Table of Contents
Lenthall Road Workshop was first established as a community silkscreen and photography workshop in 1975, at 81 Lenthall Road, Hackney, London. For three years prior to that, the workshop had been run by one person as a screen-printing service mainly for Centerprise (a community publishing centre and cafe on Kinsgland Road, Dalston). However due to Centerprise's own financial problems it decided to close the printshop. Three women offered to continue running it as a collective, this time with the aim of working directly with a range of local community, campaigning and emerging feminist groups. Centerprise helped with rent and service bills for the first few months while the collective sought funding to support the workshop. According to one of the workers, in the 1980 video “Somewhere in Hackney”, they began with the idea of setting up a printshop that the local community would take charge of, however they found that mostly people just wanted to come and print their posters. Their aim was not just to support these groups but to 'demystify' the creative and production process to people, especially women, who were normally excluded from this kind of knowledge. This process was potentially empowering: 'Once you start seeing yourself as someone who can do things, then you are in a position to take control of your life' (again from the film “Somewhere in Hackney” - see below)
Lenthall Road worked with many different groups and had a weekly girls night for a number of years, where young women would do photography and printing or just hang out. They were also involved in local events just as the Stoke Newington festival, where they would do T shirt printing with kids.In addition to working with a wide range of community groups and running classes, they also produced a number of their own posters (for example the Rolling Sisters and Zami posters below) which would be distributed via places like Sisterwrite, the feminist bookshop in Islington or Oxford House in Bethnal Green.
Still going in 1986 after several years of receiving grants from various bodies (Arts Council, greater London Arts and Hackney Council),the aims remained similar, although with more of a focus on black and working class women, as the below quotes from a statement in Printing is Easy, make clear: 'Our work is aimed at opening up the skills and technology of communication which is otherwise restricted to a narrow social section able to specialise, qualify and afford the privilege. we prioritise work with women, working class and minority groups for whom communication has a special relevance. Being female or a member of any of the minority groups has traditionally meant exclusion from whole areas of public life, becoming 'invisible' or being represented (or misrepresented) as seen from a 'mainstream' point of view.'
'We see opportunities for women, working class people, and minority groups to control for ourselves the way in which we are publicly seen and the way we interpret our experience, as constructive and relevant to the whole community. It is crucial for us to encourage use of the workshop by those who have needs consonant with those of the workshop i.e. people wishing to produce strong and positive images of women. minority groups etc, which challenge and don't reinforce damaging stereotypes.'
'We describe ourselves as a collective. meaning that out organisational and policy decisions are arrived at by group discussions and consensus. We have no official hierarchy, but unofficial hierarchies are hard to eliminate. To cope with this we have an entirely female collective (at a stroke avoiding male/female dominance struggles) Again graduations of social class can sometimes produce delusions of 'natural leadership' and this has to some extent been ironed out by having a group the majority of whom are 'working' as opposed to 'ruling' class. Our work is very practically based and all our tasks are shared depending upon who is available when a particular piece of work is started, which avoids factions based around conflicts of interest. Finally all of us are black or of mixed race and this is a very unifying factor in the context of a predominantly white society. It is an unusually supportive working situation.' (from Kenna et al. 1986)
Lenthall Road received grant aid from the local authority and various other bodies for several years. However this gradually diminished in the early 1990s as funding for those kinds of projects dried up. The workshop closed in about 1993.
photos from early days at the workshop
- Orders, Ron. Director (1980) Somewhere in Hackney. Film about four community arts projects in Hackney, including Lenthall Road Workshop.
- Kenna, Carol; Medcalf,Lyn; Walker, Rick. (1986) Printing is Easy…? Community Printshops 1970-1986 Greenwich Mural Workshop pp36-37