How cultural practices can help enhance local identities and heritage?

Key learnings from the T-Factor pilots in Lisbon and London 

Art and culture-led initiatives can be a key tool to foster cultural integration in diverse communities, and also to support participation in the production of a common identity and public value. At the T-Factor Learning Series focused on Identity and Heritage, the pilots of Lisbon and London shared with us the activities they have been doing during the last months within T-Factor related to fostering social cohesion and cultural innovation in their territories.

Trafaria, co-creating a new identity of the area

The Lisbon pilot is located at an ancient fort, formerly used as a prison, that will become the future Institute of Art and Technology of Trafaria. Despite this area is a central part of the identity of Trafaria, it has been inaccessible to the public until now, so one of the main challenges of the local coalition is the co-creation of a new identity of the area that acknowledges its specific past, exploring and valorizing stories, community assets and heritage, as Carla Fernandes from Universidade NOVA de Lisboa explained at the presentation.

“We think that the articulation of T-factor with Trafaria’s urban regeneration masterplan and the emergence of IAT in this context has boosted the emergence of new community projects on creative and innovative occupation of meanwhile spaces”, as highlighted Raquel Yam from Universidade NOVA de Lisboa. From the beginning of T-Factor’s Trafaria pilot, Universidade NOVA de Lisboa has designed and organized a diverse set of activities related to local identity and culture in collaboration with local agents. Some of them are:

Nomadic Territories: A cycle of walkscapes aimed at contributing to the understanding of Trafaria through a direct involvement with the place and its various communities. These walks were focused to discover Trafaria not only as a territory but also as a political and social place that embodies many stories related to the immaterial heritage.

Bottom-up Museum: Far from the classical idea of a museum, this project tries to involve and connect local communities in the creation of the museum’s “collections”. Some of the activities organized as part of this project are the Photo Bomb Project, a digital repository of old photographs created by the citizens that recollects the memory of the place through personal stories of its inhabitants, historical walks lead by the neighbors, or the T-Mapping activity, a community engagement project to foster synergies among citizens and T-Factor pilot. 

Slam Poetry: A workshop and a contest that took place in 2021 and 2022, aimed at engaging with the young population of Trafaria. After the first event, the participants decided to create the new label “Poetry Slam Trafaria” to take part in other Slam Poetry competitions, and last year they won the national contest.

Fadiagens: an itinerant show of fado to explore the neighborhood following the rhythm of the music, where a mixture of generations joined to sing through the streets. 

TEIA: A large-scale installation that will be installed at the prison and will represent the connections amongst fishermen, residents and the early prisoners of the fortress.

These are the key learnings that T-Factor Lisbon team shared with us:

  • Trafaria shares a rich local culture and identity. Residents are proud of the area’s history and believe that the local living heritage deserves to be enhanced.
  • T-Factor’s cultural activities bring more inclusion and solidarity among the locals, and creates strong intergenerational dialogue.
  • The IAT is opening a common dialogue in Trafaria, bringing together academic knowledge, students and local communities.
Neighbours at Regents Park Festival
Regents Park Estate Festival.

London, how creativity can support social and cultural integration

T-Factor’s London pilot is located ad Euston and its surroundings, an area that is immersed in a profound regeneration project. As Adam Thorpe from the University of the Arts London explained, there are some characteristics that define this area. One of them is the diversity of the population: the first inhabitants of the area were refugees from the French Revolution and, since then, different communities have inhabited these neighborhoods, so “everyone is a migrant, and the history and heritage of the area is profoundly plural”. The neighborhood is also characterized by the presence of many cultural initiatives and enterprises, becoming a knowledge quarter.

One of the first steps of London’s pilot was to connect this ecosystem and see how its capacities can be useful to respond to the inhabitants’ needs and hopes regarding the area. T-Factor team supported the emergence of a community of socially engaged practice through semi-structured conversations with potential collaborators. This led to the mapping and clustering of a community of practice, formed by artists and designers interested to address social needs through art practices, together with local community organizations.

Some of the activities boosted within T-Factor’s London Pilot linked to heritage and identity are:

Bayes Scanathon: A collaboration between Somers Town History Club and University of the Arts London to restore Gilbert Bayes ceramic sculptures (iconic images that were an important part of the local legacy) through a workshop on 3D techniques.

Charlton Street Market: Development of collaborative business models and the  creation of a “Circular market enterprise hub”, with initiatives based on the circular economy such as the redistribution of products and “give and take reuse days”.

Community Champions Regents Park: A group of local residents and youth workers worked together, mapping and collecting stories about the area, in order to identify the places they wanted to celebrate and the places they wanted to improve. Later on, the stories and proposals were presented as part of the Regents Park Estate Festival.

These are the key learnings that T-Factor Euston team shared with us:

  • Identity is plural and subjective, so it is important to find plural ways of sharing stories and accommodate multiple and sometimes conflicting identities.
  • Language and narratives matter: who tells the story and whose story is told.
  • It is better to support rather than lead; amplify rather than author, and share rather than suggest.

 

Watch the T-Factor Learning Series focused on Heritage and Identity: