Meet the Neighbours – by Hamish MacPherson

Since November I’ve been working at Chisenhale Dance Space as a Trainee Producer, carrying out research to help us relate our experimental dance and performance work to diverse audiences in Tower Hamlets.

As well as looking at audience segmentation and census data we also spent several months calling up and meeting with lots of local community and cultural organisations exploring possible shared interests and possibilities for collaboration.

Lots of people I spoke too hadn’t heard of us before (and I hadn’t heard of them either) but many were aware of us and several had a personal relationship and had brought their kids to classes in the past. Where there was an interest in working with us there appeared to be a range of overlapping possible relationships. Perhaps inspired by the audience segmentation I came up with this very rough typology:


These categories are slightly speculative and don’t reflect organisations actual ability to partner. It felt very clear very quickly that as much as you might have an ideal group that you’d like to work with, partnerships need to grow organically on a case-by-case basis. Relationships can be very specific for example MIND Tower Hamlets were interested in exploring whether some of their users might be interested in volunteering at Chisenhale.

To give you a flavour of things happening in Bow and Tower Hamlets, here are just some of the organisations that we contacted, spoke to or met.


The Geezers is group of older East End activists “trying to keep our disappearing cockney heritage alive” although we didn’t get to meet them unfortunately.


© Petr Kasparek

Stour Space is a socially minded organisation offering exhibition, performance and studio space for the development of creative enterprises. Stour Sessions are a mini-festival once every two months “celebrating the very best in music, arts, film, photography, visual arts & everything in-between”. They also have a cafe and a small art shop, both worth visiting.


© Copyright John Salmon and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

St Barnabas Church (The one on the corner of Grove and Roman Roads) has accessible space for workshops and classes (there was a theatre rehearsal going on when I dropped in for a cup of tea). Father Brian Ralph used to run concerts on the green opposite and interested in reinstating as well as activities for carers and young people with disabilities.


© Herry Lawford

Stitches in Time is an exciting participatory arts organisation based at Limehouse Town Hall. They design and deliver education and community development arts programmes, public commissions and training courses in visual and textile arts. Although they are working with a different art form and on a slightly bigger scale, their ethos and work resonates with CDS’s.

Black Women’s Health & Family Support is a charity that helps disadvantaged women, children and families in the UK and around the world from Somali and other vulnerable communities. Their work includes a lunch club, language (English and mother tongue) lessons, health awareness workshops and massage/ reflexology. These last two examples remind me how somatic and physical practices (things that we obviously have an interest in) play an important part in community and social organisations.

My next and final post looks at a couple of surveys we conducted – of our members and users.