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Moira Lascelles

Moira Lascelles is Executive Director & Head of Partnerships of UP Projects, a public art commissioning organisation that brings world class artists out of the gallery to work with communities in public spaces across the UK.

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I always think February is when the new year really starts. January is for laying low, keeping warm and recovering from all those extra pounds – gained and spent – during the festive period. In February, hopefully with the help of crisp blue skies and the prospect of spring around the corner, new energy returns to re-enter London’s cultural scene!

And my first recommendation makes braving the cold winter weather worth it! It is a free exhibition called The Power of Stories at the British Library all about inspirational author and Children’s Laureate (2013-15), Malorie Blackman. Presented as a retrospective, tracking the life and works of Blackman, this insightful exhibition is designed by Power Out of Restriction (POoR Collective) informed through a collaboration with a group of students from Regent High School in Camden. The vibrant colour pallet is taken from the bold graphic covers of Blackmann’s novels and really makes the content come to life. And if the exhibition leaves you wanting to find more, I can also recommend watching this extensive interview with Blackman on BBC iPlayer.

I am always on the lookout for hidden gems in London and I believe my next two recommendations are just that. The first is Peer Gallery. Tucked away behind Hoxton Square in Shoreditch, this Hackney-based gallery presents a rolling programme of free exhibitions whilst also running socially engaged projects and programmes that impact their neighbouring communities. In February they showcase an exhibition by filmmaker and researcher Ed Webb-Ingall, called A Bedroom for Everyone, showing new work based on archival materials drawn from community videos to explore under-represented historical moments and their relationship to contemporary life. Opening from 9 February this exhibition is free to visitors.

And if you haven’t already visited the Foundling Museum, I urge you to make this your mission this month! The Foundling Museum tells the story of London’s first children’s charity and first public art gallery. Alongside a permanent exhibition filled with heart breaking stories of “foundlings” (young children who were abandoned and taken in by the Foundling Hospital in the 18th Century) there is a rolling programme of special exhibitions which, this month presents art from the Ursula Hauser Collection that respond to the themes of motherhood, childhood, love, loss, sexuality and identity. Located in the heart of historic Bloomsbury, this museum is well worth a visit!

Then, I wouldn’t be doing my role as a London Festival of Architecture 2024 Curation Panel member justice if I didn’t mention the LFA open call that is now live! The Festival is a brilliant platform and catalyst to present new ideas you and/or your practice may be working on and that you wish to share more broadly with your peers and the public. Responding to the theme of ‘reimagine’, we hope event organisers see this as a call to question whether current systems are serving us or whether we can reimagine the way we are currently working in order to better serve our city and our society.

If you want to find out more why not listen to me, LFA Founding Director Peter Murray and LFA Head of Programme Eliza Grosvenor talk all things LFA past, present and future in the latest LFA podcast episode.

And finally, a modest plug for a new mural that UP Projects are poised to launch in Edgware titled Stop and Smell the Flowers by artist, Holly Graham. Graham has been working with over 75 young people in Edgware (North London) for some nine months now to engage them in the development of this new artwork for the high street that raises awareness of the climate emergency with a particular focus on the importance of access to clean air, encouraging individuals and communities to take action. The mural is part of a broader programme of artist-led activity that UP Projects curated for Barnet Council that demonstrates the power that art and culture can play in activating the high street. I hope you can make it down to see it!

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