Evelyn Court Community Project

A project that started with the idea of transforming a shared wall between The Russet's secret garden and neighbouring housing estate Evelyn Court, has now grown to encompass a programme of community arts including street art, photography, a video diary booth, cookery workshop, grow your own herbs demonstration and live performance.


The Evelyn Court Community Project was borne out of the shared wall between The Russet and the Evelyn Court housing estate. Instead of seeing the wall as a symbol of division, residents at Hackney Downs Studios saw it as an opportunity to work together, share ideas and be neighbourly. Taking a lead is Victoria Coker (in a shared studio with Timberwolf) who develops programmes to promote community cohesion. This initiative is still in its early stages, kickstarting with an engagement day Saturday 21st February where various activities will take place to meet key people who would like to be involved and establish the needs and desires of the community.

We popped into Aside Bside Gallery (resident art gallery) with Steve Wilson (Manager of The Russet cafe) for a chat about their latest collaboration within the neighbourhood involving a wall, a housing estate and a group of artists.

What is the cafe's involvement in the project?

SW: The Russet will be curating a feast which will be cooked on site with the residents of the estate and volunteers from further afield, and served up for free, as well as a stage for DJs, singers and artists to perform on the day. This will create an eclectic event to engage as many of the residents from the estate as possible to get involved with the exciting new project.

We want the estate to look more beautiful and for the artistic direction that takes to be lead by the people that live there, and for The Russet and Hackney Downs Studios to be integrated with the communities that surround them.

What is your key aim as a gallery?

CM: To be an inclusive gallery. We want to invite people in who may have ever visited a gallery before. In ordinary life we don't always cross over, even though we're close by. This project is about saying 'Hey, I'm your neighbour, if you want or need anything, pop in'. We're hoping it will open an ongoing channel and relationship so we can all look out for each other.

What inspires you?

CM: Guiding people into finding that spark and creative energy, unless you've been really lucky and discovered it - and a lot of people don't - it's latent. It's a privilege to be able to share that little door.

Aside Bside Gallery are putting out a call for their fellow studio residents to share their skills and get to know people just next door, breaking down the false stereotype that art and creativity is reserved for certain people and groups. Hackney Downs Studios will be facilitating this open call for volunteers, materials and experts and are very much looking forward to getting to know their neighbours on a long term basis. The team behind the Evelyn Court Community Project have been researching funding avenues and drawing upon a pool of enthusiasm and varied experience to take this project as far as possible and create a legacy for a continuous relationship.

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