A Frenchman’s Big Picture

 

 
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The mural and how is started
Local artists painted this mural to represent the riots (the Phoenix, the fire) and the stuff that has come from all of that, things like our garden and having access, a helping hand. From the negativity, it turned out good. I basically started all this as my community organising work, as you know, I work around the area and I meet random people. I am paid by Locality, they trained me for a year to become a community organiser. The whole idea of a community organiser is going in the local area and asking people what they love, hate, what’s the concern and find out if they have a vision for the local area. With that question, you spot local leaders, people who have passion and want to do something and so you start putting that passion together and developing local projects, through local residents. The whole project is funded by the cabinet office and the programme is being delivered and run by Locality – a consortium of around 650 community centres. I now work for Selby 50% of the time and the other 50% I’m working for Locality. I am now in my second year, a progression year to develop networking and training with the centre. The street art side of things comes from me loving street art and bringing that in. A lot of street artists have the stigma of being labelled vandals and quite often they can be fined and sometimes put in jail for it so to tackle this discrimination locally, why not provide them with the space they can work on their art without being fined? [The artists] will come here, show that they can do something wonderful in a safe place and not have the police running after them. 
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I went to a group of artist based in Bruce Grove and explained what we’re doing here, it gave them a sense of what we are hoping to achieve. We came to an agreement, where I provide them with space and I get sent artists – it’s one of the best collaborations that I have managed to establish here in the borough! We’re now thinking about events around street art, teaching young people street art or at least mentoring them and inspiring them every week with a different artist. We want to create a group or collective of artists who will be given a bigger wall and they can work together to create something that has a meaning for us. The bigger picture…Hold on, close your eyes! 
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We’re at the back of the Selby Centre, which has had a complete transformation. From a wild marsh-like space with large rusting containers to a garden with a children’s area, palettes with fresh soil and colourful plants. White-washed containers – ready for an outdoor cafe, places to sit and read and a very large bus painted for children’s parties and whatever else Tottenham dreams of next. Moussa Sylla insists that I close my eyes and he guides me around the corner where a wall has already been slicked with the spray paints from a team of artists back in April. When I finally open them, I’m silent for a moment. I along with many, want the town painted by local creatives. We want to see colour and passion all over our old, scarred walls and this feels like part of that out-pour, screaming: I am here. The wall is loud, bright and right up in my face. Mossa is managing a number of projects, a couple here at the Selby Centre and some others in the borough. He’s a Frenchman bent on collaborations in this area, he wants more exposure for our creativity and he’s finding new ways for us to express ourselves and to do it together.
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What else is happening
I called in the Global Garden and we’re building a terrace, raised beds, planting fruit and veg – beetroots, butter beans and we’ll start selling it. There will be opportunities for locals to volunteer and we’ll have a great big launch at the end of August with gardening, live music from local bands and street art. We are also going to paint the containers, having worked with the street artists here, you get to learn that they all have their own style but I like to challenge them by asking them to try something different.
 
Who is involved
We host the luncheon for VIY – a volunteering programme for 14-24-year-olds working on small scale DIY projects and they get a qualification in Employability. To engage that group, I’ve included this project as it gives them an another way to express themselves. We did a project where they decorated inside of the Selby Centre, just classic painting but why not give them a way to design and give them a way to be creative? I also do a lot of outreach by advertising in sixth-form colleges and I got Community Payback involved, as it helps them gain qualifications as they work. 
 
Big Picture
There are two difficult things happening here that are tough, first is the suspicion in the area. People always think there is an agenda and the other is the clear difference between the east side of the borough and the west side of the borough. Coming from the west you look at the east differently and vice-versa. I do some work at Climbing Tree which is more or less in the middle of the two areas and they are the bridge and the work that we are doing there is to use activities to build bridges between the two areas. I really want to work on that and build positivity in Haringey across our areas by bringing us into contact with each other. 

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