Space for the People: Croft Fest 2017

In 1896 social reformer, Octavia Hill, wrote that people need green space, ‘hilltops free from buildings’ and ‘purity of air’. The piece was titled simply ‘Space for the People’.

This influential article, along with the protests by Hill and local residents, prevented developers building on Hilly Fields, preserving this beautiful park for future generations. People power was as important then as it is today.

So have things really moved on? We face the same issues as Octavia Hill campaigned for; a lack of affordable housing, the constant threat of developers taking land and those with nothing being deprived of an adequate environment to live in; a place of privacy, peace and safety.

Inside the Caravan
The site specific installation for Croft Fest imagined what ‘space for the people’ means in the 21st century.

The caravan is transformed into a miniature indoor garden, inspired by Chinese Gardens and the dry Zen Gardens of the Japanese. All elements included have a place; the rocks, the gravel symbolising water, the balance between elements imitating not nature itself but its essence. This is a space for thinking, calm and contemplation; for viewing the garden from outside, without the intrusion of others, the media or phones, but where the world is also real and present. The caravan can be seen as a metaphor for the mental space of the mind, or it can be seen literally – a micro space for living yet an environment made positive. Local artist, Kaori Homma‘s fire etchings of Japanese landscapes are displayed within the installation.

Visitors are invited to spend a few minutes on their own, to sit and contemplate who needs space today and why?

Outside the caravan
Outside there are free workshops for children making Origami Lotus Flowers and Carp

The Lotus Flower stands for contemplation
The Carp for strength and perseverance

After the activity, the origami makers can place the flower wherever they like
inside or outside the caravan to make the garden come to life

New ARTSOUP course coming to Telegraph Hill

Beginning Wed 14 June and running for 5 weeks…

Are you at home during the day, freelancing, retired or a student? Why not fill your Wed mornings with coffee, chat and creative inspiration! ARTSOUP offers 5 sessions on different themes that relate to current London exhibitions, no prior knowledge needed.

Come along to 1 or 2 sessions, or book for the whole course, just sign up by the Wednesday before by emailing



Sarah Phillips is a qualified art history and visual culture lecturer with over 10 years experience in higher, adult and community learning and arts education.

For more info about courses contact:


Constructed from the images of 26 objects, Caravan Arts’ first installation draws on a kitsch, pop art aesthetic to evoke a saccharine and retro filtered image of the ‘ideal home’. The caravan – the embodiment of ‘a home from home’ is newly decorated; furnished with images of objects that hold individual significance for participants.  Contributed by their owners in response to the question, ‘what object could you not live without?’, these chosen things are transformed into wallpaper; confronting us with the constant and dominant presence of inanimate objects in our lives and how we classify these in terms of value.  But would we reconsider what we value most if faced with the prospect of displacement? The patchwork of colour and texture draws us to their collective surface, elevating the everyday object and belying the fact that they are rich with individual narratives.

This project explores the multiple layers of the term ‘home’ in a changing world. This first stop imagines a romanticised place;  a cosy picture of nostalgic harmony, where we can have what we want. In reality the domestic space is a contested space, with prescribed roles that are performed and battled for. The notion of home is ingrained in our culture, yet is unstable, exclusive, divisive, and easily exploited for political means as we see all too often in current times.

Visitors are invited to immerse themselves in this room of home comforts and take a moment to think – what things would you keep close if you had to leave what you know – to reduce your existence to a few salvaged items? The idea is to encourage empathy for those people who, like us – have lives, memories and precious things; but unlike us – have had to leave these behind to flee for safety.

‘Home Comforts’ is a site-specific photo installation in collaboration with local residents – created for the Telegraph Hill Festival 2017


Contributors were asked…

‘what object would you take with you if you had to leave your home?’

1. Item: Peanut Butter Dog – Bella, 5, Tavistock

Value: Because he’s my bestest friend ever

2. Item: Blanket – Lucie, 28, Tavistock

Value: It makes me feel safe and warm

3. Item: Tomato Ketchup – Toby, 11 , Tavistock

Value: Because it goes with everything

4. Item: Guitar – Martin, 39, Tavistock

Value: Because I can’t take a piano or a keyboard and I need to be able to play

5. Item: Keys – Desrene, age unknown, Lewisham

Value: To get back in

6. Item: Crystal – Angela, Wales

Value: Wherever you hang it, it will give you good luck

7. Item: Teabags – Jonathan, 65, Bath

Value: It’s warm, comforting and reminds me of home

8. Item: Kindle- Alan, 41, Plymouth

Value: When travelling, I always want to read but books are too heavy and I always want to read more than one

