Horniman Museum and Gardens - Museums Association

Horniman Museum and Gardens

Here, Now is a co-produced exhibition of portraits in the Horniman Museum and Gardens’ main square (open 12 March to 6 June 2016). Resulting from a collaborative project delivered in partnership with Southwark Day Centre for Asylum Seekers (SDCAS), the display offers a valuable and important counter-narrative to that of dominant public discourse, by illustrating individuals’ different experiences of migration to South East London.

Over four months, photographer Nana Varveropoulou worked alongside ten newly arrived migrants in the local area to produce a series of portraits. Throughout the project, individuals took ownership of how they were represented.

Thinking about places that are somehow associated with their lives in London, each individual decided where and how they would be photographed as well as co-writing the text accompanying their portraits. The participants and the Horniman’s Communications team jointly decided on the project title.

The resulting work offers visitors a glimpse into life for new arrivals, their challenges, the ups and downs and the experiences they share with fellow Londoners, creating a space for empathy and understanding.

The Horniman and SDCAS have been working in partnership since 2005 and have been co-producing the Horniman’s annual Crossing Borders event since 2009. This longstanding partnership is currently funded by Arts Council England. Clients at the centre are supported to run activities for the public to benefit their own future plans, to raise awareness and break down potential stereotypes within the local area. Work on this annual event begins nine months in advance, yet its visibility to the Horniman’s general visitors is only for one day each year.

With Here, Now, we wanted to make our partnership more visible, show clients at SDCAS how much we value working with them, give them more ownership of the Horniman and create an outcome that would reach more of our visitors. We also aimed to embed other voices in the museum more fully and pilot new ways of working in light of potential funding for an exciting collaborative Studio Space programme.

Combining the Horniman’s reputation for excellent community engagement and high quality temporary exhibitions in one project has been novel for us, and therefore daunting. Enabling truly collaborative, ethical community engagement in the context of a scheduled exhibition with broad visitor appeal has meant changing internal processes at the Horniman.

Throughout the project we have talked to clients and staff at SDCAS to ensure the project met their expectations. In addition we held open sessions throughout the project for participants and those who did not want to participate to feedback. We hope to invite internal stakeholders and sector peers to a Learning Lab run by Counterpoint Arts to examine the internal processes and relationships involved in collaborative work leading to co-produced exhibitions. We will also collect visitor feedback.

The exhibition opening event drew forty-two clients and staff from SDCAS as well as twenty-two invited guests. The opening included one participant delivering a speech about his experience of the project. Another participant who has recently been moved out of the area travelled two hours across London with two small children to attend the opening event and see her photo and caption on display at the Horniman.

Julia Cort, Community Learning Manager and Domenico Sergi, Community Engagement Officer


Here, Now exhibition

Counterpoint Arts