Launched on 5th September 2019, Making Space is a four-part new commission by London-based artist Jessie Brennan for the Royal Docks in Newham.

Once the largest enclosed docks in the world, this was the birthplace of Tate & Lyle’s first sugar cube and Britain’s first flyover. The Docks have since borne witness to the decline of the maritime industry, numerous development schemes, and an influx of tourism as London continuously expands outwards. Today, this unique waterfront is preparing for London’s largest regeneration project to date.

Comprised of four large-scale artworks, Brennan’s new commission takes visitors on a journey through the historic, social, political and economic factors that have impacted the area and shaped its identity.

For Victoria Dock Road tunnel, Brennan produced an artwork titled Go The Distance with Peacock Gym. Founded in 1978, Peacock Gym is one of London's most respected community boxing gyms with former members including Frank Bruno and Lennox Lewis. Meanwhile, its Academy for young people focuses on improving mental and physical health with its ethos of “education through sport.” Brennan has transformed images from its archive into a collaged text piece that reflects the community’s history.

Brennan’s work for Dock Road underpass is titled The People’s Plan, drawing on a 1980s community-led project of the same name. Supported by the GLC at the time, The People’s Plan opposed plans for London City Airport and imagined a new vision for the area, uniting the community through activism. For the first time since its original distribution, The Plan has been reproduced for local communities and visitors to view. 

Custom House is Our House is installed on a two-storey wall facing Custom House station. This life-sized group portrait brings together individuals who live, work, or own businesses on Freemasons Road which is soon-to-be redeveloped. The artwork has been closely developed with members of the People’s Empowerment Alliance for Custom House (PEACH) who are now working with Newham Council to consult on local regeneration.

Installed across the façade of the Royal Docks Adventure, a charitable organisation offering sporting opportunities to local people, will be the evocative phrase Take Your Place. Printed in large-scale neon yellow letters, the artwork will be visible at a distance, from the DLR, neighbouring homes and hotels. The words ‘Take Your Place’ refer to taking one’s position in a rowing shell, influenced by Brennan’s conversations with the local sporting community and particularly London Otters, London's LGBTQI-friendly rowing club. This statement is also a call to action that invites people living in and travelling through the Royal Docks to consider who London’s regeneration is for and to engage with the future of the Docks ahead of its imminent redevelopment.

Making Space has been commissioned by the Royal Docks Team, a joint initiative by the Mayor of London and the Mayor of Newham. This commission is produced and curated by UP Projects.


Artwork Locations: 

Take Your Place. Site 4. Royal Docks Adventure, 1012 Dockside Road, E16 2QT

Custom House Is Our House. Site 3. Freemasons Road, E16 3AR

The People’s Plan. Site 2. Dock Rd underpass, E16 1AG

Go the distance. Site 1. Victoria Dock Rd Tunnel, E16 1HL

Click here to download a map

About Jessie Brennan

Jessie Brennan is a visual artist whose previous projects have examined public housing and the politics of regeneration. Her practice is research-led and situated, exploring relations between places and people.Brennan graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2007. She has exhibited extensively in the UK and Europe, and her work is held in public and private collections including the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. In spring 2017, the South London Gallery (SLG) invited Brennan to collaborate with residents on a project titled YOUR WORDS as part of their inaugural Open Plan residency on Pelican Estate. Recent exhibitions include: Re: development – Inside The Green Backyard, Carroll/Fletcher Onscreen, London (2017); If This Were to Be Lost, dalla Rosa Gallery, London (2016); RESIDENT, City Gallery & Museum, Peterborough (2016); Progress, The Foundling Museum, London (2014); Talents Contemporains, François Schneider Foundation, France (2014); Coup de Ville, WARP, Belgium (2013). Her authored books include Regeneration! (2015) and Re: development (2016). 

About the Royal Docks

The Royal Docks has been a global centre for innovation and industry since the 1800s. Established as the largest enclosed port in the world, it facilitated the movement of hundreds of thousands of cargoes and passenger ships, spawning settlements such as Canning Town and North Woolwich. Despite heavy bombing during the Blitz, the Royal Docks remained open during The Second World War and kept Britain supplied with food. As its industry was transformed by the containerisation of cargo, the area fell into decline, resulting in high levels of unemployment and social deprivation. In recent years, public and private sector investment has led to new commercial and residential developments across the area. In June 2017, the Mayor of London and Mayor of Newham approved £314m of investment for the Royal Docks that will fund transport and public realm improvements, help to create a mixed business eco-system and support a range of cultural and community-led projects.

Royal Docks Team

The Royal Docks Team is a joint initiative from the Mayor of London and Mayor of Newham, delivering a £314 million investment programme in the area over the next five years. Together with stakeholders and the community, the team is championing positive change and good growth in the Royal Docks