Award-winning artist exploring true stories of life in Barking and Dagenham

PUBLISHED: 07:00 17 December 2019

Award-winning aritst Rory Pilgrim (pictured) is undertaking a months-long project in Barking and Dagenham from the end of 2019 through to 2020. Picture: Mals Media.

Award-winning aritst Rory Pilgrim (pictured) is undertaking a months-long project in Barking and Dagenham from the end of 2019 through to 2020. Picture: Mals Media.

Mals Media

An award-winning artist is exploring the stories of people in Barking and Dagenham and how those stories are told.

"This project is looking at how people come together to explore questions of housing, work and the environment," said the artist Rory Pilgrim.

He won this year's Dutch Prix de Rome, receiving 40,000 euros and a residency at the American Academy in Rome.

"[It's] how to bring it from statistics to real experience so we're all able to live with good jobs, good homes and with a good environment," he added.

Rory has been living in Dagenham's White House Gallery in since November 4 as part of a commission from the Serpentine Gallery in central London. The project is called Radio Ballads.

Radio Ballads was originally and eight-part radio series aired in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The ground breaking documentaries captured workers' voices from Dagenham.

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These new ballads will show what workers' experiences and issues in the borough are now.

The project is part of the council's New Town Culture programme. It's about getting art and culture to people who use Barking and Dagenham's children's and adults' social care. The goal is to develop new ways vulnerable people can express themselves and new ways social care can improve their lives through being creative, according to the authority's head of culture Ann Marie.

"What I hope to do is get to know the people of the borough, what's important to people here," Rory added. He's one of four artists set to take part in the Radio Ballads project.

Eventually, the artist will start to gather people to explore those three themes - jobs, homes and environment - and how they interact.

There's no saying what the finished work will look like at this point. Rory has previously worked in film, written songs, and drawn and performed his work.

"As an artist, I try to look at [these subjects] in a creative way and in an emotional way," he said. "How do people express these things that are often statistics-led?

"It's the lived experience of someone - what it's like to lose a house or a home [for example]."

More information can be found about Rory's time at the White House Gallery at

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