Joanna Brinton is a Bussey Building resident whose art and community projects have included working with Great Ormond Street Hospital and South London Gallery.

Drawing from her background in Sociology, Joanna’s work focuses on engaging with local communities. A recent commission from Southwark Council saw her leading the design of a new play space in a Peckham park based entirely on conversations with the local children who would be using the space. The Parakeet Pavilion, both playful and political, came from a 2016 survey revealing primary school children were too scared to play in their local park. We speak to Joanna about how she brings these innovative and joyful projects to life.

How long have you had a studio in Bussey Building?

I’ve been in the Bussey Building for almost two years, before that I had a studio that flooded each time it rained so it’s lovely to be somewhere warm and dry! The studio is a place I can work on projects. It also houses my Risograph printer  [a stencil duplicator; a cross between screen printing and photocopying] which I use for community and artist projects, publications, Riso workshops and training as Good Studio Press.

Do you have a specific aim in mind when you’re making work?

Sometimes I make work as a way of thinking through an idea, but often my projects are led by the people and places involved. My current text piece on the windows of Great Ormond Street Hospital combines excerpts of conversations I had with the hospital staff and my interest in the Greek myth of Rod of Asclepius; which is associated with medicine and health care.

Your work is sociable and aims to engage with people. Has this always been the case?

I studied sociology before beginning to practise as an artist and my work is people centred; it often invites people to consider the spaces and objects they use in a different way. Banner, for instance, is a large coloured vinyl sheet which has travelled to South London Gallery, Battersea Arts Centre and Peninsula Arts in Plymouth. At each site I work with local people to cut a circular opening in the banner and then choose a place to install it. So far it has hung over a gallery entrance, in the woods, on a BMX track and horizontally in a theatre courtyard. Visitors choose how they interact with it, using it as an entrance-way, a hammock, an obstacle or performance screen.

Tell us about your Parakeet Pavilion in Peckham

The Parakeet Pavilion is a brightly coloured, open-sided shelter, meeting and play space in Central Venture Park, Peckham, which was commissioned by Southwark Council and Friends of Kelly Avenue. The Friends are a community organisation that were set up in 2016 after children from local primary schools revealed they were too scared to play in their local park.

As part of my commission I set up a studio in the park building to open up a conversation about access and belonging in public space. The design for the Parakeet Pavilion, came out of a conversation with local children about what wildlife visits the park and in particular the noisy and colourful rose-ringed parakeets that brighten the environment. We chose to use the parakeet as a playful and political symbol of welcome to outsiders as the parakeet is a non native species whose presence in London parks have caused much debate.

What is the London Creative Network/ Space award?

The London Creative Network is a development programme for artists and creative practitioners in London and I was lucky enough to be selected for the 2019 programme. It’s funded by the European Union, so I think there is just one more cohort before it loses this funding, but it’s an amazing programme with technical and art market mentors who support and examine your way of working.

Through it I was introduced to curators and other artists. In fact, I am going to be opening up my studio for Art Licks Weekend in October to show a Riso project developed with Alison Gill, one of the artists I met through LCN. We will be open throughout the weekend with a publication launch on the Sunday afternoon so do come and say hello.

Will you be getting involved with Peckham Festival this September?

I’m currently working on a wall painting for Central Venture Park; working with local residents and BA Illustration students from Camberwell, we will be having a celebration event during Peckham Festival but details are still to be announced.

This summer Joanna will be working on a series of workshops for Pumphouse Gallery, taking a sensory and explorative approach to the green spaces around Battersea Park and the area’s past as a lavender farm. There will be an accompanying publication available to download on the gallery’s website.

Find out more about Joanna on her website: