The radical and resilient experiences of family making in Lewisham
In/Visible Labour responds to the radical and resilient experiences of collective family making through a programme of audio-visual works by a diverse range of Lewisham communities and their support networks across the borough.
The project highlights the complex labour of family making and the intersecting experiences of midwives, carers, activists and families by shining a light on the personal histories of Lewisham residents.
The project’s historical focus is the story of Lewisham Hospital’s Maternity Ward. In 2013 the then Conservative government sought to close the ward, alongside the hospital’s A&E department, in an attempt to reduce the hospital’s services and expenditure.
Faced with the possibility of having to travel many miles to another hospital, many Lewisham residents found this unacceptable and a campaign to ‘Save Lewisham Hospital’ was launched in response.
Families, health care professionals and others joined in collective action to protest the planned closure, marching through the streets of London with numbers reaching 25,000 people. The marches were occasionally nicknamed the ‘buggy armies’ due to the high number of prams in the protest.
Eventually, a High Court trial ruled in favour of the campaign and these vital community services were saved.
This collective action resulted in progressive relationships between maternity staff and the local community, relationships that continue to impact ongoing campaigns for improved services and support.
In/Visible Labour asks how this history, alongside those less represented, contributes to the shaping of the borough and its people.
The project engaged local people through a number of creative workshops, film-screenings, food socials and interviews to reflect on a diverse set of stories. Families, support and health networks, and community organisations were included in this process.
At Lewisham People’s Day 2022 the project team asked local people to remember their midwives and the campaign to save the hospital, engaging visitors in participatory art exercises.
The project gathered the memories of a broad range of local residents through in depth oral histories with nurses, maternity staff and families to create a lasting historical record of Lewisham Hospital’s recent history.
Through workshops with artists from local organisation, Arts Network, the group collaboratively contributed to the creation of a 6-meter mural inspired by the history of Lewisham Hospital. Upon completion, the mural is to be installed in the hospital itself.
Another artwork with contributions from the hospital’s maternity staff will also hang in the maternity ward.
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- Anila Ladwa, Project Lead
- Toyin Adeyinka, Maternity Voices Partnership