On Monday 21st October we all attended a workshop at Tate Modern led by artist KateTiernan and organised by Bank of America Merrill Lynch.  The workshop was inspired by the late collage works of Henri Matisse, and seamlessly introduced the boys to the style taken up by illustrator Amanda Wayne of Make:Good.  I’ve skipped some updates about our commissioned artists:  we have contracted Make:Good to undertake the commission for the underpass!  See our Project Pages for more details.  The workshop was intended to complement the Underpass commission, creating opportunities for the boys to produce pieces that could be incorporated into the final design.  The workshop also worked for our project in making connections with the wider art world and contemporary artists and theatres of art (Tate).



Kate introduced the boys to working with coloured sheets of acetate and projectors.


In April next year Tate Modern are hosting a world-first exhibition of Henri Matisse’s late period works, consisting of many of his iconic collage artworks.


At Bow Arts 27/5/13

At Bow Arts 27/5/13

On the 27th May this year we held a workshop at Bow Arts Studios on Bow Road, just a stone’s throw from Bow School.  This was a first, as it was held during the half term holidays.  Unfortunately this had its own problems, as only four boys were able to make it on the day.  Nonetheless, it was a really interesting and probably the most creative day we’ve had so far, and an opportunity to stretch and explore some of the ideas that have emerged over the course of the project.

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Bow arts1

OK, I will post images of the final collages another day, but for the moment I am now going to sign-off.  The reason for this is very exciting as some of the boys from the Core Commissioning Group are going to have authorship rights to publish posts on this blog.  Every time we publish from here on, we will sign-off with our name!

Signing-off: Vanessa


Oh dear, excuse this belated posting!

On the 7th May our Young People’s Core Commissiong Group (minus Year 10’s on work placements) visited the site of the new school building by Bow Locks.  Amazingly it was a beautiful day, something that’s been very rare this Spring!  Project Architect Josh McCosh from van Heyningen & Hayward Architects and Design Manager Muhammed Agrebe from Bouygues Construction; ably showed us around the site and talked us through the design.


We then spent some time discussing the two forthcoming artists briefs for the underpass/school navigation and the fencing to the canal perimeter.  The boys had lots of really interesting ideas and a strong sense of the themes and flavours they were looking for to reflect their school and sense of place and identity.


On the 7th March 7 boys from the Core Commissiong Group, plus their Art Teacher Ms McEvoy, plus the project support artist Josie Dick and I, visited the Bishopsgate Institute near Liverpool Street Station in the East End for a truly illuminating workshop with archivist and educationalist Michelle Johansen from the Institute.  The Institute itself is a beautiful building built in 1895 in the arts & crafts style as a centre for culture and learning for the inhabitants of the city. It’s current vision is:


Michelle Johansen, Bishopsgate Institute

“Dedicated to opening minds, challenging perceptions and enriching lives. Since 1895 we have been a home for ideas and debate, learning and enquiry; a place where culture, heritage and learning meet, and where independent thought is cherished.”

That certainly suited us just fine! The Institute holds an amazing array of archive material from organisations and movements active in East London over the last 200 years plus.  They have world-renowned collections on London history, labour and socialist history, freethought and humanism, co-operation,  protest and campaigning.  Some of this material was used in our workshop, led by Michelle, which explored local history and identity, looking at a range of materials from the archives including historic London guide books and maps, protest materials, and items from the Muriel Lester archive (Kingsley Hall – including Gandhi photos).   The workshop was called ‘This is London’ and was extremely visual: taking in tools and methods of graphic communication, symbols, logos and branding.

We could actually handle the archives!

We could actually handle the archives!

Old newspapers from the area

Old newspapers from the area

Chronologically organising old guide/map books of London

Chronologically organising old guide/map books of London

We finished off the day with the boys working collaboratively in 2 groups to produce their own poster.  They were given a choice to create a poster that voiced their opposition to something in the East End or a poster that voiced how/what they wanted in the East End.  Interestingly they both chose the latter option, creating visually arresting images that attested to their positive and inclusive vision of how society should both organise itself and live.

Multicultural Bow

Multicultural Bow

Green Bow

Green Bow

We had a brilliant day, enormously interesting, the boys really enjoyed themselves and the creative thread of this project is really beginning to unfold.  Many thanks to Michelle and the Bishopsgate Institute!

In February the Young People’s Core Commissioning Group at Bow School (led by Artist Vanessa Dell) received a visit and talk by Cedar Lewisohn, artist and curator and author of two books on graffiti and street art.


