Founder Stories – Artillery
Artillery mobilises creativity in neighbourhoods to celebrate the talent, skill, creativity and generosity in our community. Our projects include High Street ADVENTures, E17 Art Trail, Grandad’s Island: From Page to Pavement, Cultivate Waltham Forest. These bring together artists, sole traders, local businesses, residents, community groups and learning settings with the shared purpose to collectively re-invent how we encounter art in the places where we live, work and play. In so doing we support local economies and enable stronger connections between residents.
One of Artillery’s guiding values is we believe art can happen anywhere: streets… local parks… libraries… cafes… shops. Most of our projects happen in Waltham Forest which also happens to be where we live. We notice our projects have most impact when they are recurring – people’s ambitions really expand as they get familiar with the possibilities of the format and support we offer contributors. Since COVID19 lockdown our work has been concentrating on supporting our diverse network of artists to adapt their working approach without being able to access their work spaces (often communal studios) or meet with workshop participants (schools, care homes, community workshops), so we are embracing digital platforms and developing an online programme to meet our immediate and changing needs.
Much of our work is made possible by public funding often directly from local authorities, or funders including Big Lottery Community Fund or Near Neighbours. For instance, High Street ADVENTures was commissioned by Waltham Forest Council as part of GLA Night Time Enterprise Zone R&D funding and collaborating with High Street businesses and local creative entrepreneurs. We keep our overheads low ensuring that our projects are incredibly good value for money with minimised environmental impact. Our projects create platforms to champion businesses, artists and community services working within the tiniest margins, and we really value the collective investment contributors and sponsors make towards our project budgets – the E17 Art Trail is truly co-owned because of the shared investment in making the programme happen.
We shape our projects collectively with participants. It’s a model that ensures that we are truly collaborative and everyone recognises their input is valued. It also means that we can’t predict what the ‘end product’ might be from the very beginning. For some people, this process can be transformational, it also takes time. Were we a bigger team, or less inclusive in our approach, we would probably put more time aside to ‘court’ the budget holders. We always try to spot funding opportunities that could help our neighbourhoods evolve the next phase of their project. They are hugely competitive and we always stretch our budgets to do much more than they really should.
Our work is about bringing people together, sharing space and ideas together. Completely the wrong model for containing COVID19! Every funder and commissioner we have approached with proposals at the beginning of the year have postponed or pulled their funding strands. We’re relieved and reassured to have been awarded funding from Arts Council England Emergency Response – we’ve often felt saddened that our grassroots projects don’t appear to have the gravitas to garner ACE support, we know they have a lasting impact on people’s work and personal lives.
To Market have been brilliant long-term allies. We so appreciate their patient, ongoing support over the years. To Market understand that as a not-for-profit, we are nurturing more than a money-making venture, we are nurturing communities and networks of creative residents and businesses. Jo Sealy has introduced Artillery to sponsors and contributed to our panel discussions, speaking passionately about how her businesses have valued from their association with our projects as a sponsor and participating venue. To Market’s business perspective helps us remember the different priorities our supporters and collaborators have, and how they all add up to an ambition to supporting a thriving local economy in our towns.
Laura Kerry, Morag McGuire, Directors