Metroland Cohort: Peer-to-Peer was developed in conversation with artists in Brent and seeks to address the challenging context experienced by many artists as a result of scarce financial support; little opportunity for peer support; and difficulty gaining visibility. These barriers mean that artists in Brent are often forced to either stop practising or leave the borough to pursue opportunities. We invited artists of any age with a connection to Brent to apply via open call to this year’s programme, which comprises ten cohort learning sessions, a £2,500 non-restricted bursary, mentoring, and a group project budget.
The ten artists selected to participate in the first iteration of Metroland Cohort: Peer-to-Peer are Ocean Baulcombe-Toppin, Bill Daggs, Heiba Lamara, Yasmin Nicholas, James Jordan Johnson, Becky Lyon, Nilik Khimani, Bediah, Arsalan Isa, and Dita Hashi.
Since July 2022, the cohort has been meeting every other week for a series of talks, workshops, and discussions. Over ten sessions an incredible group of artists, curators, gallerists and writers have contributed to the programme, including Ain Bailey, Jamila Prowse, Rebecca Bellantoni, Adam Farah, Sally Moussawi of Not/Nowhere, Joseph Morgan Schofield, Abbas Zahedi, Louise Shelley, Rozsa Farkas, Languid Hands, Ellie Grieg and Narbi Price.
Workshops have covered Creative Access, Participatory Budgeting and Consensus Decision Making, Introducing Performance, and Writing about Your Practice. Every other week the cohort has led sharing sessions on a subject/text/artwork/idea of their choice, creating a space of mutual learning to cultivate their collective interests.
During their time together the cohort has been thinking through strategies of collective survival and the realisation of their group project. In December the group will gather for a retreat at the Bidston Observatory Artistic Research Centre in Liverpool to share practices/tactics/offerings, documenting the process in a zine which will be gifted to the Brent community in early 2023.
Ocean Baulcombe-Toppin is a London-based artist who researches what it means to 'be' through gentle and mediative practice. She works poetically with objects to craft a contemporary philosophy inspired by her spirituality, heritage, and rituals for solace. She works with second-hand objects, biodegradable materials, ephemera and renewable energy.
Recent presentations of her work include exhibitions at Gallery 31, Somerset House (2022), Harlesden High Street (2021), the South London Gallery (2020), the Freud Museum (2020) and Deptford Cinema (2020). She is an Associate Lecturer at Chelsea College of Arts.
Bill Daggs (b.1981) was born and raised in Cricklewood, London. He is a self-taught musician / beat maker / rapper that spent his early artistic career enveloped in the UK hip hop culture and London music scene. In 2014 Daggs began formal training, enrolling on a BA in fine art at UEL, and in 2021 he completed an MFA at Central Saint Martins. His practice spans across disciplines, ranging from [but not limited to] poetry, sound, painting, film and installation. His work is the documentation of an ongoing exploration of rhythmic and aural encounters; an investigation into sampling, looping, freestyling and various other recording / performing methodologies. Through employing the above making processes, Daggs creates a coherent, yet fragmented narrative that distorts time and space, while addressing themes like cultural identity and appropriation. Daggs lives and works in London.
Since 2013 I have worked as an artist-researcher exploring independent print and archival practices and publishing as a creative practice for social change. I am Assistant Editor of OOMK (One of my Kind) a zine and publishing collective focused on the spiritual, political and artistic practices of women artists.
I focus on self-directed project-based research around print, oral histories, archives and coloniality translating these into zines, artist books and participatory workshops and exhibitions that offer readers/participants an entry point to developing a closer relationship with underexplored topics related to the cultural history of marginalised communities. Driven to provide accessible print spaces under austerity measures, I co- founded the community Risograph print studio Rabbits Road Press in 2017.
Nicholas’ work consists of a multimedia including photography , film, painting and sowing, whilst always using the discipline of word in most of works. accounts of daily life as a black woman. Imagery and writings that centres around migration, personal and cultural identity with accounts of daily life as a black woman. Exploring Caribbean culture and language (This imagery includes the metaphor of a breadfruit) and interests about the artist in which she feels can be elaborated on any type of medium besides books, on paper or spoken aloud using her main component of poetry.