9. Item: Iris Murdoch ‘The Red and the Green’ – Maggie, 67, Bath

Value: So I’ve always got something to read when I have to wait for a bus or a train, and she’s a writer that I’ve always meant to read but haven’t

10. Item: Glasses – Elizah, age unknown, Lewisham

Value: I can’t do anything or go anywhere without these

11. Item: Wombat – Tamsin’s husband, age unknown, Telegraph Hill

Value: A characterful soft toy that our adult children brought back for their father from a trip to Australia – very rightly gauging how much pleasure it would give

12. Item: Coffee pot – Gareth, 35, Brockley

Value: I can’t do anything without my morning coffee

13. Item: Engagement ring – Sue, age unknown, Charlton

Value: I couldn’t replace it, and I also can’t take it off
 14. Item: Painting– Tamsin, age unknown, Telegraph Hill

Value: I would save her from a fire because she is so old and has been in the family for so long it would be a huge
shame to let her be destroyed – even though we don’t know exactly who she is.

  1. Item: Photo collage- Sarah, 36, Brockley

Value:  Pictures of my husband and I travelling made for us by my brother – a trip of a lifetime and we got engaged while there too which makes this even more special

  1. Item: ‘Love one Another’ picture, Gaz, 35

Value: A special picture that’s been passed down the generations of my family

  1. Item: Chinese coin, Sarah, 35, Ladywell

Value: My grandma brought a bag of these back from China as a child and I’ve always kept them on my keys or on a necklace for good luck

18. Item: Welsh love spoon, Brynley, 63, Wales

Value: Because they bring good luc

19. Item: Passport – Anna, age unknown, Catford

Value: You always need your ID on you, especially when travelling

20. Item: Small brass elephant stamp from cover of “The Just So Stories” – Tamsin, age unknown, Telegraph Hill

Value: Unique and irreplaceable – something that my fiancé (now my husband) rescued from being thrown away by the publishers as scrap and gave to my mother (now deceased) and moved her almost to tears.  So tied up emotionally with two very important people in my life.

21. Item: Soft toy – anonymous

Value: It’s hand knitted by the Lewisham knitters

22. Item: Measuring jug- Frances, age unknown, Telegraph Hill

Value: This measuring jug was found by my grandma and grandad in their garden in Battersea, I guess in the 1920s or 30s. It moved with them to Suffolk and I inherited it when my grandma died. It sits on my kitchen windowsill and always makes me happy when it catches my eye.

23. Item: Handbag – Doris, age unknown, Lewisham

Value: Because it’s easy to access everything in it and I always keep it by the door ready

24. Item: My Diary – Kelvin, age unknown, Lewisham

Value: It has all my contacts in, I know what you need to go, and I can keep notes of what I do each day

25. Item: Blanket – Elspeth, 3, Telegraph Hill

Value: Elspeth – because I love it. Mum- It was my grandmother’s (her great-grandmother) blanket and she has been attached to it ever since she was born. If we go away, it is the one item the whole family could not do without because she wouldn’t sleep without it!

26. Item: My Teddy – Sylvia, 4, Telegraph Hill

Value: He is my most important object because he is my favourite teddy

Other chosen items not displayed:

Item: Family photographs – Shirley, Catford

Value: All my memories are in there
Item: The rose in my garden – Gillian, Lewisham

Value: It’s been there for so long

Item: Bag of recorders and music – Mervion, Deptford

Value: To cheer myself up wherever I end up

Item: My bed – Sheila, Leigh

Value: Because it’s so comfortable and I wouldn’t want to sleep anywhere else

Item: Cannon Camera – Anna, Catford

Value: Because I take it everywhere

Item: My Bible – Esmie, Catford

Value: It’s very important to me, especially the passage ‘In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight’ (Proverbs 3,5,6)

Item: My wedding album – Tanvir, Brockley

Value: It has all my family in it and special memories of my wedding in Pakistan in 1969

Item: Photos of my husband – Camilla, Crofton Park

Value: Because he died 22 years ago and I’m still devastated.

Item: Victorian mantle clock – Anne, Forest Hill

Value: Four of the same clocks were given to me and my sisters, passed down through the family. 5 years ago mine fell on the floor and cost more to repair than it was worth, so we have to keep it

Home is where the heart is….

Home is where I’ve always been

Home is where I’ve come to

Home is where I’ve left

Home has a gender

Home has a behaviour

Home can be welcoming

Home can invite

Home can exclude

Home can divide

‘Home from Home’ 26, 29 March, 1 April at the Telegraph Hill Festival 2017

Telegraph Hill Festival: Call out for artists, filmmakers and musicians!

CARAVAN ARTS is a mobile arts space and project lab based in a 1969 Ace Globetrotter, Esmerelda.

