Making Space by Jessie Brennan celebrates the people who have lived and worked at the Royal Docks
London-based artist Jessie Brennan has just launched four new public artworks exploring the nature of life and work in the Royal Docks.
The special commission – which has been curated and produced by UP Projects – is the first in a series of "creative interventions" to engage local people in the transformation of the Royal Docks, London’s only Enterprise Zone.
Entitled Making Space, the artworks are based at four "gateway" sites into the Royal Docks which are accessible by foot, car, and train: Victoria Dock Road beneath Silvertown Way where the DLR arrives into Royal Victoria Station; Dock Road underpass; Custom House station, and the Royal Docks Adventure opposite London City Airport.
To bring her artworks to life, Brennan spoke to local people to understand the historic and economic factors that have impacted the area and shaped its identity. The resulting artworks weave together text, newly generated images and archival material to create a series of large-scale wall-based works.
For Victoria Dock Road tunnel, Brennan has produced an artwork titled Go The Distance, with Peacock Gym. Founded in 1978, it is one of London's most respected community boxing gyms with former members including Frank Bruno and Lennox Lewis. Peacock Gym focuses on improving mental and physical health with its ethos of "education through sport". Brennan has transformed images from their archive to create a collaged text-based piece that reflects the community’s history.
Over at Dock Road underpass, Brennan’s work is titled The People’s Plan, drawing on a 1980s community-led project of the same name. Supported by the GLC at the time, The People’s Plan for the Royal Docks opposed plans for London City Airport and imagined a new vision for the Royal Docks, uniting the community through activism. For the first time since its original distribution, The Plan has been reproduced for local communities and visitors to view.
Working in close collaboration with current and previous residents, Custom House is Our House is installed on the two-storey wall facing Custom House station. Following sessions run in collaboration with community organisation PEACH, Brennan has created a photographic portrait which brings together individuals who live, work, or own businesses in and around Freemasons Road – a site proposed for redevelopment.
At Royal Docks Adventure, a charitable organisation offering sporting opportunities to local people of all ages and abilities, Brennan has installed the evocative phrase Take Your Place in huge letters across the façade of the building.
The phrase draws upon her conversations with the sporting community who use the centre regularly and can also be read as a call to action - encouraging locals and visitors to engage with the centre and its future. A photograph of a sunset over the Royal Docks, shared by a member of the London Otters – an LGBTQI inclusive rowing club and regular users of the Docks – has inspired the colour palette of the text. The artwork is visible to those travelling on the DLR.