By Victoria Burgher
On my way to Red Gallery on Tuesday evening, I found myself marooned under a shop awning on Great Eastern Street. While waiting for the deluge to abate, I had a chance to think about what I would say to the assembled artists gathering for the networking event that was kicking off this year's Urban Dialogues programme.
I've been involved with 3FF as an artist since their first exhibition in November 2009. I met two artists, who I then went on to collaborate with on "Armour", a project that won us one of the first Urban Dialogues awards for interfaith artwork.
Working on Armour, we saw first-hand what 3FF can do for artists keen to work with others from different cultures and backgrounds. I hope our work was an example of what collaborative art can do to facilitate better interfaith relations.
Despite the downpour, there were urban artists in abundance and conversation flowed freely. Facilitated by 3FF's Rachel, we were encouraged to meet as many different people in the room as possible, and to start considering some of the themes that underpin the collaborative art programme.
The atmosphere was very relaxed and, by the end, many people were exchanging details with plans to talk further about possible collaborations. A couple of people mentioned that it was tricky to envisage working with others without knowing what their artistic practice was, but I hope this doesn't prevent them from pursuing contacts with artists they felt some other form of connection with. In my experience, it is gelling as people, despite having very different practices, which leads to a genuinely collaborative art project.
For me, it was wonderful to see friends I have made over the past few years of the project, to catch up and start germinating ideas for new collaborations. But it was also fantastic to meet such a diverse group of artists new to 3FF.
I have personally benefited hugely from this programme. I hope I was able to communicate that to the assembled artists, and succeeded in encouraging them to make professional proposals.
It was a lovely evening. I hope many of our urban artists are now getting in touch with each other for that crucial first coffee, in order to plan how to get their hands on £1,500 for an amazing collaborative art project.