She also explores the presence of her ancestors within her film work. This imagery comes with a fantasy type spectre who represents an ancestor in a traditional ‘Wob’, a dress dating back to the 18th Century due to French and English colonies however with an African influence, a deeper look into race and diaspora through the influence of folktale but also as a navigation through the concept of Otherness and legacy.
James Jordan Johnson
James Jordan Johnson (b.1997, London) works within sculpture and performance. He is interested in thinking about how blackness creates distinct conditions of understanding time, materiality, irregular knowledge systems, and embodied memory. He explores this by using approaches of walking, site interventions, mapping, and found as well as chosen objects.
I am a 26-year-old British-Gujarati Indian Artist. I was born and raised in London. I’m a second-generation immigrant of Indian origin. I graduated from the University of Arts London in 2017. Since graduating I have been oscillating between the art and fashion industry, here in London and remotely internationally. I would describe myself as a multi-disciplinary creative and an inter-disciplinary artist.
My works span the mediums of performance art, photography, writing, painting, sculpture, and fashion. They are produced with the core thread of seeking to bring comfort, heal, and bring freedom to a society bound by restriction, reduction, and regulation. I’m interested in the experiential potential of contemporary art as a tool to understand what it means to live with a collective community, and who we may be within that. More prevalent in my video works, I am interested in intersecting space and time through orchestrating viewing experiences with multi-sensory conversations.
My practice explores ideologies around healing, reflexivity, and the transformative. This is all with the hopes of understanding the ways we navigate the contemporary, as singular beings, and as an implicated society. This is greatly fuelled by my interest in the discourse around “otherness’ in relation to communication and visual identity.
As the immediate recipient of my work, and through the process of creation, it acts as a type of therapy, empowerment, and release for me. Navigating the expectations of being a British-Gujarati male, my work gives me the time and space to exist within it. To have conversations with myself, and other simultaneously. I have received recognition of by TATE, GQ India, and Verve India.
I am a photographer, filmmaker, and an aspiring creative director. The work I create is centred around those who share my experience as a first generation muslim woman living in London, and has two intentions: documentation and communication.
Growing up dyslexic and neurodivergent, I found myself left with big gaps in my memory. Naturally I created a coping mechanism to deal with this which started with ‘snapchat memories’ and overtime has manifested into film photography. Documenting the people and events around me and looking back at them has allowed me to recognise patterns in my life which I sometimes later turn into concepts to develop into projects.
Those projects allow me to communicate an experience, thought or feeling. Again, with a learning difficulty it was a struggle to communicate what was in my head verbally, so I found visual mediums the best way to do so. And once I've shared it with the world, those who share the same experience or have an understanding of it form a community around the piece of work, which I find to be incredible.
Arsalan Isa is a writer and lens-based practitioner living in London. His interests include narrative psychotherapy, the subjectivities of care and documentation. In 2021, Isa published a video on EMDR therapy and dissociative aesthetics for Cryptofiction. Also in 2021, his text, Long Term Loners: Dissociative Realism, was performed at Studio Voltaire, London, in a lecture-performance collaboration.
Dita Hashi (b. 1998) is an artist worker based between London and Paris. She works across moving image, installation and writing. Her works explore alienation and the body in relation to borders and the state.
Becky Lyon is an English x Jamaican artist and ‘artecologist’ exploring how art practice can illuminate and re-enchant relationships to our animate and inter-relational ecology. Her work manifests in multiple forms from tactile installations to rituals, sensory artefacts to participatory gatherings. She hosts numerous events, gatherings and workshops designed to excite and inspire people to build more care-full connections with ecology for the likes of School of Machines, Making and Make-Believe Berlin, Natural England and The London Interdisciplinary School. She is also a ranger for London National Park City connecting people to nature through art. She has an MA Art & Science from Central Saint Martins.
Currently she is...convening the Squishy Sessions exploring the intersection of touch x tactility x care; contemplating "earthly curriculums" and dialoguing with dead wood; brewing up tactile seminars for the "Sentient Performativities" conference in Devon and the "Sticky Matters" stream at the London Critical Conference; hosting EARTHSHAPES monthly gatherings tuning into the rhythms of the season; ripping up the reading group format with the B|T|W|N THE L|AV|S: A Critical De/compost Reading Group; rebodying with London's ancient woodland ecology at Goldsmiths University; drafting a paper on "Sensuous Ecologies" and dreaming up an artist-led forest school for grown ups!