Cedar Lewisohn at Bow School

He is currently curator for a graffiti project for the canals of the East End with The Legacy List and we were really interested to meet with him and hear about the project.  Cedar showed the boys some extracts from the seminal graffiti film ‘Style Wars’, and gave us a presentation.  Cedar really had the boys engaged – they were hanging on his every word!  Big thanks to Cedar, for coming to talk to us and we really hope to see him again (maybe for a graffiti/drawing workshop?) and look forward to viewing the commissioned works along the canal this summer 2013.


Here’s the Facebook page link to Cedar’s The Canals Project

'Style Wars' film

‘Style Wars’ film

In February we visited the construction site of the new school.  A brisk walk through Bromley High Street and by way of the distinguished Bromley-By-Bow-Centre brought us to the hurtling, throbbing transport artery of the A12.  We side-tracked slightly into the new St Andrew’s development and spotted the various oddities scattered throughout the stone-filled gabion walls of the landscaping.  These items, such as the deflated football, were found on the demolition site of the old St Andrew’s Hospital by artist-in-resident Bobby Lloyd .  We liked.

Bobby Lloyd - St Andrew's Development, Bromley-by-Bow

Bobby Lloyd – St Andrew’s Development, Bromley-by-Bow

Back to the site visit, one of our main objectives was to look at the southern underpass under the A12, one of the main student routes into the new school.  This is because the underpass is the first commission to have guaranteed funding (via Transport for London and London Borough of Tower Hamlets) for a re-fit, and WE (the boys and I) are going to write the brief for the lighting, flooring and an artists’ commission for the walls.  We aim to complete this written document by June.

Back to the underpass visit: we firstly considered the approach from the street level: there was no indication, no signage that an underpass was near.  The underpass itself was fairly clean but without identity.  I’m not going to say anymore, as I’m going to let my two new authors to this blog site, put into words the general consensus about the underpass in its current state.


On a cold, wet, dark Friday in December 2012, we had our first day out and workshop.  Where best in the East End then a short trip on the Docklands Light Railway to a financial centre (Canary Wharf) that boasts one of the largest collections of public art in the country.  The boys took control of the cameras and captured some great photos of the day, some of them posted here.  There was also some sketching, but it was FAR too cold to sketch outside, so that happened when I (actually not me, far too poor for that! The project expenses…) treated us all to hot chocolate in a cafe.  All 22 of us!  Future posts will showcase some images from their sketchbooks.

Lots of great discussion took place around the sculptures we saw, there was fairly consistent consensus around the ones we did like.

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This was a favourite, called ‘Angelo I’ by Do Vassilakis-Konig


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Shame about this bench – warning of the maintenance implications of some wood sculptures.

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We were a large, sometimes noisey group, thanks to Canary Wharf Plc for hosting us in some of the foyers of their buildings

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This was a favourite of mine, ‘Columbus Screen’ by Wendy Ramshaw

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We all responded very physically to this one by Jay Battle. It was the texture and the interactivity of the hole in the middle that captivated us. Title was ‘Vanishing Point’

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Surprisingly, we all liked this Ron Arad peice. It was the most simplistic aesthetically, but complex in engineering, it bent in the wind and it was VERY windy that day!

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We liked the scale and presence of this one, less sure about it provoking narratives or connections with any site context

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Highlighting preferences and reflecting on what constituted a successful piece of public art

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With thanks to Morgan Stanley for providing a conference room for our post-tour workshop, this is a photo view from our room down onto the main square.  The clouds had begun to break as we finished the tour.

Interventions in the School Building

The project launches with stealth.  Vanessa Dell has installed what appears to be some random words and phrases in several locations around the school.

Entrance Foyer: this relates to Grime music as a musical genre explicitly generated in Bow and the East End at large.
River Thames: lunchtime drop-in workshops with students
The Old School Block with quote by Arthur Conan Doyle, 1894; some ‘lines’ and some vinyl that leads the eye up from the double art room doors.

So, looks like we have at least 50 boys have signed-up to be considered for a place on the Core Commissioning Group (CCG).  Unfortunately the group will consist of 20 boys max.

Therefore an application form has gone out to these 50 boys and they had until 26th October to reply.  From these replies myself, the head of Art Sarah McEvoy and Deputy Headteacher Danny Lye, will choose the lucky 20.  It will be an incredibly hard job, but in the words of my wise 14 year old daughter, who wasn’t picked for something at her school recently: “I’ve got to get used to rejection, I wont always get what I want”, hopefully it also means that she wont give up striving and finding out what’s really important and what’s not!  Good luck to all the boys who really do want this opportunity.