The Brent Biennial presented 36 artworks in libraries, streets and other places of everyday life around the borough, with world-renowned artists on an equal footing with local creatives and community groups, under the curatorial vision ‘On the Side of the Future’. Featuring everything from sculpture to sound art, murals to installations, the Brent Biennial touched on faith, enterprise, activism, family, care, self-help and many of the other threads that hold life together in this intensely fluid part of London.
At the heart of the Biennial were 10 artist commissions created with libraries: six made with council-run libraries, and a further four with community-led libraries. In 2019, each library researched their local area and with a curator, then wrote a call-out to artists across London to work with them on an idea. The resulting series included:
- a large-scale mural of George Michael by Dawn Mellor on a high street in Kingsbury;
- a series of sculptures outside Preston Community Library by Carl Gabriel;
- a community story-telling project at Barham Community Library facilitated by Avant-Gardening (Polly Brannan and Paul Green);
- Library as Memorial, a project by Ruth Beale in Kilburn Library using book dedications as a way of memorialising those who died during the pandemic; and
- a series of audio works by John Rogers highlighting the voices and histories of the community in Kensal Rise.
Beyond the libraries, the Biennial exhibited other artworks including, among others:
- Remember this House, a permanent mural by leading British-Filipino artist Pio Abad, telling the unexpected history of Kilburn High Road;
- The Children of the Sugar, a series of new collage works by Yasmin Nicholas exhibited on bus stops and community noticeboards across the borough;
- Soul Refresher (Mountain Rose Soda), a drink created by interdisciplinary artist Abbas Zahedi that was made available to buy in shops and cafés.
The Brent Biennial wwas the largest arts event to take place in Brent since the Festival of Brent in 1992, with over 125,000 people seeing the artworks.