Past Projects – UK

Photo Credit: Pablo Conejo

United Kingdom

Rise Up – 2016

Rise Up 2016 was a one-week intensive project in which a group of Young Creatives worked with a group of participants, facilitating workshops and sharing ideas.

During this one-week project a group of young people, led by some of Phakama’s Young Creatives, took part in cross-art workshops ranging from drama and movement to vlogging and design. Each of these workshops focused on sharing stories surrounding Journeys – from the mundane to the adventurous.

Whether a journey that someone makes daily, a journey that stood out in someone’s memory or a journey that changed someone’s life, we invited the young people to hope explore their personal journeys and in doing so, challenged the audience think about theirs.

The final outcome of these workshops was a an event held at Rich Mix as part of their Youth Takeover Festival. The performance used different art forms and invited the audience to take an active part throughout the event as they were encouraged to join us and share their stories.

Ten in a Bed – 2016

Video of Ten in a Bed 2015

The Ten in a Bed team were back bringing creative workshops to a diverse group of families, children and teachers from January – March 2016. This time the bed visited  both Mowlem Primary and William Davies schools in Tower Hamlets.

Over six weeks the Phakama artists, along with the participants, explored stories, adventuring to new lands and meeting a variety of different characters along the way.

Throughout the workshops each child was encouraged to tell their own stories. In the final session the children and parents will crawled into a giant bed to watch their stories come to life in a live storytelling, which was accompanied by animated versions of the children’s stories.

Ten in a Bed was run in partnership with Tower Hamlets Public Health.

The Edible Garden: Bitesize – 2016

In 2014 Sanctuary commissioned Phakama to deliver The Edible Garden in three Sanctuary run care homes.

Then, in the Winter of 2015/16 Phakama were again been commissioned to run the project, but this time The Edible Garden ran in eight different care homes, six in the Southwest and two in London. This meant that the project had to run in Bitesize chunks, working in each home over two days, with local schools that the home had been paired with. In intergenerational pairs, participants worked collaboratively, creatively, through story and with music.

This project created an opportunity for the two generations to work together, developing links and relationships within the community through the exploration and sharing of stories and ideas that purely come from collaborating.

If you would like more information about The Edible Garden please contact

Rise Up – 2015

Our young company of emerging artists were selected to perform their new piece at the Rich Mix Youth Takeover Festival that was held in August 2015.

Led by Phakama’s youth board, and supported by our associate artists, Rise Up was a space to make, create and collaborate. Phakama’s young company explored the city, venturing into its hidden depths to reveal personal treasures, asking questions along the way. What if you could make up your own rules? What would you say if you could make your voice heard? What would you do if you could change the way we live in the city?

Phakama believes in the power of individuals’ stories to move, challenge and inform. Using this belief, Rise Up was an opportunity for young artists to express, grow and perform.

The group played with real-life moments. Using their own experiences, or the lives of characters they were interested in, the group created biographical or autobiographical performances, involving the audience by bringing them directly into the action, setting the stage as a London Underground Tube.

Ten in a Bed – 2015

Ten in a Bed is a workshop and performance project, made with and for small children and their families to develop storytelling, creativity and language skills. It engages directly with families to enhance literacy and family learning opportunities.

From January – March 2015 Phakama ran weekly creative sessions with a diverse group of families where both children and carers developed their confidence and communication skills together enabling them to tell stories about their fears, hopes, dreams and adventures.

Their stories were transformed into a performance where, parents and carers crawled into a bed big enough for 10 and were tucked in by their small children to be told a bedtime story and watch their tales unfold.

Phase One of the project was run in partnership with Well London Old Bethnal Green and took place at Zander Court Community Centre.

Three Percent – 2014

The Three Percent project shone a light in the darkest of places.Drawing inspiration from Tunisian artist Nadia Kaabi-Linke’s new exhibition, The Future Rewound & The Cabinet of Souls, Three Percent responded to the themes of the artist’s work: restriction, confinement and freedom. We creatively explored ideologies of capitalism and colonialism and the unseen systems that control our daily lives.

Three Percent was a Phakama and The Mosaic Rooms collaboration for young women aged 16-25 . It took place on Saturdays 1.30-5pm from 18th October – 29th November 2014. The workshops culminated with a sharing of the work on 29th November 2014 at The Mosaic Rooms gallery.

Edible Garden – 2011-2014

In 2011-12, in partnership with the East End Women’s Institute and Mile End Park, Growing Zone and in collaboration with local daughters, mothers and grandmothers, Phakama grew an edible garden with and for the whole community. There were a series of growing, cooking, story-telling and performance events throughout the project.

From March to June 2013 Phakama embarked on another phase of the project and this time worked with students at Newham Sixth Form College, residents at Hawthorn Green Care Home and Stepney City Farm to grow a garden and share stories with one another from their lives to create Recipes for Romance.

