Bridging the growing distance between communities during Brexit uncertainty

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The Campaign for Empathy, the world’s first community-centred campaign for empathy, is set in the London borough of Newham and is led by me as a part of my summer residency at Bow Arts’ RAW Labs, a community hub championing arts, culture and creativity.

During a time of the growing global empathy deficit, and the uncertainty and upheaval due to the UK’s planned withdrawal from the EU, the campaign will make a case for empathy to be harnessed as a powerful tool for social change across communities. Empathy is proven to increase collaboration among people with different values and backgrounds, as well as encourage cooperative and social behaviour among strangers to create more positive interactions and build more connected communities.

The Campaign for Empathy will challenge local Newham residents to consider each others’ perspectives to build empathy, using community hub RAW Labs – part of the new Thameside development Royal Albert Wharf, run by Bow Arts and Notting Hill Genesis – as its campaign headquarters. As part of the campaign I will explore the evolving power structures and hierarchies in Newham, one of London’s youngest and most multicultural boroughs, through a programme of public events including workshops, consultations, debates and exhibitions over a 5-month-long period.

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Working closely with elected members of the local council, activists, and members of the community in Newham, the Campaign for Empathy will adopt the the familiar language of political campaigns, reimagining it in a local, non-political and non-party-affiliated context to engage decision makers and the local community through empathy.

By asking ”Where does empathy exist and where is it needed?”, “Who do we and don’t we empathise with?” and “How could the unoccupied negative space between us be transformed into a positive space of empathy, emotion and connection?”, the campaign will investigate where empathy exists and where the gaps are to uncover and understand what lives in the growing distance between the power (the local politicians) and the people (the local community).

By harnessing empathy to challenge the residents of Newham to consider each other’s perspectives, I aim to start new conversations and create opportunities for unexpected connections to begin bridging the distance between the diverse community in Newham, and then in turn across the UK and the rest of the world more widely.

The Campaign for Empathy will run from March until August 2019 as part of my 5-month-long artist’s residency at RAW Labs, a community hub championing arts, culture and creativity run by Bow Arts and Notting Hill Genesis in Royal Albert Wharf.