We’re appearing three times at the Telegraph Hill Festival with project, ‘home from home’ – exploring the concept of ‘home’ through notions of comfort, freedom, displacement and refuge. We are looking for local artists to collaborate with for the following dates…

Sunday 26 March 3.30-5pm. Installation artist or art student looking for experience to help construct a photographic installation.. Would need to be free on a couple of days between 15 and 25 March. Dates to be agreed.

Wednesday 29 March 6.30-8pm. Musicians (2 or 3 ideally – 1 singer, 1 guitarist + violinist/ukelele player) needed to perform acoustic songs in a range of styles. More info will be provided

Saturday 1 April 2-6pm. Filmmakers – do you make short films that explore themes of ‘the road’, migration, displacement, refuge? If so please get in touch. Films can be aimed at audiences of all ages.

As Telegraph Hill Festival is a volunteer run event,  we’re very sorry but can’t offer fees for taking part. However your work will be promoted, it will be good exposure to a diverse audience and refreshments will be provided.

If you’re interested in applying for any of the opportunities above, please send a brief description of your practice and a link to an example of your work to Sarah on by 7 March.

Thank you!

CARAVAN ARTS works with local artists, communities and places to create temporary, site specific and immersive works within and around the 14ft space of the vintage van.

she’s here…


It’s Valentines and I have a new love – she’s small and beautifully curved and her name is Esmerelda, and she’s sitting right outside my house. Esmerelda is a 1969 Ace Globetrotter caravan, she arrived from Tadcaster a week ago in great shape, thanks to the attentions of her previous owner. And so it begins… this project; brewing for two years in my head, scrawled on numerous notebooks and sketchily referred to on several online platforms, now has an actual physical form for a creative vision to be shaped and squeezed into, because at less than 13ft long she is pretty small as arts venues go.

I recently read a collection of essays for a lecture called, ‘Everyday eBay; culture, collecting and desire’ – there’s a lot of fascinating stuff in this book, but one particular sentiment that resonated was the idea that hidden in the quest for a vintage object is the desire to possess a trace of the person who owned the item before, and even a trace of a moment in time. With Esmerelda, her time was long summers of love, the Apollo landings and the other hazy, iconic mythologised events of the late ’60s.  She has absorbed these into her bloodstream, to mix with whatever else is there. Her vintage-ness made me wonder what was original in her interior, and it turns out quite a bit. However, the fact she’s been reworked, added to and improved each time she’s been owned for me actually adds to her authenticity – if we’re taking this to mean the fact she has lived a life, rather than being preserved like a dead object.

And that life comes through the walls. Human relations are intrinsic to the fabric of this space. Kids have more than likely grown up within the confines of this small world, adults have certainly laughed, argued, cooked and drank here, and probably played cards and sung a few songs as well. There will be conflicts, gender wars and inequality in between the cracks too, but this is what makes it all the more human. Numerous artists have tried to evoke human relations in their work, sharing meals with their audience or replicating their own bed in the gallery; as the site of birth, death, sex and dreams, here is an object so laden with psychological meaning and symbolism you can see why. In the caravan we have the actual, not the imagined site of these behaviours and rituals and they will all be there, layers of history and humanity underneath this latest chapter in her story.

The journey from seeing the ad on eBay to her sitting outside my front door has been an interesting one, and already there are stories emerging at every turn. The warm exchange between myself and the previous owner has felt like a genuine connection, as we’ve bonded over being a novice with a caravan and starting a new business (her aromatherapy candles, me an arts venue). Crucially she’s generously imparted so many valuable learnt lessons to help me in this next stage, like handing over the baton. A 10 minute conversation with the man in the Caravan Club revealed a whole new world; I discovered there are caravan owners who call to check in everyday, that when he escapes the office he illustrates sci-fi novels,  and that the CC once insured a band who used a caravan as their studio – I’m hoping I’ll bump into these guys on my travels.

Caravans do funny things to people; we name them, give them a gender and treat them with affection. They are more than objects; we occupy them and they in turn affect our behaviour and our attitudes. They don’t mean the same to everyone and they reveal class structures in every incarnation, from the luxury brands kitted out with all mod cons, to the nose-turning-up at the traveller sites on the edges of cities and towns. They are things brimming with meanings, values and diverse histories, and it’s my task to tease these out through the projects I do; to add to them, give a voice to them, challenge them and celebrate them, and importantly use them to imagine new presents and futures, in collaboration with many others along the way…

First stop is the Telegraph Hill Festival, South East London from 25 March – 9 April.

Occupying three different sites over the course of the festival, CARAVAN ARTS will offer a micro programme of installations, film screenings and live performance; exploring the idea of ‘a home from home’ and the cult of the open road, through the complex and conflicting notions of comfort and freedom, displacement and refuge.

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