Anne Grimwade & Grace Atoki
03 July 2020
I am an artist and community worker based in Deptford and the wider Lewisham borough – I have now lived in the borough for 10 years. My art practice is sculptural, combining hard materials such as wood and metal with soft fabrics and wool. I am interested in repetitive actions and the therapeutic aspects of art. This combined with my work in the community as a support worker and facilitator has led to an interest in community arts. Within my role I work in a person-centred way to support clients who are feeling isolated to find their ‘place’ within their community.
I Live in Sydenham now but lived in Forest Hill before that since 1986. I used to be an active volunteer for the church and VCC, I trained as a teacher in London in 1960 and went back to Nigeria with my husband. I was the headmistress of a special school in Lagos for many years.
as heard & documented by Anne Grimwade
Grace is missing the communal room at her housing and the everyday possibility of popping in to see someone and have a chat. Things that would have been easy have become hard// there is no one to help fix the phone when its settings get muddled.
All I do is, I prepare breakfast, and thank God that I can do that and that I can eat by myself, we must be thankful for these small things. Then I wash up and pack away. Today my lunch will be delivered and it is Gammon, Pineapple, and Croquettes… I’m not sure what they are? And strawberries and cream for dessert. On the weekends I prepare lunch for myself, during the week it is all potatoes potatoes so on the weekend I make Yam, beans and sweetcorn (you know the frozen kind, from Sainsburys). Other than that I read my books and my magazines, or I might be tired so I will rest a while.
We spoke about Nigeria and Grace’s time training as a teacher. She studied at London University and lived in Kilburn, there are so many things she forgets these days but she will always remember her phone number in Kilburn, Ladbroke 6805. That was in 1960.
Grace couldn’t do gardening or dog walking due to her knees but she loved being involved in the Christmas Hampers. They begin work on them in September. They get donations from the Church harvest festivals, the shops and supermarkets, schools and individuals. Packing begins in the morning, there is a break for lunch and some people finish their shift, then more people arrive for the afternoon. People bring lunch and eat together but mainly it is the cups of tea – there are a lot of cups of tea, and it is a very happy place.
Grove Centre Church
I’ve been reading a book called God of Surprise.
They set up a church with nothing, very little money, and they prayed that the lord would provide. One day they arrived to find boxes & boxes of food outside the church, & they did not know where it had come from.
The food went to a particular family who were in need.
Maybe God didn’t put it there, but God put the idea in a person’s mind, the idea to help others.
The 185 Bus
When I was waiting for the bus I was just waiting for it to rain, I was looking at the clouds and how amazing it is there is all that water up there in the sky, all the water is up there suspended, not falling, but still it is moving.
Lewisham Shopping Centre
Grace went to Wilko for some house things and to Sainsbury’s, and then waited on the bench (in the hallway going up) for the driver to pick the group up again. There was another person there waiting, they didn’t chat much, there was no chatterbox among them! But it was nice to sit and relax outside of the house, see the things and see the people going by.
I started experimenting with collage, thinking about how sitting with images/ words and thinking about them, discussing them, is such an important part of art practice for me and perhaps Grace would be interested to see some of these cuttings considering her interest in reading and in magazines. I started off a sketchbook with little pockets full of cuttings and sent this to Grace via VSL, to look at and to contribute to if she feels she’d like to. The process felt like an echo of the wrapping of presents which Grace had spoken about as a major part of her time as a volunteer. As well as this it took me out into my local community – I cycled through Lewisham for the first time since the pandemic hit, I popped into the shopping centre to pick up some allen keys, I did the normal things we were unable to do for so long. I would love to bring Grace’s words out into the community spaces she is missing once things begin to open up further, as was one of the aims of my proposal (of course this would be a discussion between the two of us). I have been making a map of the places we have discussed using google lists and plan to keep working on this also.
Moves to lessen the isolation appears to have come as an after-thought to central government. I would like to use this art project to explore how we could have and can lessen the impact of this on our communities.
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