Two years after moving our studios from London to Thurrock, Kinetika is becoming more and more embedded in the community. We love our fantastic new workspace at High House Production Park, and it’s great to be part of a thriving creative community here. Of course it’s well known that the Royal Opera House’s production facilities are based here, but there’s also the National College for the Creative and Cultural Industries, rehearsal spaces and artists’ studios, and there’s talk of a new film production centre nearby. Thurrock is fast becoming a creative powerhouse!
Kinetika is committed to becoming truly part of the community in which it is based. For artistic director Ali Pretty, this is a fundamental part of the ethos of the company: ‘When I founded Kinetika 18 years ago, I was determined that the work we did should make a positive impact on the communities in which we worked and leave a lasting legacy behind. I’m proud of the work we did in East London, where we used to be based, creating events, training and opportunities for local people. Now that we’re in Thurrock, I am just as determined that we should offer training, employment and creative opportunities for local people – it’s a core part of our business model.’
Lesley Robinson and Margaret Hall are two Thurrock residents who have become part of the Kinetika team. Retired teachers Margaret, from Stanford-Le-Hope, and Lesley, from South Ockendon, got to know Kinetika when they volunteered to help paint Ali’s spectacular silk installation for the Royal Opera House’s Floral Hall last year. They enjoyed the experience so much that both got involved in Thurrock 100, helping to design and paint the ten Thurrock 100 flags with other local people.
Kinetika was pleased to be able to contract the pair to work with other professional artists to fulfil its next project, a commercial design project for the United Arab Emirates’ part in the Milan Expo, which led in turn to a visit to Gondar, in Ethiopia, last month.
Kinetika had been invited to visit Gondar, Ethiopia, by the educational charity Link Ethiopia, which has worked in the country for the past twenty years, and wanted to diversify its work and offer high quality creative activities to more than 1,000 children in 10 schools. Margaret was keen to take part as soon as she heard about the project: ‘When I heard about the idea, I said to myself “I quite like the sound of that!” I had an aunt who was out there in the late 1960s, training nurses in Addis Ababa, and she had told us a little bit about it. I thought it’d be interesting to see what she saw.’
Lesley also jumped at the chance: ‘When Ali asked me if I’d be interested in going to Ethiopia, the word ‘yes’ just came out of my mouth! I’d been a teacher all my life, and I thought it would be interesting to visit a country I’d never been to, and also do something creative with the children.’
Both found the experience interesting, if challenging: ‘I loved it. The children were absolutely great.’ says Lesley ‘Of course children are children the world over; they were happy, and they wanted to do things and chat like children anywhere. But when you looked around and saw the surroundings they were in, it makes you think about everything we take for granted. I got the impression that art isn’t big on the agenda in their schools, but given the freedom to just draw, and to get their hands on a bit of colour, the children loved it.’
Margaret agrees. ‘We didn’t know what to expect, and of course we didn’t speak the language, but somehow we managed to communicate with the children through sign language and the drawings themselves. I found the children’s drawings quite interesting, and the final event, when all the schools walked into the town with their flags, was really fantastic. Everyone was proud of what they’d made, and the whole town seemed to be interested. I even saw a policeman taking photos!’
Now that Margaret and Lesley are back home in Thurrock, they have had chance to think a bit more about their involvement with Kinetika. ‘I’ve always enjoyed creative activities, but I didn’t have too much time for them when I was teaching,’ says Margaret. ‘I’ve learnt how to use batik and thoroughly enjoyed getting to know other like-minded people at the Kinetika studio and with the Kite Spirit textile group. It’s great to feel you’re learning new skills at the same time as giving back to the community.’