Breaking into the creative industries is easier said than done, especially if you don’t have the money, free time, and connections required to develop your craft and find an audience for your work. Luckily, there are some organisations working to make things a little easier, like the Working Class Creatives Database (WCCD), which aims to connect a community of working-class artists, writers, and performers, and provide them with a public platform.
In 2021, the pioneering creative network was a recipient of a SET initiative to provide free space for community groups, and has since hosted eight residencies for working-class artists from a variety of backgrounds. Now, WCCD is taking over Woolwich’s SET Studios for its latest exhibition, which features 28 artists working with installation art, sculpture, photography, video and text.
Titled Gatherings, the show represents “diversities, histories, places and identities within the working-class experience,” the curators tell Dazed. Featured works weave together multigenerational stories from a range of perspectives, but are tied together by their “gentle nature... one that is rich in being heavily personal and delicately political”.
Among the featured artists are Hannah Hill, a photographer whose series I’ve gave me whole life to em traces her father’s precarious role as a steel worker, Chloë Louise Lawrence, whose installation references Vicky Spratt’s Tenants, and Billy Axe, who writes about coming to resemble his alcoholic father since starting to take testosterone. Elsewhere, MedB documents her brother’s relationship with his children on a 70s estate outside Belfast in My Brother, The Father, and Kelly Wu shines a light on “housing instability, hoarding, immigration” via objects from their parents’ council flat.
“When choosing the works it felt like we were crows selecting gifts to bring back to our nest,” say the curators. “The curation style feels like a gathering of objects, of histories, memories and moments in body, place and time.”
Established in 2020, the Working Class Creatives Database now counts more than 700 members across the UK, and Gatherings brings artists and writers together from Sheffield, Nottingham, Birmingham, Scunthorpe, Essex, Cornwall, Scotland and more. “Community is our core,” say the creators, adding that their online platform allows creatives to connect and collaborate no matter where they’re based. “We are all artists, have day jobs and evening jobs, and do what we can for the database when we have the time,” they add, saying that all of the work facilitated by the database is “from the community to the community”.
Take a look at some of the highlights from Gatherings in the gallery above.
Gatherings opens today at SET Woolwich, and will run until August 17.