No matter where we are or what we’ve been up to, in our own way we are all grappling with the twists and turns of 2016. And whilst there are plenty of insightful, critical roundups of to read about what’s gone on, we thought we’d accompany these with our own list; a celebration of all the “YESSSSS!” things that have happened this year, for and by the artists, individuals and organisations we’ve been lucky enough to work with. Here goes:
JANUARY: Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide Awards
One of the best possible starts to the year was seeing so many Brainchild and Steez family musicians play at Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide Awards. We saw brilliant sets from Matthew Halsall, Yussef Kamaal, Moses Boyd Exodus (Moses also won the John Peel Play More Jazz Award that night) as well as the all star house band, which included Joe Armon-Jones, Theon Cross, Shirley Tetteh & Binker Golding.
This was the start of a year of incredible support from Gilles for many of the musicians we adore, with regular plays and mentions on the radio for artists like Susso, O’Flynn or Sarathy Korwar. The support is only growing, with Ezra Collective recently announced to be playing the 2017 Awards, and Oscar Jerome & Poppy Ajudha playing the after-party (see you there?). We can’t wait to see what emerges for these artists in 2017.
FEBRUARY: Eye Want Change at the BFI
Our filmmaking and enterprising friends at Eye Want Change were invited by the BFI to be part of their Future Film Festival, the UK’s most important industry film festival for young people aged 16-25. They ran a session combining smartphone film screenings with talks, basic smartphone filmmaking exercises and participatory discussions. After the great work these girls have done for the last few years, running filmmaking workshops and the annual Eye Want Change competition, it was fantastic to see them extend their work and take part in such a major festival.
MARCH: Brainchild does BYOB
A cult favourite with digital artists from Tokyo to Bogota and everywhere in between, Bring Your Own Beamer is an open source project founded by Rafaël Rozendaal. The idea is simple; bring your own projector and show your work in a space. Anyone can host one and it’s almost entirely free to run.
We had been wanting to do a Brainchild BYOB for a while as we know so many incredible video artists, so it was really exciting to show works by Brainchild originals Sophie Rogers, Joseph Melhuish, Josie Tucker and Hannah Gill alongside exciting submissions by Eva Papamargariti, Sapphire Goss and Matteo Zamagni (see full list here). With Delphine on the decks downstairs and people sitting all over the place up above, it felt a lot like the building had been transported back to the days it used to be a squat. It was yet another reminder of how good it feels to get all the beautiful minds we know (and don’t know) together in one spot.
You can read the full write on i-D here.
APRIL: the RUSS sign agreement for the Church Grove Project
The Rural Urban Synthesis Society is one of the most powerful and inspiring projects that we know of, and on April 27th, after years of hard-work, they finally signed the development agreement to build 33 sustainable, self build, affordable homes in Lewisham. Led by Kareem Dayes of United Vibrations, the RUSS has now become a community land trust with hundreds of members all volunteering their time to lead the way in alternative housing and land-use solutions. Kareem and his brothers (including all other three United Vibrations members) grew up on Walters Way, a very special street in South East London where every home is a self-build as part of an initiative by architect Walter Segal. The homes are unique and are a testament to the strength of DIY philosophy.
This was a milestone moment and we cannot wait to see the progress they make in 2017. Make sure you get in touch if you want to be involved and follow their progress here.
MAY: the very first Stories of Being
Over one week of plays, workshops and talks, we had hundreds of people of all generations come and create a safe space to discuss mental health. The insights and experiences shared were powerful, and since we had long been wanting to do more to further conversations in mental health we felt it had been a huge success. Blue/Orange director Matthew Xia give a Q&A on the play, which had just opened at our neighbours the Young Vic theatre, Bridgitte Aphrodite performed songs and sketches from her fantastic show My Beautiful Black Dog and Brainchild family poet Cecilia Knapp read us her poems and introduced her inspiring work with suicide prevention charity C.A.L.M. and Save The Male.
JUNE: Torus begin their festival tour
The talented guys of Flow Conceptions built our favourite interactive digital artwork to date, Torus 2016. Starting with Glastonbury they made their way around the country, visiting a total of ten festivals including Brainchild, throughout the summer.
The piece is a perfect fusion of craftsmanship and technology. The interior of the structure is coded to use the echoing recordings of people’s voices to dictate the changing colours of the surrounding lights. Voices are transformed into siren calls creating a truly ethereal experience, especially at night. You leave feeling as though you’ve travelled through a space-time continuum and its a beautiful experience.
Watch this video by Oliver Wilson to get a sense of what it was like:
JULY: Jerkcurb lands “Night on Earth”
Whilst we were still recovering from the festival de-rig, the release of something spectacular happened. Even though we didn’t believe it was possible to love Jerkcurb‘s makings any more than before, the video for Night on Earth, directed by Jacob and the LL Burns boys takes the biscuit in lullaby, croon-worthy DIY brilliance. It features life size card-board iterations of Jerkcurb’s creatures as band-mates, plus lots of familiar faces dressed up for a prom at the Ivy House Pub in south east London. It was premiered on Noisey and DIY, and all-round saw an amazing realisation of Jerkcurb’s world onto the big screen. It played on repeat for weeks in many households, including BBC Radio 6 Tom Ravenscroft’s, as he told Jacob in an interview earlier this year.
AUGUST: Chilli con Carner – the first ADHD cooking school
It was a brilliant moment having Loyle Carner play the festival in 2015, and it turns out music and rhymes aren’t the only thing he’s into. Having had ADHD all his life, he explains that two ways he finds calmness of mind are through music, and also through cooking. With all that energy, cooking could keep him focused and productive. Wanting to share this with others, Loyle teamed up with GOMA collective to set up Chilli con Carner, a cooking school for kids with ADHD. He hopes to provide them with some ‘can do’s’ to outweigh all the ‘can’ts’ that they’re so typically given. The first cooking school week took place in August, and there are plans for many more.
“It’s a positive, brilliant thing. There’s a beauty in ADHD and I think it can take being in the kitchen for that beauty to come out.” (Interview with NME)
SEPTEMBER: Familiar faces at Art Licks Weekend
We have followed the work of Art Licks for a while now and love their approach to championing emerging arts. Throughout London small independent galleries and project spaces showcase the work of young collectives, artists and curators over three days. A number of people even open up their homes. Contributors must create work especially for the weekend and the emphasis is on collaborative projects as opposed to solo endeavours. Taking place around the same time as Frieze Art Fair, Art Licks Weekend (whether intentionally or not) makes a statement about the importance of providing an alternative to commercialisation.
This year we were excited to spot some Brainchild friends on the line up with Jessica Young as part of 12ø collective and Sophie Rogers as part of Your Beautiful collective. 12ø collective produced Fresh n’ Frozen. Throughout the weekend mail order artworks were delivered across the city on bicycles, completely free. These were either made ‘fresh’ in the 12ø space, or you could order pre-made ‘frozen’ artworks from the menu, forming a clever commentary on artwork production, distribution and accessibility.
OCTOBER: gal-dem take over the V&A
After an incredible first year of existence, magazine and collective gal-dem were invited by the V&A to curate a Friday Late on October 28th, in which they filled every room, gallery space and marble-floored corner they could find with interactive art, performances, talks and workshops by young people of colour. Thousands of people came (literally thousands, the museum estimated around 4000) to take part. The space was transformed for the evening, celebrating the work of groups and organisations such as Reel Good Film Club, WAH Nails, BBZ, Black in the Day and Kelechnekoff.
As Lola Okolosie writes in her Guardian review of the night, “galleries, and museums in particular, are the last remaining free spaces where we can conduct a national dialogue about what constitutes culture and art”, and collectives like gal-dem are evidence of the cultural shift that’s happening. What an amazing moment in the history of galleries and arts institutions in the UK, for so many people of colour to confidently enjoy and showcase work in space that has historically under-represented them.
NOVEMBER: Emily Motto at Beaconsfield Gallery
We first came across Emily Motto‘s work in the ICA Bloomberg Contemporaries 2014 show – she’s been making work at Brainchild ever since and is now a resident artist at Platform Southwark. This October-November she was part of the Provisonal Conditions show at the beautiful Beaconsfield Gallery in Vauxhall. Her installation Another Arena 2016 was an immersive explosion of all things Emily, from giant paper prints to play dough, chicken wire and foam. The grace of these odd assemblies of found materials never fails to impress us, and walking through this sculpture park of her creation got us thinking BIG for next summer. Who says you need big budgets to create something awesome?
Read our interview with Emily to find out more about her practise.
DECEMBER: Femi & Nubya win PRS Steve Reid InNOVation awards
In early December we learned that two of our favourite musicians, saxophonist Nubya Garcia (Nérija) and percussionist Femi Koloeso (Ezra Collective), had won awards in the second round of the PRSF x Steve Reid InNOVation Award. It’s a brilliant award through which they will receive cash bursaries and support in vinyl production as well as mentoring from the Steve Reid Foundation trustees (including Gilles Peterson, Four Tet, Theo Parrish, Floating Points, Koreless and Emanative).
The first round had supported some artists we love dearly, including Hector Plimmer, Moses Boyd, Sarathy Korwar and Wu-Lu, bringing about some fantastic projects including Hector’s AV collaboration with Loup Blaster and Moses’ vinyl Rye Lane Shuffle / Drum Dance. It’s fantastic to see these artists get some real investment into their own creative development.
We loved compiling this list, even though it was very hard to whittle it down amongst all the brilliant things that people did this year. We hope it gets you excited for all the good seeds that’ve been sewn for 2017.