Audiences were invited to join us on midsummer’s eve at Hawthorn Green Care Home to taste the food of love and see how love grows in The Edible Garden.

To view a short film of the project please click here

In 2014 (after the success of earlier phases) Phakama was commissioned by Sanctuary to deliver the Edible Garden project in 3 care homes as part of Sanctuary’s Shine! programme –  an initiative which promotes the use of arts in residential care homes to shine a light on the people living in Sanctuary’s care homes by highlighting their talents, not their limitations.

Spotlight – 2013-2014

Watch a video on Spotlight here

Phakama believe in the need for alternative, practical training opportunities for young people seeking careers in the arts. Spotlight was borne out of our desire to equip the next generation of artists and producers with the practical and social skills needed to access the industry with knowledge, confidence and experience.

With support from CCSkills Creative Employment Programme, Phakama have turned the Spotlight model into the paid Creative Producer Internship.

In 2014 Phakama offered 15 young people who are not in employment, education or training and who have been claming benefits, the opportunity to take part in the Spotlight Programme – a combination of extensive training in the behind the scenes of the arts and professional work placements in one of our partner organisations.

Our consortium of partners in 2014 that each hosted one intern included: Rich Mix, Graeae Theatre Company, Magic Me, Iniva, Theatre Centre, Morley College, Newham Archives, Hawthorn Green Care Home, Oval House, East London Dance, Apples and Snakes, Emergency Exit Arts and Campaign for Drawing.

The 2014 programme was a Gold Arts Award accredited course that allowed the interns to produce and maintain their own blogs- documenting and reflecting upon their experiences. The programme culminated in July 14 with a public three day festival- created and produced by the interns.

Spotlight was a project funded by The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, CCSkills


Message in a Bottle – Tributaries – 2013

Message in  Bottle- Tributaries worked with nine young people from the UK over the course of four months training them as Young Archeaologists.
Undergoing sessions with Archaeologist Mike Webber and Archivist Jenni Monroe-Collins at the Newham Library Archives, the young people learned about their local area in more depth and the influence that the Thames and its Tributaries had on the development of its industries over the years.

All activities were conducted in preparation to facilitate workshops at a local primary school, Guardian Angels. Over four sessions and a final sharing at the primary school the Young Archaeologists delivered the project (with mentoring from Phakama’s then Artistic Director, Fabio Santos and archaeologist Mike Webber) with years three and four.

In classroom focused sessions the school children explored maps, census records and barge art, developing a basis of knowledge and understanding of the Regents’ canal and its role as a tributary to the Thames, producing poetry inspired by artifacts found on the rivers shore.

Trashcatchers at Morley – 2013

Phakama teamed up with Morley College to work with an intergenerational group of 20 participants to stage a version of the Trashcatchers Ball.

Through workshops, a creative residency during Morley’s Summer School and the project’s finale – the Trashcatchers Ball – participants and audiences were encouraged to reassess the beauty and use of the things that get thrown away and imagine a world where the lack of resources make this an imperative.

To view pictures of the project please click here

Velela! Pop Up Festival – 2012

Velela! was a two-week creative residency in London for young artists. This Pop-up Festival produced by Phakama marked the organisation’s fifteenth anniversary. It took place from 16-30 June 2012 and involved voices, talents, expertise and contributions from almost 100 young people from around the world.

To catch up on some of the projects, conversations and performances please read the Festival Magazine

Velela! gave the necessary space for young people to explore some of the most pressing challenges of our time.

They experimented, developed skills, collaborated, exchanged ideas, rehearsed and celebrated new ways of living and making art in response to the world.


Tripwires – 2010-2011

Tripwires was a training programme using the arts to create a safe space to explore and express ideas of freedom of expression, self-censorship and offence. Each week there was a different theme – music, satire, acrobatics, banned plays, film, photography. Belarus Free Theatre visited the group as well as Burmese artist Htein Lin, young visitors from

Georgia and Abkhazia and Afghanistan and other Index contributors.

Tripwires used all art forms to process ideas creatively so exploring physically and intellectually what freedom of expression means to young Londoners today. The project created a space for people who express themselves in all sorts of ways to contribute to debate.

The project culminated in an interactive multi-media performance about censorship and freedom of expression where participants asked the question: Where do you draw the line?

From Somewhere to Nowhere – 2010

Phakama and Orpheus joined forces to create a site specific event at the Orpheus Centre (a centre for young disabled artists). Phakama’s and Orpheus’ young artists and facilitators were in residence at the centre for two weeks in August 2010. The two groups brought together shared experiences and stories that became a short exploratory performance about journeys and dreams full of puppetry, music and audience interaction.

