During WWI, the horses of the 33rd Royal Field Artillery Camberwell Division were housed in barracks created on the premises of Gordon’s Brewery in Chadwick Road/ Lyndhurst Road, requisitioned for the purpose. In the summer of 1915 some of these horses caught an infectious disease and the stables had to be sterilised, displacing all of the 100 or more war horses destined for the front. On 30th July 1915, while this work was being done, the horses were moved into Lyndhurst Road (now Lyndhurst Way), where a photograph was taken by Frederick Alfred Finch of Peckham Rye. This beautiful record survives, a piece of local history linking the area with WWI history and with the horses that served. As well as soldiers and stable hands, local civilians gather, standing on their front steps or on the pavement beside the road. There are limbers too, used to pull the guns on the battlefields. The houses flanking the street are all still standing, having survived WWII, albeit sacrificing their cast iron fences.
On 11th May 2015, Peckham War Horse Project recreated this photograph in collaboration with local residents, community groups, schools and the horses, officers and soldiers from the Household Cavalry. The original photograph was the focal point for discovery and learning about both WWI and Peckham’s historical connections with the event.
The Peckham War Horse Project was devised and produced by Melissa Jo Smith and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Peckham Society.
Year 3 children from St John's & St Clement's School in Peckham took part in the BBC’s ‘Five Pieces’ project, focusing on Stravinsky’s ‘Firebird’. While one class worked on a musical piece with Pete Letanka, the other two classes developed a dance with Margaret Omoniye, and created artwork inspired by the firebird. Each child made a drawing of a feather, and textile artist Melissa Jo Smith created embroideries inspired by their drawings, which the children wore as costumes when performing the dance at Rambert.
LGBT Sewing Bee, February 2013
The sewing bee recalls a sewing circle or quilting group, at the domestic heart of a traditional community. The LGBT experience is often excluded from traditional domestic settings, and LGBT people are locked out from their own families and heritage. This event allowed LGBT people to share in a sense of community in safety. Michael Petry and Melissa Jo Smith curated a 'Sewing Bee' at MOCA's South London gallery. The event invited the LGBT network to come together as part of a sewing circle, try out ideas and share their stories. Everyone who came through the door was encouraged to decorate a handkerchief, either with hand embroidery or with a drawing, which was the reproduced on the sewing machine. Textile artists were on hand to offer guidance and advice and teach embroidery techniques and stitches. Between 40 and 50 people attended throughout the afternoon, meaning that all three tables were filled with participants at all times, and articipants were so absorbed that it was difficult to persuade them to leave!
International Arts & Culture Show, October 2013
Due to the success of the previous year’s events at Lyndhurst School, Camberwell, we decided to apply for a school-wide project to celebrate Black History Month, develop the arts throughout the school and work with the school’s learning goals. Melissa Jo Smith wrote up a project incorporating dance, sport, puppetry, British Sign Language, music, theatre and set design, which got funding from Arts Council England. The project brought in skilled and experienced artists and arts organisations such as dancer Anusha Subramanyam, musician Margaret Omaniye, The Little Angel Puppet Theatre and Theatre Fahodzi to work with the children from each year group over half a term. The results were present in a performance for parents.
House of Queer Mirrors, May 2012
A Victorian house in Peckham became a portal through which to discover LGBT heroines and heroes from history. In a bedroom, a medium (actress Helen Bang) conducted a séance to summon the great salonierre Natalie Barney (Artist Melissa Jo Smith), who obligingly manifested through a mist of ectoplasm. Alan Turing (composer Kerry Andrews) invented the computer in the sitting room, and Martina Navratilova (artist Sarah Plescia) played tennis in the garden.
African Fashion Show, October 2011
Parents at Lyndhurst School, Camberwell, were looking for ways to increase involvement and participation in the PTA, and to interest communities that may have felt less represented within it. An African Fashion Show at the V&A inspired artist Melissa Jo Smith to organise this project as a way to teach the children about African culture and history, and enable them to learn more about the many African countries represented in the school. Children reported feeling empowered and proud of their own heritage through taking part in the show, having learned there was more to Africa than rural poverty through a variety of rich African culture.
Children from Yatra Arts bharatanatyam dance school, Tamil Nadu, India perform a choreographed dance to 'Happy' by Pharrell Williams.