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Post People: Creating colour in Barking and Dagenham

PUBLISHED: 13:00 03 August 2015

Helen Ball at the Rivergate Centre's two-day circus festival featuring NoFit State

Helen Ball at the Rivergate Centre's two-day circus festival featuring NoFit State

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Helen Ball, 36, tells Sebastian Murphy-Bates about Creative Barking and Dagenham’s role in boosting art in the borough as the scheme enters its final year

“Creative Barking and Dagenham is a three-year project to generate relevant, local cultural engagement through art.

“Artistic engagement is significantly low here – we’re in the bottom 20 per cent in the country.

“This borough’s really big – it’s not like somewhere like Hackney where artists gravitate and then spread out.

“When we started in 2013, we had a lot of disempowered people who felt like art doesn’t happen here.

“But I think it’s unfair to brand it as not creative – and some of the things that have come out of the programme have been phenomenal.

“Since starting we’ve created a mural at Valence House, hosted 5,000 people at Dagfest and brought NoFit State Circus to Dagenham last weekend.

“When I started there was a lack of connections but we did a lot of work on the ground and now there’s a real network of creative people headed up by more than 100 local ‘cultural connectors’.

“We also set up the People Going Places fund, which offers up to £3,000 to local people who want to create art here, and we have the Reach fund, which pays artists’ expenses.

“It feels really positive to have given people interested in art a kick because art brings identity to places – people start to feel like they’re being listened to.”

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