A programme of art, architecture and infrastructure to mark the centenary of the UK’s biggest council housing estate
Becontree Forever Arts and Culture Hub
The Arts and Culture Hub at Valence Library is a free, creative space open to all as a base for workshops, talks and well-being activities on the Becontree Estate. The hub is a platform for programming that is bookable both by individual residents of the estate, as well as local cultural organisations such as Soul and Sound, Arc Theatre, East End Women’s Museum and The White House among others, and community initiatives like Everyone Everyday, Treasured Memories, Mums on a Mission and our Healthy Lifestyle “Young at Heart” programme. Important to supporting the local arts ecosystem on the ground, the Hub provides rehearsal, meeting and performance space for community organisers, curators, socially engaged practitioners and artists to develop unique pieces and activities that emerge directly from the experiences of residents of the area, both past and present.
Beyond the 2021 centenary year of Becontree Estate, the Arts and Culture Hub will endure as a venue that will allow for the continuation of activities that began through Becontree Forever: community meetings, music performances, intergenerational tea dances, storytelling and oral history exchanges, family wellbeing, craft workshops and so much more. The Hub is also the home of a growing reference art library with artist catalogues donated by museums, galleries and artists from across the UK, and Becontree Broadcasting Station - a project undertaken in partnership with Serpentine Galleries and our inaugural artist-in-residence Joe Namy, which will see the development of a new community radio facility directly from the estate.
For information about the Arts and Culture Hub and to use the space please contact: ArtsandCultureHub@lbbd.gov.uk
Officially opened on 30th January 1937 and designed by the Borough’s Engineer & Surveyor F.C. Lloyd with input from the Borough Librarian, Becontree Branch Library (now Valence Library) originally housed approximately 12,000 books with provision for adults, children, and reference materials. Designed to include both a children’s library and a garden library for outdoor reading, from its inception the building provided space to local people for story hours, lectures, and meetings of local societies.
An active and community focused space from its early days, reading and discussion circles met at the library regularly, in addition to lectures and classes that were arranged in the space by the Workers Educational Association. The Dagenham Co-operative Film Society also held film shows on site, and throughout the 1940’s and 50’s local residents partook in stamp clubs, music listening circles, chess clubs and children’s book weeks, amongst other activities. Over the subsequent decades hundreds of community meetings, exhibitions and drama recitals were held annually across the Dagenham libraries and at Valence House Museum, with libraries playing a central role in the civic life of the Becontree Estate.
The Valence Library Arts and Culture Hub programme is supported by Arts Council England. We would like to acknowledge the generosity of Tate, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Frith Street Gallery, Hauser & Wirth and additional galleries and artists for their generous donations to the growing Art Reference Library.