Based in East London, the arts practice Create exists to explore how artists can contribute to the lives of people in cities.

East London is home to more artists and arts organisations than anywhere in Europe. It is also one of the most deprived parts of the UK. Create aims to help artists connect more closely with communities through an ambitious programme. Without a permanent exhibition space, Create are free to commission art anywhere, preferring to work in ordinary places that people encounter every day.

'Getting out of galleries and into spaces where people live their lives is fundamental to our work,' says Create director Hadrian Garrard. 'Many communities are just not connecting with the art world ... If you get out there and spend time (sometimes years) as part of a community you can start sharing ideas and approaches that change people’s lives.'

In the last seven years, Create has delivered a variety of projects, from helping to build a cinema under a motorway, and setting up a new drinks-making company run by local people, to opening a not-for-profit healthy chicken shop, and commissioning over 100 artists to deliver their own ambitious projects.

Alongside these projects, the organisation runs an initiative called Create Jobs, which provides mentoring, support and paid employment opportunities for local young people.

The Idol

In 2015 Create commissioned artist Marvin Gaye Chetwynd to design a permanent indoor soft play centre in Barking, East London. Commissioning a Turner Prize nominated artist famed for her extreme absurdist performance pieces to build a children’s play area in an inner-city, council-run leisure centre may seem like an unusual decision, but this ambitious work perfectly encapsulates Create's mission to bring challenging artworks into the public sphere.

Instead of the typical primary colours one might find in soft play centres, Chetwynd’s creation is covered only in black and white, the walls decorated in fantastical images borrowed from sources ranging from Greek mythology to sci-fi cyborgs. At its centre stands The Idol, a two-storey climbing frame in the shape of a cyborg which allows children to climb up and look out of its two giant eyes.

In the short film below, Chetwynd explains her ideas to a group of inquisitive primary school children, and they test the artwork out for themselves.

Marvin Gaye Chetwynd's The Idol ©

Emil Charlaff

Marvin Gaye Chetwynd in The Idol ©

Emil Charlaff

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, visit to the White House in Dagenham, October 2016 ©

Andrew Baker

The White House

During the summer of 2016 Create opened The White House, a public space for artistic and cultural exchange and activity. Located on The Becontree Estate in Dagenham, The White House serves as a site for numerous workshops, exhibitions and performances. Create currently run an artist residency programme on the premises, which has so far hosted artists Chad McCail and Patrick Goddard, with two further artists arriving in January 2017.

A project for everyone

Abbey Leisure Centre estimates that over 700,000 young families and children will experience Marvin Gaye Chetwynd’s play centre in the next ten years, and The White House is growing to support all kinds of cultural and social activity in the local area. With exposure and increased funding, these projects may provide the impetus for a wider, grassroots artistic engagement.

External links