A number of public engagement initiatives and programmes have been delivered as part of The Community Brain’s heritage work on the Cox Lane estate. These have included artistic and musical interpretations, a public callout and memory mapping exercise, an exhibition in a local arts centre, and printed publications including a book and heritage walking trail map.
The Miners Line by Jack Harris
As part of the Cox Lane project, The Community Brain invited folk singer Jack Harris to write a song based on the heritage that we uncovered.
Settling on the Gala Cosmetics story, and in particular our oral history interview with Pat Cann, Jack composed The Miners Line, celebrating the brand’s early relationship with the London theatre scene, through to the greater social freedom associated with Carnaby Street in the 1960s.
Explaining the song, Jack said: “This led me to a single person: an older man who’d grown up a theatre addict, and was proud of the role his local factory had in making those shows ‘sparkle and shine.’ From there, I was able to trace the trajectory of a life lived in tandem with the Cox Lane site. His daughter ends up working there, she grows up around ‘Swinging London’, using the new Miners products herself. I was playing here on the idea of the ‘line’, in both the sense of a production line and the line of a family, history etc.“
You can watch Jack’s performance of the song at the video here; and you can find full song notes and lyrics here.
Exhibition at the Hook Centre
In February 2023, The Community Brain partnered with the South Thames College Group to host an exhibition at the Hook Centre, a multi-purpose community building in the south of the Kingston borough.
As well as interview content and physical artefacts curated by The Community Brain, the exhibition also featured a wide range of over 140 college students’ creative responses to the Gala story. This included:
Cardboard sculptures by Art & Design / Digital, Games & Animation students
Creative brand imagery by Graphic Design students
Sculptures by 3D Design and Architecture students
Minidresses by Fashion Textiles & Costume students
Makeovers for visitors to the launch event from Media Makeup students
The Hook Centre was also used as a location for The Community Brain’s memory mapping project, in which local residents were invited to pin their memories to a map of the estate.
The map attracted hundreds of interactions, some of which in turn led to the oral history interviews found on these pages. People shared memories of themselves and family members working at Gala, Siebe Gorman, Lyons Bakery, Unichem, Northamber, and Decca Radar, among many others.
The Book: Exploring Cox Lane
In 2023 The Community Brain teamed up with Kingston University Press to publish Exploring Cox Lane: The Story of Chessington’s Industrial Estate.
The book connects the dots between Cox Lane’s rich heritage and its exciting present, where it remains a centre of innovation and local employment. It features a photo essay from local photographer Stuart Tree, chapters exploring the role of Cox Lane and industrial estates more widely today, and a more detailed overview of the history of the site.
Additional colour is provided by a series of dazzling presentations created by Kingston University BA Illustration Animation students, whose creative interpretations of the industrial estate were produced in response to a brief from The Community Brain.
Exploring Cox Lane is available to purchase on Blackwells and a large number of other online retailers.