In the Summer of 2017 I was selected to be the artist in residence at Sutton House, a National Trust Tudor House and the oldest building in Hackney. I lead a series of workshops and created a number of installations relating to the Black, Queer, and Anarchist Histories of the building.
Some of the workshops used interactive projections, collage and illustration to allow The Recycled Teenagers (an over 60’s African and Caribbean community group) to create a large mural that now permanently decorates their meeting space in Sutton House. The mural consisted of images that highlighted black subjects in Medieval European art works and histories of black, queer, women’s protest movements relating to anarchism and black liberation. Sutton House had set a brief of Queer Anarchy for the Residency and so using hundreds of found images and allowing the women of the Recycled Teenagers to choose which ones became part of the mural allowed me to meet the participants where they were at and make a visual record of our conversation.
Another workshop that I lead as part of the residency was with Sutton House’s Youth Forum ‘Golden Spies,’ a group of year 4 children from neighbouring Morningside Primary School, focused on black subjects in old British paintings. After examining a series of art works from medieval England and talking about the positions of the black subjects within them I gave the Golden Spies the task of cutting the black subjects out of the back ground and sticking them In the middle of British Landcape paintings. Then using speech bubbles the Golden spies gave voices to the figures creating new narratives for black characters in historic paintings. The discussions in the workshops were an opportunity to talk about black history and for the children to challenge racism and inject agency and humour into the paintings of medieval/Victorian black British lives.
History of Sutton House
“In April 1985 a group of 8 squatters made Sutton House their home. They sent a letter to local residents which read: As you’ve probably noticed, something is happening at Sutton House- several of us have moved in and are hoping to convert it into a kind of community centre. They proposed opening the house to the public, running a café and arts and craft workshops for local community members. They renamed their new home ‘The Blue House’ and hosted rock concerts here. This short but colourful era in Sutton House’s unusual history lasted less than a year, but has left its mark on how we run today, the community are at the heart of everything we do. As well as decorating the house with vibrant graffiti art, some of which is retained today, the squatters wrote anti-fascist, anti-Thatcher and feminist political slogans on the doors of the rooms.
“Sutton House’s strong activist roots have inspired our School of Anarchy, which explored LGBTQ activism, as part of the National Trust’s Prejudice and Pride.”