On view at Serpentine (31 March – 29 May 2022) and Barking Town Hall and Learning Centre (2-17 April 2o22), Radio Ballads presents new film commissions alongside paintings, drawings and contextual materials that share each project’s collaborative research process.
In moments of change and transition, what supports us and keeps us afloat? A raft is the simplest and most fragile vehicle of survival on open water. Ancient as human language, rafts are still needed during urgent crossings. From the Abrahamic story of Noah’s Arc to the idea of Earth as a lonely life raft floating in space, the symbol of a raft has often represented the ultimate preserver of life.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, artist and composer Rory Pilgrim develops RAFTS as the second chapter in a body of performance, film and sonic work exploring how the climate crisis relates to support structures in our everyday lives. The commission is narrated by the voices of eight residents of Barking and Dagenham from Green Shoes Arts: Hugh, Carina, Liam, Butterfly, Katy, Dee, Mark, and Eddie, who each in their own way reflect on what the symbol of a raft means to them.
At the heart of RAFTS is a concert broadcast that interweaves stories, poetry and reflections around a seven-song oratorio that makes connections between work, mental health, home, recovery, and our environment. Further voices and people from near and far join the journey, including members of Barking and Dagenham Youth Dance, members of Project Well Being – a group for those experiencing homelessness in Idaho, USA – and solo singers Declan Rowe John, Robyn Haddon and Kayden Fearon. Inspired by the original Radio Ballads as vessels of time, the RAFTS concert explores how we mark time and act to enable support and prevent harm in both the short- and long-term. Using tools of prophecy, reflection and creativity, the concert takes us on a journey that contemplates which ‘rafts’ could be needed to navigate the future in times of change and uncertainty.
Alongside the film, Pilgrim and collaborators are showing paintings, drawings and specially-made objects that share visual and embodied tools for building personal rafts.
Project partners are Green Shoes Arts, Barking and Dagenham Youth Dance, Project Well Being (Interfaith Sanctuary, Boise, Idaho) and London Contemporary Orchestra.
Thanks to all project collaborators: Eddie Paggett, Hugh Prior, Dee Pessoa, Carina Murray, Liam O Connell, Mark Jones, Emily Butterfly Khoury, Catherina Rowland, Vicki Busfield, Sam Miller, Nikki Watson, Kevin Walton, Melissa Bell, Marcos Ramos, Geoffrey McCauley, Janet Kauffman, Nicki Vogel, Jeffrey Doroto, Jacob Heiter, Tina Logsdon, Tina Cartwright, Scott Cramer, Sarah Kemper Cook, Georgina Alexiou, Red Fox, Anabel Berko, Breanna Amoako, Calum Johnstone, Chisom Nzekwe, Eugenia Rapta, Heavenly-Joy Obeng, Kiera Dymond, Lara Pinto Wlodarczyk, Marly Fadiga, Rome Martin-Whilby, Ruby Harris, Sasha Dilevska, Kayden Fearon, Robyn Haddon, Declan Rowe John, Rob Ames, Saloni Thakkar, Amy Hinds, Jack Sheen, Marged Sion, Paul Perry, Donna Cain, Lorraine Fox, Salom Ranger, LBBD Temporary Housing and Accommodation, Ronald Long, Natasha Humphries, Freya Hicks, Rebecca Burden, Clare Bennett, Alastair Penman, Anna Drysdale, Todd Harris, Rick Leigh, David Jarzen, Dan Lewis, Letty Pilgrim, Kate Marlais, Katie Dove Dixon, Seraphina Simone D’Arby, Sophie Galpin, ASAI, Jonathon Graham, Olga Micińska and Mathild Clerc-Verhoeven, Cody G, Charlie Gregory, Dave and The White House.
Amal Khalaf, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Rory Pilgrim in conversation
Rory Pilgrim (Bristol, 1988) works in a wide range of media including songwriting, composing music, film, music video, text, drawing and live performances. Centred on emancipatory concerns, Pilgrim aims to challenge the nature of how we come together, speak, listen and strive for social change through sharing and voicing personal experience. Strongly influenced by the origins of activist, feminist and socially engaged art, Pilgrim works with others through a different methods of dialogue, collaboration and workshops. In an age of increasing technological interaction, Rory’s work creates connections between activism, spirituality, music and how we form community locally and globally from both beyond and behind our screens. Solo Shows include: Between Bridges, Berlin (2019) Andriesse-Eyck Gallery, Amsterdam NL (2018), South London Gallery (2018), Rowing, London (2017), Plymouth Art Centre, Plymouth (2017), Flat Time House, London (2016), Site Gallery, Sheffield (2016) and sic! Raum für Kunst, Luzern CH (2014). In 2019, Pilgrim was the winner of the Prix de Rome.
Green Shoes Arts exists to inspire local people to make positive changes through the arts. We are a passionate team of arts facilitators who work with people of all age groups from all communities living in Barking and Dagenham. Green Shoes seeks to make arts accessible to all and promotes the many benefits that being involved in the arts can bring.
Interfaith Sanctuary Shelter serves people of all genders, races, religions, and sexual orientation, as well as families with children, by providing safe overnight emergency shelter and practical services to transition out of homelessness. Project Well Being offers us a safe place for acceptance, stability, and growth. Connection, support, and well being are our foundation.
Barking Dagenham Youth Dance is one of London’s leading providers of youth dance workshops, community arts events and career pathway activities, offering weekly dance and fitness sessions for hundreds of children and young people. BDYD also runs Bar-Ham Leaders, a youth action programme, that encourages teenagers to learn the skills to communicate their views and suggestions, with the aim to influence policy and government.
LBBD Hostel Services team provides accommodation and support for nearly 200 families and single people. We also assist with the transition in a permanent home in the private sector. We make the most of the best services provided by both the council and voluntary sector to ensure the families can access services to maintain their financial and personal well being.
The White House was set up in 2016 on Dagenham’s Becontree estate by Create London. We invite artists to live and work in the house, exploring new ways to collaborate with the local community, by becoming their neighbours. We host a public programme led by residents that ranges from poetry to painting to gardening. Our programme acts as a tool to address social, political and culturally relevant issues to our site and community, adopting approaches that challenge traditional hierarchies and aim to democratise decision-making across programming and how we run the house.
New Town Culture
Radio Ballads is part of New Town Culture – a pioneering programme of artistic and cultural activity taking place in adult and children’s social care across the entire borough. This is a Cultural Impact Award winning project, part of London Borough of Culture, a Mayor of London initiative. New Town Culture responds to the incredible stories, knowledge and skills of the residents of Barking and Dagenham, delivering a programme of workshops, exhibitions, radio broadcasts, live performances and courses targeted at people using social care services in our borough. Working closely with social care professionals and artists, the project hopes to unlock the value of art and culture for all our communities. Its ambition is to support social workers and carers to try out new ways of working to enhance the brilliant work they already do