Since 2012 Futurecity have curated a major community engagement project for Great Kneighton as part of our site wide cultural programme for the scheme. Jeanne Van Heeswijk was commissioned as lead artist, and with artist collaborator Britt Jurgensen, has conceived and delivered an inspiring catalytic project that has got under the skin of the local communities, brought them out and together into unlikely collaborative conversations, activities and events.
Over the last three years this creative intervention has thoughtfully and playfully developed space and time for old and new residents to come together and begin exploring their new physical and social environment and possibilities. It has supported residents to take active roles in shaping their common spaces and community life, developing thought leadership in a time of huge transition.
At the heart of the project is the ‘Show Home for Real Living’ that has transformed one of Great Kneighton’s show homes into a vibrant community hub space from which all the activity has emanated. Month by month the show home transforms itself into a heritage museum, a cafe, garden centre, baking workshop, monthly public house, all interlocking with each other to provide a responsive open site for the communities ideas and needs.
Jeanne and Britt have built a core creative team of writers, performers, photographers, filmmakers, researchers, gardeners, alongside residents with interest and expertise in finance, community development, science, food, growing, sustainable development, and alternative economics. All have come together through a range of projects to produce magazines & films (under their ‘Habitorials’ title, pop-up cafes, a regular community public house, walks, talks, workshops, skill shares, to galvanise new ideas around what it means to really develop as a thriving community; not just giving people a voice, but a role in the process.
The Habitorials ‘team’ is now influencing the development of the major community infrastructure coming to Great Kneighton: the large new community centre with health centre, library, cafe and meeting spaces, and the proposed community gardens. An exciting 2016 will see the artists hand the project over to the resdients to take the lead and grow even more initiatives and sow the seeds for a true legacy of community creativity, cooperation, and critique.
All the projects interviews, articles, and films are available online at:
Jeanne van Heeswijk is an artist who facilitates the creation of lively and diversified public spaces, typically from abandoned or derelict sites. Her socially engaged art practice generates new forms of encounter while challenging bureaucratic conventions and acquired rules.
The key concepts underlying my work are 'acting', 'meeting' and 'communicating', activities which demand that both the viewer and initiator take responsibility.