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Cultural Engagement Programme

Shoreditch Trust works with communities promoting opportunities and experiences that facilitate enjoyment, enrichment and raised aspirations.


Cultural engagement projects have existed throughout the history of our delivery. Activities have included literature festivals, creative mentoring, public art commissions, schools’ projects, newspapers, social action projects, public realm design, workshops, bookswaps, exhibitions, screenings and performances.

Our cultural engagement programme aims to discover, share and celebrate the ‘invisible’ cultural practice that exists within communities we work with. We wish to support and develop the skills and knowledge of individuals and strengthen social bonds through cultural exchange and knowledge sharing (locally, nationally and globally).

Since 2006, Shoreditch Trust has supported and worked in partnership with PEER Gallery.

This has included the commissioning and presentation of four outstanding projects with artists working in the public realm: Bob and Roberta Smith’s Shop Local; John Frankland’s Boulder; Yuko Shiraishi’s Canal Wall; and Tania Kovats’ launch of the Museum of the White Horse.

These projects have received critical acclaim within the arts community and they are testament to PEER’s ability to combine the highest quality art with a real ability to communicate to broad and varied audiences.

In 2013, Shoreditch Trust and PEER partnered as part of Discover Young Hackney to run the pilot Hoxton Free Art School which then ran on Saturdays in Hoxton Street Market.

Bob and Roberta Smith’s Shop Local
Five public artworks by Bob and Roberta Smith were commissioned for Shoreditch by PEER in 2006.

Hoxton Street is the backbone of Shoreditch and boasts a huge variety of shops and stalls that sell everything from jellied eels to electrical goods. Many of the shops are established family enterprises that battle to make a profit while having to compete with the well-known high street brands. Specially commissioned for public sites in Shoreditch, internationally acclaimed artists Bob and Roberta Smith designed one-off advertisements for five businesses along Hoxton Street.

Called ‘Shop Local’, this project was been inspired by the faded advertisements from the early 20th century that were painted on walls at a number of locations around Shoreditch. Back then, the majority of shops and businesses were owned and operated by sole traders. In their inimitable style, Bob and Roberta Smith’s quirky project celebrates independent and individual high street businesses.

John Frankland’s Boulder
A public realm commission from PEER and Shoreditch Trust.

Shoreditch Park has become a permanent home to a massive piece of solid granite, weighing around 100 tonnes and measuring over four metres high. Boulder (Shoreditch Park) is an ambitious public realm sculpture project by Hackney-based artist John Frankland. The launch of this work marked the completion of the second phase of the regeneration of Shoreditch Park.

John Frankland is known for his large-scale, pared-down sculptural installations. In addition to its presence in the Hackney urban landscape, Frankland intends that people should engage with the boulder in a direct and physical way through rock climbing, or ‘bouldering’. A keen and experienced climber himself, Frankland considers physical contact with the rock as a way of energising or activating the work. It is also a way of playfully debunking the notion of park sculptures which are often fenced off or ‘not to be touched’.

Although Boulder (Shoreditch Park) is unique, it is not alone. John Frankland is also responsible for the installation of a second, ‘sister’ boulder in Mabley Green, Hackney.

Yuko Shiraishi’s Canal Wall
A work commissioned by PEER and Shoreditch Trust for Regent’s Canal.

Canal Wall made a simple and effective impact on a disused light industrial building along a section of Regent’s Canal that has since undergone considerable regeneration. It has progressed from a relatively unvisited, disregarded and often dangerous space to an increasingly enjoyed and important route across north and east London for pedestrians and cyclists. It is now populated with cafes, galleries and project spaces.

The site, an 80 metre long brick wall, was due for demolition, so the artistic intervention needed to be inexpensive and easily maintained. Yuko Shiraishi had worked with colour on a number of projects with architecture, including BBC White City; the Children’s Ward at Moorfield’s Eye Hospital; and a Psychiatric Hospital in Japan. Her simple and confident approach to the brief was to use the transformative power of colour.

The work was decommissioned in 2012 when the new Reliance Wharf was built.

Aspiring social-change leaders from Shoreditch were part of a special exhibition OurConCERN, after the group took a trip to Switzerland to visit CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research in August 2014 to see the Large Hadron Collider, the world's largest particle accelerator.

The initiative was a collaborative project between Shoreditch Trust's Active Citizens programme; the CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) collaboration at CERN; University of the Arts London (UAL); ALLMINDS; and recent graduates from the BA (Hons) Fine Art: Print Time-Based Media course at Wimbledon College of Arts (part of UAL).

The project enabled young people from a range of different cultural and social backgrounds to investigate the research possibilities of science and art and relate them to their own interests, while encouraging joint working through shared experiences and collaborative actions. It urged them to support each other to develop their own practice in positive change and build networks with international programmes.

The research trip resulted in an exhibition that was installed at Waterhouse Restaurant from November 2014 - February 2015. ‘OurConCERN’ showcased art, design, performance and culinary delights, inspired by the trip to the world-famous CERN laboratory.

Check the OurConCERN blog out here.

Shoreditch Trust’s Peace of Mind and Food for Life teams work in collaboration to deliver a ‘Recipes of Life’ course for local people.

The unique course consists of a series of Cook and Eat sessions, in which participants share recipes they associate with emotionally significant memories, creating a relationship between their experiences and chosen dishes. The recipes are prepared collectively, before the group sits down to enjoy the meal together.

At the end of the course, the stories are collated into a special recipe book to be distributed as a souvenir of the project. You can see the full recipe book from the first course here.

'Stowaway Curry' - Gordan's story
"I grew up in Guyana and my Mum wasn’t good to me. She was a nurse and received awards for caring for other people, but she didn’t care for me. She kept me separate from my siblings, and I never knew who my father was. When there was a family occasion, like a wedding, I was sent out of the house. I never learned any recipes as a child because I barely ever ate a proper meal.

When I was 18, I decided I had to get away, so I went down to the harbour and started asking around for a job on a boat. I got a job as a cook. I had no idea how to cook, but I wanted to get away from home and start living my life, so I took the job.

The ship used to deliver cargo all over the Caribbean. I was given ingredients to use and I cooked as best I could. I just relied on instinct and bluffed my way through, picking up skills from whoever I could. I used to make curry with chicken and chilli peppers. When I had a little bit of money and we were on land, I would go and buy roti for myself from a restaurant, as it was the cheapest food available. I didn’t really eat the meals I cooked on the ship, and I couldn’t touch raw meat or fish; I got the ship’s boy to do that bit.

After that, a friend said to me, “there’s a ship going to England. Let’s see if we can get on it.” So we went down and stowed away on the ship. After the ship started on the journey, we came out and offered to help with the cooking to pay for our tickets. So, this really is a stowaway curry."