VIDEOArts and Culture

Brentford celebrates creativity and community

The 2019 Summer Series of events at The Brentford Project in west London reached its finale last weekend with more than 650 people gathering to meet local makers and artists and enjoy the site’s waterside setting.

The event came just days before the first homes went on the market in this flagship regeneration scheme, which is set to transform an area of Brentford’s town centre with new homes, shops, restaurants and leisure and cultural spaces.

The Brentford Project is a 4.79 hectare piece of Brentford town centre, extending from high street to industrial hinterland and beyond that to the River Brent. The urban quarter will combine new buildings designed by architects AHMM, Glenn Howells and Maccreanor Lavington with revival of the site’s key heritage buildings, reinstatement of historic yards and lanes and the creation of waterside open space. Regeneration on this kind of scale is inevitably complex, and for Ballymore the Summer Series has been an opportunity to foster connections with the local community and recognise its strengths.

The day-long Meet the Makers event on the site highlighted Brentford’s creativity in its diverse forms, with artists from studios on the neighbouring Johnson’s Island and craftspeople from local maker hub, The Maker Station, among those hosting workshops and stalls. As children made pizzas, collages and sculptures, their parents tried or bought crafts and chatted with friends old and new. It gave a glimpse of how a fresh vibrancy could be brought to this largely hidden waterside area of Brentford and of the importance for all of us of connections with creativity and community.

“This is such a cool spot,” said Grania O’Brien, creative director of letterpress printer and calligrapher Ink & Paper, who was giving 15-minute classes in calligraphy “It is so reassuring to see Brentford reasserting itself as a creative hub.” Appropriately, O’Brien’s classes focused on elegantly crafting the word, Brentford, in calligraphy.

“In these days when kids spend so much time at computers and people are under pressure, this demonstrates the value of creativity,” said Laurie O’Garro, former teacher and artist specialising in string art who, like O’Brien, works out of The Maker Station.

Plenty of children were keen to pick up hand tools and scrape, drill or chip pieces of chalk into sculptures under the guidance of stonemason Jack Valentine. “This is a fun way for kids to use their hands and it helps their dexterity,” he said. “With just a little bit of chalk you can carve, or even just produce dust.”

Alongside them, clothes and interiors makers Sharon Compass and Charlotte Spiteri were marketing their handmade clothing, quilts and other items. They help to organise a local fashion show every year, and saw potential in some of The Brentford Project’s current open space.“This would actually be a great location for a fashion show,” they said, looking around them. Local charity Friends of Cathja, which has been working to help people suffering from enduring mental health problems in the London Borough of Hounslow for two decades, also had a stall at the event. The charity had space in one of the high street shops earmarked for redevelopment on the site. “We had the space at reduced rent, which allowed us to support local people,” added Rin Roche, project worker with Friends of Cathja.

"Through the Summer Series more than 3,000 visitors from Brentford and neighbouring areas have flocked to the site."

Through the Summer Series more than 3,000 visitors from Brentford and neighbouring areas have flocked to the site. Waterside café Rye by the Water has hosted bread and pizza workshops and kept visitors supplied with coffees, tasty treats and sandwiches, cooking up some 200 pizzas and 200 loaves of bread in all.

Events have included a Saturday celebration of live music and a calming workshop on yoga and mindfulness, with the latter hosted by Rebecca Warrington, founder of local wellness business RJ Mind Body. Other popular events included an evening sampling west London craft beers with mellow blues by local musician Robert Hokum, while a talk by a local Hounslow Heritage Guide gave an insight into Brentford’s rich architectural history.

Local entrepreneur Merlin McCormack, whose classic car business Duke of London and The Factory warehouse events space are located on the site, has shared the secrets of his business success in an evening masterclass. The Duke of London showroom has also been a magnet for local visitors and car fans throughout the Summer Series. “There are amazing people and amazing projects here, and with the scale of this development, there’s certainly scope to build a new town around what’s crumbled from yesteryear,” said McCormack. “It’s cool that Brentford’s finally getting some recognition.”

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