Trash catchers Carnival – 2009-2010

Trashcatchers Carnival (Sunday 4 July 2010) was a stunning procession bringing together schools and community groups from across Tooting and featuring mechanical wonders and extraordinary costumes created out of Trash!

Project Phakama UK, Emergency Exit Arts and Transition Town Tooting worked with community groups for over a year exploring our relationship to Earth, creating beauty from rubbish and looking at change in how we live where we live.This was largest event ever see in Tooting and over 1,000 people took part. This project is a Tipping Point Commission and has been supported by Arts Council England, Wandsworth Council, the Big Give/ Reed Foundation.

To see pictures of the Carnival please click here

The Trashcatchers Ball – 2008

The Trashcatchers Ball was devised in collaboration with twenty young participants.

The Trashcatchers Ball created beauty from rubbish through the design, fabrication and animation of sculptures and costumes from discarded materials. Through public workshops and the project’s finale – the Trashcatchers Ball – audiences were encouraged to reassess the beauty and use of the things that get thrown away and imagine a world where the lack of resources make this an imperative.

The Trashcatchers was one of the highlights of the Lift Festival at Stratford 2008.

Eat London – 2007

Project Phakama UK was one of the 13 London groups that took part in Eat London. Eat London presented by Lift in 2007, was an edible installation created by London communities with Ali&Cia – food artist Alicia Rios and architect Barbara Ortiz.Eat London was a performative event that culminated in a feast in Trafalgar Square, April 2007. The city was built, devoured and digested by London’s citizens. Eat London won the Visit London Gold Award for best celebration of cultural diversity. Over three months, Ali&Cia and a team of facilitators – artists, designers and cooks, worked with invited community groups and local organisations to design and build a three dimensional representation of central London out of food. Each group was responsible for one square of the map and, through observation, discussion and experiment; they turned their food into bricks, glass, steel and tarmac.The Phakama team of young artists researched, re-imagined and cooked their part of the city under the guidance of Lift facilitator Julie Aldivina Thérond and Phakama facilitators Elaine Partington and Tabitha Neal. view video clip

Creative Skills for Life – 2005/06

The Creative Skills For Life programme was created to enhance the participants’ inter-personal skills, such as communication and teamwork, using the arts as a tool for social development. It was designed to teach both arts skills and ITC skills, such as Photoshop, Word, the Internet as well as being a social network for young refugees and asylum seekers. The course aimed to encourage the participants to become the arts leaders and facilitators of the future by building up their confidence, motivation and aspiration.The programme culminated in a promenade performance entitled Postcards From Here in April 2006.The ACE and Trinity College Arts Awards accredited the Creative Skills for Life programme.

Strange Familiars – 2003-2004

‘Strange Familiars’ involved young refugees and unaccompanied asylum seekers in an exploration of the strange and the familiar of the city of London. Strange Familiars drew on both traditional ethnic forms and contemporary British art practice. Phakama collaborated with local refugee organisations and the Refugee Council in order to recruit young participants.

The project’s aim was to assist them in building confidence and life skills. This project was developed in response to the increasing numbers of isolated young Asylum seekers in the city. Running weekly workshops over a ten-month period, Phase one culminated in a week-long residency at The National Children’s home in North London and a performance that once again dazzled audiences of Lift’s Family Friendly Season.

Phase two combined forces once more with Lewisham Youth Theatre for a performance at the Horniman Museum called Breaking the Glass Box in February 2004.

Be Yourself – 1999

Ten young Londoners and 20 young South Africans from Guateng, the North West and Northern Provinces and the Western Cape came together to explore London over an intensive three-week period.At the heart of Be Yourself lay the idea of looking at London through the eyes of another. A series of cultural tours provoked a debate about institutions and the imaginary cultural maps people hold in their heads of cities in foreign countries. Through discussions, drawings, soundscapes and choreography, the South Africans examined their preconceptions of London, while the Londoners used the same methods to imagine how their city might appear to a newcomer. The show was one of the highlights of Lift 99 and garnered this response from The Guardian’s Lyn Gardner said this about the piece ‘If I tell you that one of the most moving, exuberant and visually stunning shows to see in London is a youth production devised and performed by a group of South African and London teenagers, you will probably be skeptical. But Be Yourself is really terrific. The production uses the full height of the auditorium and repeatedly takes the show into the audience: you feel as though you have been thrust into the veryheart of the city, into its smells, sounds and sights. It is an exhilarating and truly brilliant achievement.’

If I were in your shoes – 1997

20 Young South Africans came to London to work with 20 Young Londoners from Lewisham Youth Theatre in a 3-week ‘experience and skills’ workshop. This resulted in a  dynamic show at The Albany Theatre in Deptford. It was one of the undisputed highlights of LIFT ’97.