SOLO: Surviving or Thriving?

29 October 2020

A creative participatory project exploring how freelance creative practitioners in east London have been adapting their work in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

SOLO: Surviving or Thriving? is a project funded by UCL East through the Listen and Respond programme which seeks to explore UCL as a whole can best serve the needs of communities and the voluntary sector in London as they confront and recover from COVID-19.

It has been developed by Jay Derrick at the UCL Institute of Education, Department of Education, Practice and Society, in collaboration with Tanya Harris. Jay’s research focusses on learning, productivity and innovation in everyday work practices. Tanya is a freelance photographer, an arts and cultural education consultant and long-term resident of Hackney.

What happened?

The aim of the project was to find out about how the pandemic has impacted self-employed creative practitioners based in Hackney, and the specific changes and innovations made to their work in response to the crisis. Six Hackney-based, freelance, creative practitioners were identified and interviewed by the team. These were Christian Sinibaldi, Yves Salmon, Pete Bennett, Vicki Hambley, Tanya Harris, and one other individual who chose not to be named. Throughout the interviews, the artists were encouraged to reflect their experiences and feelings during the lockdown, and at the same time throw light on changes they have made in their work and what they have learnt.

The interviews have been analysed and edited into a short podcast and documentary video.

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://youtu.be/MOJ56OemvtE

You can also listen to the contributors of the project in their podcast episode.

What next?

Jay and Tanya have established a strong relationship with the Hackney-based practitioners involved. The two are seeking funding to continue developing their relationship with the group and expand their work to include more practitioners from the area.
The project has fostered interest from east London-based creative sector organisations, contributing to the knowledge and resilience of creative practitioners based in east London who work in the Creative Industries sector.
Look out for a UCL webinar with Jay, Tanya and the participants where they will be sharing findings from the project with other Creative Industries practitioners.

Creative practioner contributors:

Christian Sinibaldi: Christian is a self-employed commercial and editorial photographer, renowned for his international photo-journalism with the Guardian newspaper. Christian’s commercial and international journalism work was heavily disrupted by COVID, though he was able to finish an international project just before lockdown which gave him a financial cushion. Visit Christians Instagram account 'Evering Road People' in which he has captured local Hackney residents during lockdown and beyond.

Yves Salmon: Yves Salmon is a freelance commercial and editorial photographer and artist. She also works as an Associate Lecturer teaching documentary photography part time on a BA (Hons) at a London University. Teaching has become more central to her work recently, and she sees her MA completed three years ago, as critical in this process.  Her MA final project involved researching the impact of the Brexit referendum on EU nationals, mostly in Hackney, for which she made portraits overlaid with photographs of flowers and plants from the subjects’ countries of origin.  Part of her motivation for this project was that she is herself the child of Caribbean immigrants.  This work was widely celebrated and published by The Royal Photographic Society.

Pete Bennett: Pete Bennett is a freelance musician, visual artist, community organisation events venue manager and skills-based trainer.  Pete sees his creative practices, skills training, community venue management and politics as integral parts of a whole.   Pete comes from a DIY Cultural practice, and his work in community development management art and music aims to undermine the dominant economic and cultural practices of UK society from below, and to foster, nurture and support bottom-up, inclusive, participatory community activities of all sorts.  For Pete, community development work is part of his creative practice. See more of Pete's art on his Instagram account or hear more on Soundcloud.

Vicki Hambley: Vicki is the Artistic and Strategic Director of Hackney Shed, an inclusive theatre company and charity working with children and young people, supporting Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and neuro-diversities. Originally from Canada, Vicki started at Hackney Shed on a freelance contract 7 years ago initially working part time. She came to the UK having completed training in acting and theatre, and with experience of working in Canada, Italy and Japan.  She gradually built up her work with Hackney Shed, helping it grow and gain more funding.  Since last year she has been working full-time, but still on a freelance contract.    

Anonymous: She works as a sound designer, editor and artist in film, sound, theatre, multi-media, on both commercial contracts and on her own projects.  She is also a university lecturer.

Read the full report on the Listen and Respond project.(Word document)

Read more about Listen and Respond and all the recent funded projects.