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social archive one

Labour Relations: learning about the mill workers’ struggles

Inivator Tara Brown discovers the plight of the mill workers in Mumbai

I was kindly invited to the Labour relations discussion and workshop – this was led by Iniva’s curator Grant Watson and Neera Adarkar, an amazing woman who has been involved in the urban struggles of the mill workers in Mumbai.

I rushed in 15 minutes late, to watch a film on YouTube about the decline of the mills in Mumbai and the anxieties the workers had, including their living space, and the financial future for their children.

When the film had ended, the lights came back on and everyone could introduce themselves. The majority of people were involved in textiles and industry in some way, as artists, practitioners or working within charities that involved crafts, and people (like me) generally interested about the exhibition and issues it highlighted. There were also people who had come from industrial towns where mining used to be the local economy. The workshop was more like a discussion, salon-style presentation as Neera talked about the history of the struggles, highlighting the essential conflict between declining industries, civil rights and urban planning.

Showing a map of the mill lands in Mumbai, and how the classes organised themselves, Neera told us about how globalisation moved the mills away from Mumbai to other parts of the world and the resulting land grab where there was an alliance of civil rights activists, feminists, environmental rights groups and mill workers against the mill owners. The empty factories gave rise to a creative middle class who used them as galleries and creative spaces, before the factories were sold off as the land in Mumbai became more prosperous.

I couldn’t help but see some parallels to Shoreditch, where there are so many galleries and creative projects in a factory/industrial setting, along with waves of middle class people and rising prices pushing old industries out of the city. I had discovered with many others during the Social Archive project with Shiraz Bayjoo, where we talked to new and old businesses in the area.

Further parallels were also found when talking about towns in Britain such as within Lancashire and Paisley, where the towns had suffered following the decline of the mills. Young people in Mumbai, Lancashire and Paisley were all leaving the towns they grew up in, towns that resembled each other, with the universal towers and shapes of the factory – these places in France, India and Britain all resembled each other in images in the slide-show; the group were surprised and intrigued by that. It clearly presented that the themes of urban change and poverty were universal and through uniting on issues like these, it’s far easier to understand people along these lines.

It brings to mind the last lines of the song played in the youtube video: “Oh brother, for how long will you watch?”

For now, it’s the last week of the Social Fabric exhibition, so have a look and let me know in the comments if you see what I see…

Social Archive One – Interview with Shiraz Bayjoo

Conversation with Shiraz Bayjoo by Inivator Tara Brown

Last week, I managed to meet with Shiraz Bayjoo to have a conversation about Social Archive One: An Economic Forecast (Shoreditch) and about his practice. The project has been two months in the making, and asks questions about economics, migration, class and society.

Shiraz has also been working with Providence Row for the last ten years, where the first Social Archive was created, collaborating with the homeless community in the area. I started the conversation just asking Shiraz what the social archive was about:

“The main purpose of creating the social archive of Shoreditch is to explore the area – its economic context and the impact of the current economic environment. Social Archive One asks local businesses about the nature of what they do, and their reasons for migrating to the area… all adding up to the social, geographical and physical makeup of the area. It’s not just about people but also about place, the issues of identity and the fracturing of identity, congregating in new places and making new alliances.

It’s an ambitious project in the timeframe allowed with a huge amount of work, researching the area and creating the archive. Because of its scope help is needed from the ‘citizen archiver’, bringing in the voices of people who may or may not know the area. The outcome hopefully is that people realise there’s a strong local community beneath the surface.”

When I asked what he thought about Shoreditch, Shiraz mentioned that side streets were becoming populated because of rising rental prices on the high street, and older businesses such as Syd’s coffee stall (on Calvert Avenue) were experiencing vandalism and are being slowly squeezed out.  Shiraz has also found lots of small lifestyle businesses, all different, some with a lot of image involved but a lot of honesty too.

“Although central London won’t become completely elitist, this social archive would be essential for plotting a pattern from the people who live and work there and where they’re from. The social archive will be online as well. It’s good to have them online – archives are only useful in this context if they are used or analysed by others. You don’t have to be an expert – it’s a very plural and democratic way of keeping an snap shot  of the present. I would like to see others expand and add to them.”

“The Social Archive has become part of my practice, growing into a much bigger scale, but anyone can do it. It is important when non artists do these projects it is a human transaction, a physical act of doing.”

Social Archive One with Shoreditch is not his first collaborative project and when I asked what draws him to this kind of work Shiraz says that his work explores issues of migration, identity, society in a visual way, and it’s important to work directly with people to gather a depth of understanding.

Watch the films here

Art & Economies: Social Archive One

What’s happening in our local community? We found out in Social Archive One

As part of our Art & Economies project, we wanted to focus on our local community. Invia is located in London’s East End in Shoreditch, an area that has seen immigrant groups moving to the area historically. Artists moved in for the cheap rents and this evolved to government introduced regeneration and now the area is well on its way to total gentrification. We invited members of the public and artist Shiraz Bayjoo to become social historians to document local histories and sentiments about the changing economies of the local area on film.

We found a group of leather makers who have been in the area since 1972 to a woman whose family have operated a tea stand since 1919.  Will either of these two firmly established business survive the influx of high end shops to the local area? 

Watch: or

Discovering Shoreditch past and present through film

Inivator Tara Brown explores Shoreditch with the Social Archive One filmmaking project

As someone born and raised in North West London, only moving to the ‘far east’ last summer, Shoreditch first appeared to me as if fully grown and always hipster. And so getting an opportunity to take part in creating a social archive – an economic map of this dynamic area – was definitely of interest to me.

I attended the second workshop on the first day with two other women in the group. After a quick introduction we went off on a flash history tour of Shoreditch and learnt about its transformation from a green and pleasant land to industrial overcrowding, destruction by WWII bombing to the trendy playground it’s become today. The tour was great, if only to orientate myself better. I’m so used to going in one straight line via Rivington Place to Hoxton / Dalston when actually Shoreditch is full of allyways, nooks and crannies to explore.

Back at Rivington Place we were introduced to artist Shiraz Bayjoo who gave us a quick lesson in using technical equipment and we were off, looking for businesses to interview and document. In independent hand bag shops, art galleries and places with no names at all, just addresses we met a variety of people and asked them about their business and the economics of Shoreditch.

Economics is a funny word; it seems to demand expertise and academic excellence on the subject, but in reality affects all of us so strongly we’ve got a view on it. This made all of our subjects shy, but with a bit of pressing we managed to get a sample of their struggles and successes. After a nervous start we all had a turn asking questions and had a rapport with everyone we met. We had our own struggles with the equipment as well – I was a bit rubbish on the camera and the battery ran out part way through the last interview. They were all fantastic and I hope we did them justice… They might even come to the screening – that would be absolutely brilliant.

I left leaving the workshop wanting to have a proper wander around the area, resting in Arnold Circus, site of the world’s first social housing structure, watching reliant robins whizz past by artisan bakers and jewellers. I had seen a new side to the town, a new sense of reality and true grit next to the shiny glass mountain range that is the City. I hope it stays that way, but it’s not Shoreditch’s style – I’ll just have to go along with it she decides to do next.


Films created as part of Social Archive One: An Economic Forecdast (Shoreditch) will be exhibited at Rivington Place from 19 – 23 July, as well as online. There is a screening party on the evening of 21 July from 6:30 – 9pm, all welcome.

Tara Brown is one of the Inivators, a group of young creatives who work with Iniva’s Education Curator and professional artists to create exhibitions and events in response to Iniva’s main programme. Find out more about the Inivators programme here.