22 April 2021

A joint project between the University of East London (UEL), the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) and artists from the traditional brickworks company Brickfield aims to encourage local people to explore their relationship to community and home by investigating the earth beneath their feet.

Based on the historic brickfields of Newham, the project offers residents an opportunity to work with a recreation of a Newham brickworks kiln by learning how to make a brick on site in the Royal Docks.

The Brickfield Newham project forms part of Newham Heritage Month in May which this year has the theme of Newham's urban heritage. The project was conceived by Dr Lynne McCarthy (UEL), Dr Georgia Haseldine (V&A) and Rosanna Martin (Brickworks).

The week-long residency of brick-making and performance workshops will take place at the end of the month, with drama students from the School of Arts and Creative Industries documenting conversations with residents and transforming them into performance.

Rooted in Newham's history of industrialisation and habitation, the project provides a hearth to share experiences of living in Newham and to listen to each person's vision of its future.

The exciting project will explore ideas of the urban infrastructure, drawing a link between notions of home, community and the humble brick.

"We're excited to be working on this project with our partners from the V&A, bringing together the University, which has century-long links to the East London community, and historians from a world-class museum with an interest in local heritage,"

 Dr Lynne McCarthy, senior lecturer in UEL Performing, said.

The project will take place on the Royal Docks and the centrepiece will be a brick-firing kiln built with and by community groups from Newham, working closely with Brickfield, a community brick-making company from St Austell, Cornwall.

Brickfield was set up by ceramicist Rosanna Martin and Cornwall's last brickmaker, John Osborne. This will be the first time Brickfield will set up in a new area, gathering local materials and clay from which participants will make and fire bricks.

Earlier in the month, a brick-a-thon will see residents of the borough and UEL students produce 500 bricks to be fired in a kiln. The bricks produced by participants will be fired on Friday and Saturday 29-30 May signalling the start of performances by MA students on the research underpinning this project.


About Newham Heritage Month

Newham Heritage Month will return in May predominantly online, with free events and activities every week. Funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the dynamic offering has been entirely created by local artists, heritage and community groups.

This year's festival takes the theme of "Shops, Docks and Factories - Newham's urban heritage" embracing the rich history of industry, innovation and creativity in Newham. 

The festivities will explore the businesses, places and people that make Newham an exciting, friendly and welcoming place to live, with artist-led heritage projects on topics ranging from ground-breaking underground record stores to history-making factory-workers.

There will be a special visit from Thames Barges in the Royal Docks as well as voices from factories still the backbone of Newham's community.

The projects, who have all received grant funding for Newham Heritage Month 2021 are:

  • Crate Digging: The influence of De Underground Records
  • Newham's Wonderful Working Women
  • Stories of Africans Living in Newham
  • Counter Culture: Celebrating Newham's corner shops
  • Drawing Woodgrange Road, Past and Present
  • Heritage Heroes of Newham
  • J D McDougall: Newham's Best Kept Secret
  • Roots of the Curry House
  • Darning Newham
  • Connecting the Past to the Present - A Photographic Journey
  • Creative Shopping around Newham Markets
  • Voice of the Dragon: Sharing our Heritage
  • Madge Gill - East London Textiles 
  • Shops, Docks and Factories - A Musical Celebration
  • Rosetta Creative Workshops

New for 2021, Newham Council has invited projects to share their research, including photos, films and letters, recordings and memories, with Newham's Archives and Local Studies Library, as part of the borough's ambition to ensure the archive is a living, representative repository for our public history.

The full Newham Heritage Month 2021 programme will go live on on 1 May 2021.

Related topics