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PHOTOS CREDITED TO THE AUTHOR

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25 September 2023

Collective Action: A Night With The Freckle Collective

JEMMA LUCK

The creative tapestry of London holds a remarkable presence. The city teems with artistic abundance, where cultural influences often work to blend and shape this landscape with dynamic intensity. From visual artists to playwrights; live instrumentalists to wax spinners.

 

“These streets ooze talent with creators drawn like bees to honey.”

 

Such a concentration of creative minds is what makes London one of the finest places for nascent artists to establish themselves, yet it can also make it one of the most challenging. On the one hand, the networking potentials are notorious and can be born from as earnest a place as a chat at a gig, through which creative thoughts are exchanged and helpful connections formed. On the other hand, the sheer abundance of artistic talent can feel overwhelming. Forging a unique artistic pathway can be a journey marked by dashed hopes and failed follow-ups, leading to the nagging feeling that the only foot that’s not in the door is your own.

 

This is where creative collectives emerge as a powerful tool of solidarity.

 

Collectives, in their true essence, entail community. They entail independent minds brought together by a shared passion for artistry and the common desire to support one another's creative journeys. Their existence is hugely influential for artists' and musicians' exposure alike, as well as for generating the opportunity for works to be presented publicly where they might otherwise have gone unseen. 

 

Yet these benefits do come at a cost. A regrettable drawback for collectives is that, by and large, contributors’ work goes unpaid; expenses of hiring venues are difficult to cover from ticket sales alone, and so providing financial income to the artists or musicians involved may be unfeasible. On top of this, entrance into artistic fields of work are heavily interlinked with social-economic backgrounds.

 “Creating forms of art is seeded with unequal opportunity.”

Time, resources and supportive surroundings are but a few things less granted to those who have not grown up with the cushioning of affluence and financial stability. The collectives themselves require support. 

 

In the hopes of assisting in this, we have drafted an open list of creative collectives which can be found at the end of the article. Of course, there are countless collectives in existence and creating a comprehensive list may seem overzealous. Regardless, we hope it can serve as an intermediary for creators to get in contact with collectives and have their work showcased. We also hope the list will allow you to explore the endless exciting events happening in your area that likely require your support.

 

We had the pleasure of attending an event held by one particular collective. Held at the Pickle Factory in East London, a location known for many years as a young, creative enclave, the Freckle Collective set out to curate a wonderfully eclectic evening. The benefits of collectives that have been previously mentioned were made tangible and fiercely felt.

 

The Freckle Collective was founded by singer-songwriter, Sabina, and later assisted by her sister, Poppy; a musician and artist respectively. With the intention of “Empowering and uplifting female, non-binary and trans identifying artists, offering a platform within the creative industry”, these women put their hearts and souls into showcasing an array of talents in London on this particular evening. 

 

The event was distinguished by its holistic efforts to display artforms across various mediums. Ziqi Chen, a contributing artist whose work draws upon extensive dream journaling and personal mythology, gave us her impressions. She told us that “Not only did it present an art exhibition, but also a safe space to connect with London talents and art enthusiasts from various disciplines, all accompanied by angelic music”. Sabina, being an accomplished vocalist herself, assorted groups of live musicians and DJ’s to glide us through the evening. Poppy, who creates gorgeously playful mixed media works which fuse child-like imaginings with physical reality, hand selected artworks from 18 artists. With minimal restrictions placed upon the forms of art within the selection process, Poppy sought out artists via extensive instagram sleuthing and gathered works that she herself admires. The harmony between the two sisters’ expertise wove the evening together with a rhythmic chorus of sights and sounds.

The evening was partitioned into three stages, the first of which dedicated onlookers’ time and attention to the artwork itself.

 

On entry into the Pickle Factory, the minimalist, 60s-style bar swelled with anticipation as artists, singers, friends and strangers greeted one another and sank into regretfully London priced lager. The bustle followed into the main room, in which decks and music equipment became the backdrop for the myriad of artworks arranged throughout the space. Sofas adorned with headsets created nooks of compelling comfort, allowing for private encounters with the virtual art. The televisions glowed in soft, ambient light, and the coherence of colour assisted by Poppy’s curative decisions left the room feeling warm and intimate. Handcrafted jewellery, pottery and posters were available to purchase around the room, nestled carefully next to descriptors of the items and their makers.

 

Watching each member of the crowd have their own individual interaction with the artwork, each inferring something disparate from the onlooker before, was joyous. Some of the artists stood by their work eager to chat, whilst others hovered nearby, timidly gauging people's responses. Many of the artists we spoke to emphasised how their works may not have had the chance to be exhibited if it weren't for the collective. We invite you to enjoy the artwork for yourself which can be seen on The Freckle Collective’s instagram, where a post has been dedicated to each individual contributor of the evening.

After a couple of hours, the lights dimmed and the night breezed into the second stage of the evening - the live music performances.

 

Lashayah, a singer and performer of predominantly modern jazz and soul, attracted a sea of miscellaneous faces, both stranger and friend. She indulged us with a voice that was smoother than honey, slipping into genres, and making a debut of her delicate and sentimental new song, ‘Chamomile’, the release date of which is scheduled for October. Having performed live for almost ten years, Lashayah reached out to The Freckle Collective following their previous event. She told us that “as a black female artist, I always like to find ways to meet, support and celebrate other women and creatives”. 

 

After soothing the audience into her usual sound of neo-soul covers and rearrangements, Lashayah awakened listeners from their melodic stupor by switching into a DnB track - a fun surprise for us all. As a fan of dance music herself, she explained that the ability to express her freedom as an artist and “inspire others to search outside of their comfort zones is the best part of being a performer”. Instead of boxing herself into a category in which other genres can't be explored, she experiments with whatever she feels authentically represents her and her love for music.

 

This touches upon another important component of collectives: their less formal nature allows creativity to flow more freely. Giving artists opportunity and greater agency over their work encourages experimentation, outwardly pushing artistic boundaries that otherwise may demand conformity. A further glimpse of this was offered in Sabina’s, or ‘Beansy’s’, performance which was accompanied by friend and fellow musician, Max, on guitar. Max opened with a buttery strung rendering of Clair de Lune -  an unexpected delight. Their performance was a special one.

 “Friends stood close to one another, interlacing fingers, resting on neighbours shoulders, watching the duo with wide, child-like eyes.”

 

Proud parents held their phones aloft to record the moment, before deciding to put the mobiles down and watch immersed instead. Our attempt to capture such a moment on camera also proved to be in vain as the camera flash proceeded to falter; a slightly teasing reminder that precious moments like these are to be enjoyed presently and not through a lens.

To round off the live performances, Olympia Vitalis took us on a tour of soulful improvisation, employing inflections in her voice with instinctive control.

 

To listen to the musicians own works, you can head to The Freckle Collectives instagram and follow the links to the artists pages. 

 

With that, we entered the last stage of the evening: the toe-tapping, head-bopping boogie stage. Various DJ’s swept through the bpm’s and genres, guiding the temperament of the room and evoking spontaneous motions throughout the body. Limbs became liquid and heartbeats more frantic, whilst the smoking area naturally began to brim. Toes were swallowed up by cowboy boots and the air filled with eager chatter about how the evening had unfurled.

 

An overheard phone call left a sweet impression. An attendee persuading a pal to join them for the evening said down the line:

“Do you like art? … Well come anyway!”

 

Interlaced in that simple response is a reminder that engaging with art is in itself a privilege. There exists a misinterpretation that enjoying visual arts requires some pre-existing awareness of art as a subject. However, there is no right or wrong way to interact with art. Personal value can be derived from artwork in endless ways, regardless of how much artistic knowledge one holds. Chances are, at an event such as this, there is something for everybody to enjoy.

 

The Freckle Collective intends to hold future events, changing locations, artists and musicians to keep things fresh and fruitful. If you’d like to be a part of their next event in January then consider reaching out - it is a wonderful community to be a part of. 

 

Whilst this article has alluded to London-based collectives, emerging artists require support and celebration all over the UK. For that reason the curated list of collectives encompasses England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is a small list at present, focussing on female led organisations, but can be added to by anyone. Have a gander and add to it if you can! Help us in supporting your local artists and collectives. We hope that if you are an artist, musician, DJ or other person in a creative field, then it could be a little bridge towards becoming more established. Afterall, these collectives are conducive to community and friendship; any attempt to alleviate the isolation felt in a bustling city is worth a try.

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OUR OPEN LIST OF COLLECTIVES CAN BE FOUND HERE. 

We have comprised an open list of collectives based in the UK. We hope this list helps elevate the talented people who surround us and shines a light on their creative achievements. This is an open list so we welcome any and all suggestions of collectives you may know and love. Please feel free to comment them below to be included in the list.

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