plenty project will no doubt be keeping an eye on its battle for survival. On a more positive note, a video of the walk was screened at St Margaret’s House chapel whose grounds are not only home to another venerable mulberry, but also an amazing café! Here proceedings were brought to a dignified end with tea and a tasting of scrumptious vegan Mulberry jams and cakes.
Elsewhere, I have been fortunate to engage in valuable knowledge exchanges with more creative participatory research projects that explore different audiences/participants and how they respond to their environments. Flow Unlocked is a wonderful collaboration that looks at autistic east Londoners’ relationships and the effects of lockdown on their lives. Similarly, Light-wave shines a light on the East London deaf community’s history, culture and language to create an artistic and academic legacy. As importantly, this amazing project brings attention to Black and Asian deaf people who represent a minority within a minority, and who are often underrepresented in creative discourses.
Working on arts projects in east London remains an experiment in hope and inclusion as many residents and communities are still waiting to see the benefits of local redevelopment on the back of the Olympics legacy mission. What working on Trellis projects with my colleagues at UCL has quickly taught me during these first couple of weeks is that there is considerable cause to be hopeful and excited about east London’s artistic future. Over the next few weeks I will be meeting more artists and project teams, learning more from them and offering project management support to help deliver an amazing showcase across east London.