Known for her confrontational, punchy and colourful public artworks designed to draw the eye and break taboos, artist and designer The Fandangoe Kid has this month unveiled a new, large-scale piece as part of the London Design Festival 2020.

The artwork was installed with the help of Wood Street Walls, the organisation that curates and facilitates community art in East London, and is intended to remain in place permanently. Since its formation over five years ago, Wood Street Walls has helped facilitate and curate more than 100 murals in East London, using the power of art and creativity to highlight social issues and causes that affect London and the UK.

This project, as with all of The Fandangoe Kid’s installations, was born of extensive work with the local community and the groups who will now engage with the piece, before the artwork itself was developed.

The work features phrases, such as ‘Brave New Youth’, ‘Time to Shake it Up’ and ‘The Future is Now’, in bold black capitals on a vivid backdrop of red, oranges, pink and yellow. Titled ‘Towards a New Normal’ and nicknamed locally as the ‘Staircase of Dreams’ the work has been created as part of the William Morris Design Line – the new design route linking community-led street art and acts of public creativity in Walthamstow, launched for LDF 2020.

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The Fandangoe Kid’s new installation has been created as part of the William Morris Design Line. Image courtesy of Zetteler.

Covering the steps of Waltham Forest College, the new work is one of The Fandangoe Kid’s most striking pieces yet, boasting vivid colours and a powerful narrative. The concept for Towards a New Normal was decided and its final design developed over a series of Zoom workshops this summer, with the artist collaborating with students of Waltham Forest College on invitation by the London Design Festival team.

‘The students were excellent – so much energy and such bold spirits. They are fearless and graceful in expressing their views on global, local and national politics and the absolute need for change. It was an honour to engage with them and bring their collective feelings about the world and the need for daily activism to light. I’m so excited and relieved that these young people are pushing change forward – their energy and commitment to change is vital.’ – The Fandangoe Kid

Janet Gardner, Principal of Waltham Forest College, has said that she is “delighted that students from Waltham Forest College have been able to take part in this exciting project, working with leading artist The Fandangoe Kid, the production team and key community partners.”

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‘Towards a New Normal’ is a celebration of unity and activism. Image courtesy of Zetteler.

The new mural on the steps of the College acts as a collective call to action to build a better future. Together, the artist and collaborating students have created a work in celebration of unity and the power of activism. The piece serves as a reminder to anyone who enters or exits Waltham Forest College that they are uniquely empowered to help shape the future.

Its location is particularly meaningful to The Fandangoe Kid, also known as Annie Nicholson, who has close family connections to the area and has spent much of her life living in East London. Having lost most of her immediate family in a tragic accident in 2011, The Fanndangoe Kid uses her art to explore universal human experiences that all-too-rarely receive a public platform: grief, mental health and emotional trauma.

To Nicholson, Towards a New Normal is one of the most significant works in her career so far, combining an area with which the artist has a personal association with an opportunity to engage with the urgency of activism and the political volatility of the current moment.

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Work in progress at Waltham Forest College. Image courtesy of Zetteler.

For over a decade, Nicholson has treated community collaboration and working with young people as cornerstones of her artistic practice. These activities are underpinned by the artist’s artistic goals: to make art accessible and meaningful to people who struggle to engage with conventional galleries, and to give a voice to the voiceless.

‘We are all emerging from periods of isolation and the very new experience of lockdown, even though we will all have different experiences of this time, I think we are all bound by a need to connect to others and communicate. This installation is about how we navigate a new normal and how we push forward, despite the persistent uncertainty that the future holds.’ – The Fandangoe Kid

The Fandangoe Kid’s recent projects include a 14-metre pillar designed to commemorate University of the Arts London’s 120th anniversary and a large-scale permanent piece of public art at the Southbank Centre for the charity CALM. Her film Into Your Light, made with Tara Darby, has been screened at Tate Modern and on the Manhattan Bridge, looking at dancing as a tool for survival following great personal loss.

The fundamental message behind Towards a New Normal – you are not alone – is present throughout the artist’s repertoire. In a year which has seen pandemic, protest and a mass downgrading of A-level results, it acts as a much-needed message of support to students and youth in general.

As Nicholson explains, “I can’t remember a time when engaging in politics felt more important. The piece is about gathering young people’s voices, speaking out and pushing change forward. Every young person I have worked with to develop the narrative for this piece has said that there is no longer a place for apathy when it comes to politics, we have to push change forward together now and 2020 has been exemplary of this – things are urgent; we can’t afford to stay silent, any of us.”

These sentiments are echoed in the statement “art made by the people and for the people”, a quote 19th century British textile designer William Morris, which inspired the creation of the William Morris Design Line.

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The new installation is intended to stay in place permanently. Image courtesy of Zetteler.

Article by Toby Buckley.

Towards a New Normal is available to view now at Waltham Forest College, 707 Forest Road, E17 4JB.

All images courtesy of Zetteler.