We’ve been working with unemployed young Londoners to create an elaborate 120 metre long wooden sculpture of the 1666 London skyline. It will be set aflame and burnt down in commemoration of the Great Fire of London this Sunday 4th September.
The landmark event will be the climax of London’s Burning – a month-long free art festival marking the 350th anniversary of the epic blaze – by creative events company Artichoke, known for projects like Lumiere London and the Sultan’s Elephant. The sculpture itself is the vision of ‘Burn Artist’ David Best and has been brought to life by unemployed volunteers aged 16 – 24, with support from Best, Artichoke’s master carpenters and Connection Crew trained mentors.
We’re thrilled to be a part of spectacular project that is not only free for Londoners to enjoy, but has provided young people with valuable training and work experience. Artichoke approached us about the project because as the only social enterprise in the crewing industry our crew has a unique blend of skills – we offer jobs to people who’ve been homeless in the past, many joining us through our Connection Crew Academy. Participants are mentored through the 10 week programme by more experienced members of our crew who have been trained in the art of mentoring people furthest from the job market.
Here’s what four of our wonderful mentors said about the London’s Burning experience:
Tarvo Viro, Elite Crew:
“The project is so big and exciting that it was hard for the volunteers to visualise at the start, but having worked on large scale projects with Connection Crew before I’m used to that. So we came up with ways to help them picture the end goal. We’d take on some of the more boring tasks first and demonstrate the outcome. Then they really got stuck-in. A couple of times, when we were waiting around for a delivery we improvised and built giant board games together. And when we finished one of these tasks they would be really happy, they had a real sense of accomplishment and – ‘I did that!’. I loved it.”
Rafal Przygoda, Senior Crew Chief:
“I really enjoyed helping the young volunteers develop their practical abilities. Some of the young people hadn’t picked up a hammer before. So it was good to be able to teach them how to use a range of tools, but also how to use them safely. Health and safety becomes very real on an event site!”
Sam Ogbourne, Elite Crew:
“The scale of the build is mind-blowing and an amazing experience for anyone to be a part of. A lot of our role centered around communication; listening, giving instruction and guidance, demonstrating tasks. All-in-all I think it was very empowering for the young people, they should all be very proud.”
Ben Proctor, Crew:
“It was a very communal project – we worked together. The volunteers were trusted to do things they hadn’t done before. That was really important. They got to discover hidden talents that they didn’t know they had. And they developed a respect for trades that they previously didn’t know about. In the end I couldn’t take the drill out of their hands!”
If you can’t get to the banks of the Thames on Sunday evening to witness the burning then check out the live stream here instead. Or catch-up on the highlights of the build and the burning on BBC4’s London 1666, Monday 5th September, 8.30pm.