with Active Horizons & T A P E Collective

Text by Community Critic Nicole Omotoye

Photos by Bridie O'Sullivan

A project supporting people from global majority background living in Bexley to connect, care, create and share their everyday creative practices with each other, and their wider communities

It’s well-established that there are issues with diversity in the arts sector. According to research by The Runnymede Trust and the Freelands Foundation, only 2.7% of people working in the arts come from a BAME background. However, there are initiatives to tackle this. The Horizon Lines project sought to address the problem locally by inviting thirteen creatives from Global Majority backgrounds who are living and working in Bexley to take part in a programme led by artists.

Speaking to participants, I learned how Horizon Lines supported their creativity by offering opportunities, resources, and access to community. The artwork produced through this project is going to be displayed in an exhibition in Erith town centre throughout October.

Participants praised the collaborative nature of Horizon Lines and the ways in which it has helped them improve mental wellbeing, experiment with their art practice, and meet new people. “I think it's allowed me to think big which is quite interesting because it was a small group.” These are the words of Carolyn. “Isra from TAPE Collective spoke to me about how to run your own exhibition, talking about premises and alliances and all those kinds of things. And so, from there, I went to do my own research. I've secured the premises for my own exhibition.”

Horizon Lines aimed to bring together people who had a ‘willingness to share in a process of collective community creativity,’ and it has allowed the group to make artworks that they couldn’t have achieved on their own because of this collaborative element. For example, Carolyn described how an outfit was brought in that had been designed by multiple people. This inspired her to do the same. “I like the idea because it's like you do a bit then hand it over to somebody. I also like the idea of sustainability.” Carolyn was able to make a cape by reusing old items and the group were able to showcase their creativity by working on it together.

Others, such as Virginia-Joan, acknowledged how enjoyable this process was as an artist who usually works alone. “I love being with people. I love the whole process of being amongst people. I like to be in a creative hub.” Virginia-Joan’s experience with crafts encouraged her to experiment with embroidery for the project. She created beautiful designs by drawing around the hands of the participants, decorating them with materials and patterns that reflected their personalities, hobbies or work.

Another, Nadia, also worked collaboratively. She spoke about the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement on her work, too. “2020, for me, was when I did a lot of journaling in Canvas. I realised as I was doing it that I had to express myself, put these words out [there], make it big and express myself that way. What's nice about this project is having Black people come together with varying levels of experience.” Nadia started experimenting with dry clay to create flowers, inviting fellow participants to paint their own. “[When] people come for the exhibition, they can take a flower and paint it or decorate it how they want to, to represent themselves.” She plans on sharing the audience’s designs on a display table in the show. Nadia is then going to take pictures throughout October to show how the flowers have evolved over time. She hopes that collaborating with the audience in this way through the flowers will represent diversity, individuality, and community — values which have been so important to the group that Horizon Lines brought together here in Bexley.