Working with young Travellers

Detail of seat with made with young Travellers.
galvanised steel, tanalised wood.
Photo: Peter Griffiths

In August 2021, Gillian spent three days in North Acton, London working with children and young people who live on Bashley Road Caravan site. 

She took equipment and tools and set up an outdoor workshop on a construction site adjacent to the Traveller site. Over the three days she worked with about 20 participants between the ages of 7 and 12, teaching them the basics of welding and metalwork and facilitating them designing and making images in steel of Irish Traveller life and culture. 

Outdoor workshop with welder, generator and metal working tools

The children and young people made their images inside steel rings that Gillian then constructed together into two seats and a table. The furniture will be permanently installed at the entrance to the Traveller site, as part of redevelopment of the area.

This project was initiated and supported by Bollo Studios, (the creative wing of Bollo Brook Youth Centre, in South Acton) and a local youth charity
 JE Delve. Youth workers from both organisations worked alongside Gillian and the participants, helping make the experience enjoyable and productive.

Before the seats and table are installed at the Traveller site, they were part of an exhibition ‘Who Are We? Navigating Race, Class and the City’ at Pitzhanger Manor & Art Gallery in Ealing, London, 26th November 2021 – 13th February 2022.

Seats and table in the conservatory at Pitzhanger Manor and Art Gallery

The exhibition was the culmination of over three years of work at Bollo Studios, their local partners and artists. Curated by young people, it portrayed the complex, often chaotic, realities that young people have to navigate as they look to carve a place for themselves in the world. As ideas around race, social class, identity and belonging interacted with inequalities, injustices and the urban environment, it posed a difficult, at times uncomfortable, challenge to us all – how to better understand different social, moral and structural realities.