The In-Tent-City project culminated in a vibrant, thought-provoking show in South Park, Oxford in September 2007. The project was successful in enabling shared participatory experiences, and the coming together of diverse community groups. These groups were able to express their thoughts and views in a dramatic and creative way; each tent made a strong visual statement with commanding physical presence. The project was well-received across Oxfordshire. As a result, the In-Tent City continues to exist as a source of inspiration for new projects, prompting touring exhibitions and the creation of related works.
Artists worked with community groups to transform twelve tents, each based on an individual theme to reflect each organisation. These were decorated internally and externally by community groups and schools. The specially-created tent panels were made using a variety of materials, including textiles, netting, and found objects. They explored themes such as Freedom, Well-Being, Inclusion, Refuge, Tribe, Peace, Shelter, and Friendship. Other tents, made by primary schools from the Headington and Isis Partnerships, took inspiration from the collections in the Pitt Rivers Museum.
The Peace Tent
In-Tent-City project built upon a previous project – the ‘Oxfordshire Peace Tent’ – which was created in March 2004 to celebrate cultural diversity and peaceful co-existence in the wake of the war on Iraq. Ten artists worked with hundreds of participants, representing at least twenty-three countries and diverse religions, to create a richly textured and colourful 3m x 6m tent. This had become a community resource for a variety of events and activities.
The Schools Tent
Artists: Emily Cooling, Jane Carey, Sarah Hulme, Clair Aldington, Helen Jacobs, Helen Duncan, Steve Empson
School children and artists produced three tents. These drew on ideas from an inset day for artists and school staff at Pitt Rivers Museum, which made use of the treasures and objects in their magical collections. This inset day was followed by an after-school session for each school group. Visual artists worked with performing artists to prepare for the In-Tents Festival, which took place at the Oxford Community School in June 2007. The tents formed part of the setting for a series of artistic performances by the children.
The Inclusion Tent
Artists: Emily Cooling as lead artist, and other artists
Oxford-based organisation Parasol produced a huge number of varied, textile-based artwork for this tent through their sessions with disabled and disadvantaged young people. Parasol works with a variety of youth groups to support the inclusion of disabled young people into mainstream play scheme provision. Lead Artist Emily Cooling engaged with families to combine the pieces and complete the interior of the tent.
The Freedom Tent
Artist: Wendy Markham
Artist Wendy Markham created a visual timeline of the history of the slave trade for the inside of this tent. The Freedom Tent commemorated the ending of the slave trade and the struggle for the emancipation of enslaved African people. Wendy created panels through photo transfer and other artistic techniques, drawing from historical archives and other sources. The Freedom Tent was produced in partnership with ACHKI (Afrikan Caribbean Kultural Heritage Initiative).
The Friendship Tent
Fusion Arts worked in partnership with the Oxfordshire Befriending Network, a charity working with volunteers to support families experiencing terminal illness, to create The Friendship Tent. Staff, volunteers, and clients created works for the tent examining issues around life: the celebration of life and preparation for death.
The Refuge Tent
Artists: Madi Archarya-Baskerville, Mohammed Bushara, BKLUWO, Esmee Philips
The Refuge Tent was created in partnership with Refugee Resource. Artists and participants worked around the theme of refuge, painting, sewing, printing, and creating netting interwoven with found and personal items.
Refugee Resource is a voluntary agency which aims to relieve distress, improve well-being, and facilitate the integration of refugees and asylum seekers. It provides practical, social, and psychological support to those in the Oxfordshire area.
The Shelter Tent
Artists: Ed Hart and sound artist
The Shelter Tent was developed in collaboration with Oxford Night Shelter. It acted as an exhibition space for Fusion’s homeless people photography project, which was led by a photographer and a sound artist. Photographer Ed Hart ran sessions with several young homeless people and users of Oxford Night Shelter. Through photography, they captured and explored their daily experiences.
The Tribal Tent
Artists: Karen Godwin and Debbie Scrivener
Blackbird Leys Community Development Initiative is a community charity based in Blackbird Leys. They run Youth Projects for young people aged 9-19, including arts, sports, and multi-media programmes.
This tent explored the theme of roots: those of the individual and of the community. The Tribal Tent celebrated the fifty years of the Blackbird Leys estate. BLAG artists Karen Godwin and Debbie Scrivener led this project, involving young people, family groups, and the elderly from the Blackbird Leys estate.
The Well-Being Tent
Artists: Wendy Markham, Ally Butler, Jen Chamberlain, Di Birch, Lizzie Burns
Wendy Markham and Ally Butler led silk painting workshops with adults in the early stages of dementia. They produced a panel on the theme of nature and landscape for the Well-Being Tent. At the time, Lizzie Burns had started a residency with the Children’s Hospital School. Di Burch and Jen Chamberlain were working with patients from the Nuffield Enablement Centre. The Arts and Health Network supported this project.
The project was funded by Arts Council England.