Artists’ creative look at economics culminates in Shami Chakrabarti lecture at Manor Park library

PUBLISHED: 13:05 12 January 2017 | UPDATED: 13:29 12 January 2017

Amy Feneck and Ruth Beale. Picture: Emil Charlaff

Amy Feneck and Ruth Beale. Picture: Emil Charlaff

Emil Charlaff

What is our relationship with economics and how do we feel about the super rich?

Shami Chakrabarti attending the Sky Women in Film & Television awards at the Hilton Hotel, London. Picture: Ian West/PA imagesShami Chakrabarti attending the Sky Women in Film & Television awards at the Hilton Hotel, London. Picture: Ian West/PA images

These are just some of the thought-provoking questions posed by members of the Rabbits Road Institute over the last year.

The institute sits at the heart of Old Manor Park Library’s huge transformation. After receiving £177,000 in government funding, it relaunched as a creative hub at the end of 2015, delivered in partnership with Bow Arts, Create, and Newham Council.

Amy Feneck and Ruth Beale are the first artists to use the library as a forum for artistic endeavour, thanks to support from art provider Create London.

“We wanted to create a space that had some kind of educational development – but it was important that it was a space for the community,” explained Amy of her project.

The Story of Money project. Picture: Amy FeneckThe Story of Money project. Picture: Amy Feneck

Workshops, debates, storytelling, film sessions and exhibitions have all featured in recent months.

The duo used their own project, the Alternative School of Economics, as a basis for many of the sessions’ monetary themes, with Amy describing it as using “economics as a platform to be creative – and in an expressive way”.

She cites Conversation Club, the first initiative, as an example.

“It is an informal club which is about practising speaking English and gaining confidence,” she said. “We started it because we recognised there was a need for people to to do that.”

Shami Chakrabarti speaks at Lantern Lecture tonight

One final event set to blossom under Amy and Ruth’s stewardship is the annual Lantern Lecture.

Based on informative talks at the library, which went by the same name in the early 20th century, the lectures have been revived in a “contemporary form”.

“It will become an annual lecture given by a high profile figure,” Amy said of its format.

The inaugural event will take place at the former Carnegie Library tomorrow evening.

It will be hosted by barrister and human rights campaigner, Shami Chakrabarti CBE.

A former director of advocacy and civil rights organisation Liberty, Shami is now a member of the House of Lords.

Her talk will focus on the importance of libraries and their relationship to freedom and understanding in the world.

“It is a chance to hear a really inspirational figure speak about something she really believes in,” said Amy.

“We are hoping that she will address the relationship between places of learning and human rights.”

6.30pm-8.30pm tonight, adults £5, under 18 free. Book your ticket via eventbrite. Under 18’s still need to book a ticket. Event takes places at Rabbits Road Institute at Old Manor Park Library, 835 Romford Road, E12 5JY

More than just a language skills group, the club enables its members to discuss personal, political and social issues, which Amy says “affects their day to day lives”.

Elsewhere, children and families contributed to The Story of Money exhibition – making giant money and protest placards – while students from Little Ilford School developed a film project titled The Rich as a Minority Group.

“Some of the students articulated quite well the differences they felt. The teachers talked about it being a really positive project,” said Amy.

Although the pair’s residency is now at an end, Rabbits Road Institute continues – see above right – and Amy says she is “proud” of her and Ruth’s work.

One visual legacy is a reference library made up of nominated material by friends and collaborators of the institute. It’s accessible during public events or by appointment.

Rabbits Road Institute has been supported by the Mayor of London’s High Street Fund and the space is being leased by the council.


Printing press and book shop opens

A new year presents a fresh chapter in the Rabbits Road Institute tale and ready to take on a new challenge is art collective One of My Kind (OOMK).

Their residency project, Rabbits Road Press, will transform the space into a community Risograph print studio and publishing press.

Over the next six months, they group will provide a range of printing and book binding services for artists and community groups.

Various workshops and events will explore different print and design techniques, bringing together artists, designers, writers with Newham residents.

Sofia Niazi, Rose Nordin and Heiba Lamara are the trio behind OOMK. They are working with Create London, with support from Arts Council England.

“It doesn’t matter what your age, background or experience in art or design is, you can get involved with Rabbits Road Press and start to experiment with making your own prints and publications,” said Sofia.

A launch party takes place on Saturday, 6pm to 9pm, while a free drop-in session runs every Tuesday, 2pm to 7pm.

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