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Posted on September 18th 2018

HGAED Girls Display Work at 2018 Peckham Festival

As part of our work with our artist in residence Alix Bizet, students are developing work which they had the chance to show at the Copeland Gallery recently as part of the 2018 Peckham Festival.

This is the first show in a run of three events between now and November that will showcase the collaboration. The next event is at Peckham Levels over the weekend of 13th October.

Peckham Fest 4

The exhibition at Copeland Park was showcasing the work being produced through the inspiration of having Alix working in the art department at Harris Girls' Academy East Dulwich. Alix’s work explores the profound importance of afro hair in the black community through the changing and shifting identity of Peckham.

This topic is also dear to one of our sixth form students, Ria Addison-Gayle, who was given the opportunity to exhibit alongside Alix at the Copeland Gallery. Ria is interested in the gentrification of Peckham, and her work The changing face of SE15 is a collaborative document of this moment in the history of Peckham. 

The main image which forms the focal point of the work shows the dichotomus relationship between the community within Peckham and the rising tide of regeneration or, in more stark terms, gentrification.

Peckham Fest 8

Ria wanted the work to start conversations and over the weekend of the festival she held a workshop where the audience was invited to share their thoughts and memories of Peckham. As they did so they drew round their hands and added stories to the work.

The hand as a symbol can be extended as a sign of support and friendship. It can be seen as a symbol of power and also of defiance. The laying on of hands onto the images of Peckham can be interpreted in various ways, but what is important is to open up a conversation around the community within Peckham and support a dialogue at this time where people can voice their stories and be heard. The work became an integral part of the weekend, and the triggers of conversations that filtered through this work became very much a reflection of the spirit of the area.

Peckham Fest 5

Debate Cake

As part of the weekend Clare Stanhope ran a Debate Cake in collaboration with Ria, where students from the academy dicussed 'I Love Peckham’ and what this means. The association of the ‘I Love’ symbol which seems to emerge when areas are being ’regenerated’, and can be seen on tote bags that are often bought by people that are newcomers to an area.

The symbol of the heart then suggests an idea of love that is linked to the gentrification of an area. The debate therefore explored what loving an area means. The stories that came out of the debate were funny, personal and often stark.

Peckham Fest 1

The realities of the lives of many students at the academy are much entwined in the changing face of Peckham. One student spoke of having had a family member moved out to Nottingham. Childhood memories were also prevalent in the conversations. What came through very powerfully was the desire to be heard through the cacophony of change that is now part of the Peckham landscape. As one contributer stated, ‘Listen to the voices of Peckham’!


We also invited back Louise Rondel, a PhD sociologist from Goldsmiths, who we have worked with before. Louise explored our relationship to hair salons. This was a creative workshop where people created responses through materials.

Peckham Fest 7

Alix, our artist in residence, showcased her film Hairytage which is a documentary of the hairsalons in Peckham. It pays witness to the community focus of these salons, their cultural significance and importance of these spaces. The film highlights the profound significance of hair within the black community, and takes a snap shot at this time of significant change.

Ben Nugent, a contemporary artist, also collaborated with Alix in taking film stills from the film and editing and painting on the top. The sense of the depth and vibrancy of a community is sensed through his use of shape, line and colour. The fluid shapes which seep out of the unfinished edges pose the question of 'where to next'? Ben is currently exhibiting at our own ID Gallery (pictured below), which is situated within the school.

Ben Nugent

Our thanks go to the Copeland Gallery who have supported this project.

Clare Stanhope, Head of Art