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Celebrating The Farm

Broadwater Farm is one of Tottenham's better known estates, but hasn't always had the best reputation in the past. However it has a very strong and cutlturally diverse community; one of the most diverse in London. Long time Tottenham local Wendy Charlton, a social practice artist, made a short documentary about Broadwater Farm estate last year and is currentlycurrating a celebratory event on the estate involving film projection and spoken word performance. Rachel Ho caught up with Wendy to find more about her background and the project.

Photo Supplied: Wendy Charlton, Social Practice Artist

Where did you grow up and what did your parents do? 

I grew up in Croft, a village in Warrington, Cheshire. My Dad was a Transport Manager and mum a Secretary at a small law firm.

Describe your relationship to Tottenham.

I've had a living and working relationship with Tottenham for the last 25 years situated in community based work both as an artist and arts facilitator. My studio is in Bruce Castle Museum. I've brought my son up here and feel connected to the area through friendships, acquaintances and neighbours. I recently completed a socially engaged project in collaboration with Beautiful Bruce Grove and Bruce Grove Primary School which resulted in a public artwork.

Photo Supplied: Beautiful Bruce Grove Art Project with Bruce Grove Primary School

How did you get into art and what inspires you?

I've always been into art, at school I took pleasure in drawing the diagrams, I struggled with exams and academia. Art Foundation was my route to University rather than 'A' levels and a way out of the confines of village life to discover other places and people. I'm inspired by people who work collaboratively with a goal towards social change. The most recent piece of inspiring artwork I saw was Eyewitness Theatre by Lawrence Abu Hamdan at the Chisenhale Gallery.

What are some of the challenges of doing art as a profession and how do you overcome them?

Being valued as an artist through appropriate pay and democratic access to funding. I've always had to do other work alongside being an artist, for example support worker, librarian, sessional tutor, gallery/shop assistant. I value learning and am currently in the final year of MA Art and Social Practice at Middlesex University where I've gained invaluable knowledge and experience. I have a multi-disciplinary approach to making work which involves research, mapping, dialogue, film, photography and drawing. Looking forwards, I'm researching the idea of setting up a Social Practice project space in Tottenham which would connect artists with the local community.

As a woman, how do you think Tottenham has changed? What would you like to see change?

I know women doing amazing things in Tottenham such as running cooperatives, teaching at local schools, organising and running community ventures. I've always been around those women; that hasn't changed. I would like to see younger women becoming more empowered to make the changes they would like to see in their community. 

Favourite thing to do in Tottenham?

Simple, I like to walk my dog in Lordship Rec. Downhills Park, Bruce Castle Park and along the River Lea.

Photo Supplied: Screen shot from Weny's documentary "SA61-Home" (2018); a short documentary film made with a resident on Broadwater Farm estate who describes her home and community as "Tottenham's best kept secret".

Anything you would like to add?

For the last three years, I have situated my art practice on Broadwater farm estate and am currently collaborating on a project with a spoken word artist also from Tottenham. We are planning a celebratory event on Broadwater Farm estate on 10th August involving film projection and spoken word performance. We need to raise funds to make this happen and have set up a crowdfunding page which people can pledge and share if they would like to support us.

Find out more about Wendy and the event:

#socialpractice #socialarts #BroadwaterFarm #womenartists #communityarts


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