Duration: 26 mins 22 seconds

In moments of change and transition what supports and keeps us afloat?

Taking the raft as a symbol of support, escape and journey, Rory Pilgrim’s Radio Ballads’ commission engages with a number of different social services and community groups across Barking and Dagenham. The project invites people to consider changes in technology, the environment and now the global pandemic, exploring what a ‘raft’ is for them especially in times of change and uncertainty. 

Reflecting together on experiences of mental health, work, housing and journeys different stories are developed through weekly workshops with Green Shoes Arts twinned with a project in Idaho, USA, called Project Well Being, which takes place at an Interfaith Homeless Shelter. As the project grows, further relationships will be developed with Barking Dagenham Youth Dance, LBBD Temporary Housing and Hostel Services and social workers across the borough.

RAFTS will culminate in a live performance and recorded work for 2021. For now, listen to Episode 1 of RAFTS Radio Ballad.

Radio Ballads Commissions 

To mark the anniversary of the 1970 Equal Pay Act and the momentum for change created by the Dagenham Ford sewing machinists strike of 1968, Serpentine Galleries and the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Social Care Services are partnering to develop a series of collaborative artist residencies and commissions that will examine the future and histories of work, called Radio Ballads.

The original Radio Ballads were produced by musicians Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, working with radio producer Charlie Parker to make a series for the BBC, focussing on workers’ experiences and issues. The original series of eight one-hour Radio Ballads revolutionised radio documentary and were broadcast by the BBC from 1957–64. A combination of song, music, sound effect and recorded voice, each Radio Ballad presented a view on the working lives of British people.

About the Artist: Rory Pilgrim 

Rory Pilgrim (Bristol, 1988) works in a wide range of media including songwriting, composing music, film, music video, text, drawing and live performances. Centred on emancipatory concerns, Pilgrim aims to challenge the nature of how we come together, speak, listen and strive for social change through sharing and voicing personal experience. Strongly influenced by the origins of activist, feminist and socially engaged art, Pilgrim works with others through a different methods of dialogue, collaboration and workshops. In an age of increasing technological interaction, Rory’s work creates connections between activism, spirituality, music and how we form community locally and globally from both beyond and behind our screens. Solo Shows include: Between Bridges, Berlin (2019) Andriesse-Eyck Gallery, Amsterdam NL (2018), South London Gallery (2018), Rowing, London (2017), Plymouth Art Centre, Plymouth (2017), Flat Time House, London (2016), Site Gallery, Sheffield (2016) and sic! Raum für Kunst, Luzern CH (2014). In 2019, Pilgrim was the winner of the Prix de Rome.

The RAFTS programme is commissioned by Serpentine Galleries in partnership with New Town Culture. Funded by Mayor of London as part of London Borough of Culture.

Image used, Rafts development sketchbook drawing, 2019, courtesy of Rory Pilgrim. Festival artwork courtesy of The Public Art Company.