Brixton windmill is the only inner city windmill remaining in London town. And now it’s getting a well-deserved celebration of its history, as well as the community behind it. Something special is happening in Windmill Gardens – the park just off Blenheim Gardens.
As it is, Brixton already has a strong tradition of eye-catching street art. Of the murals so far in Brixton, all of them enjoyed public support in their creation. Similarly this year, the outpouring of encouragement, ideas and sheer enthusiasm from locals has overwhelmed Camila. “It’s been incredible how positively local people have responded”, she explains.
Hailing from Bogotá, Colombia, Camila is a graphic designer currently studying at Central Saint Martins. She’s been working closely with Stephen Lawlor, Windmill Development and Education Officer with Lambeth council, since September 2012 in carrying out this project. Purely by coincidence, both are glad to be locals of Brixton.
Originally she approached Stephen with the idea of “creating a sense of place”, he outlines. This matched nicely with some indoor interpretation boards he had been working on at the time, to help people gain an understanding of the history of the windmill. The idea of creating a mural to improve the playground area of the park then grew out of this meeting of minds.
The whole project has blossomed since then, into what Camila affectionately refers to as “this huge, monster (in a good way) undertaking”. Over two hundred and forty people have been involved to date, including school groups from Sudbourne, Holy Trinity, Jubilee and Orchard Primary schools, as well as youngsters from Holmewood Nursery. Local adults have also contributed, including participants from Windmill Lodge Care Home.
In particular, educational sessions with schoolchildren have been extensive in teaching kids both about the Ashby family, who ran the windmill, as well as about the customs and trends of Victorian England. So kids not only engaged in artistic activities, such as family tree creation, but also took away some historical learning as well. As if that wasn’t enough, still to come are contributions from the Brixton Scouts Group, staff volunteers from Lambeth council, five residents of Brixton Prison, as well as two groups of students from Central Saint Martins.
But the biggest star participant of all is you! During the whole of April, everyone is requested to go along and help paint the mural. Saturdays and Sundays throughout that month are when it’s especially hoped everyone will go along and roll up their sleeves. What better way to leave your own mark on the Brixton we all love, than to try your hand with a brush, in person?
In keeping with other murals in and around the town centre of Brixton, local residents have been consulted heavily on their opinions about what it should depict. Camila has been assembling these local histories, memories and anecdotes, as well as the artwork produced in workshops with children, as she goes along.
The community has been instrumental in driving the ideas and process forward. Camila enthuses about how all the locals she’s worked with: they “were bursting with visual ideas for such a piece, but didn’t really have the chance to realise or express them – this mural has been a great outlet for them.” She sees her role as being “a facilitator, in helping communicate the pride residents feel” about this space.
Just as important as the public response to the mural, has been the tireless work of the group Friends of Windmill Gardens, in fully restoring the windmill. Both a local residents’ group and registered charity, they’ve been active in campaigning for the protection and enhancement of the landmark since 2003.
With the grand opening set for the 6th of May, hopefully enough people will play their hands on part in the creation of Brixton’s newest mural. Find out more about the project here: http://handsonwindmillgardens.tumblr.com/ And, if you’re interested in finding out more about Brixton’s murals, the London Mural Preservation Society have extensive information about existing murals in SW2/9, as well as all over town.