The Earls Court Development Company Residency took place from January to March 2023. I was the ECDC’s first artist in residence. My proposal was to create portraits of people in the neighbourhood who do essential jobs in the local community.

Every day I walked around different parts of the ‘beat’: the area spans West Kensington, Earls Court, Baron’s Court and Fulham Broadway tube stations, and includes North End Road and Lillie Road. I then returned to the studio at The Community Hub that overlooked the building of the BBC Experience Centre- quite a spectacular view for a person like me who enjoys watching machinery on building sites so much!

Because I was drawing portraits of busy people, I worked from photographs taken while they were working. Not everyone wanted to be included in the project, but others were delighted. I worked in Caran D’Aché crayon on cartridge paper, focusing on the portrait and the activity rather than the background. When we catch sight of someone out of the corner of our eye as we walk past, we don’t notice everything: I’ve tried to capture this ‘moment’ and make these people visible.

It was important to represent the variety and harmony of the community, including users of The Community Hub Centre, where I ran a weekly drawing workshop. I know that I’ve only just touched the surface of the local people’s lives and relationships with the businesses and services that support them. There are 26 portraits in all, including a charming cat that was trying to play football with a little boy who was out on his own on a cold afternoon.

This is a really special community who are at the beginning of a period of intense and probably unsettling change. I wanted to respect and honour them. Small versions of the portraits were framed and given to the people that I drew, whose reactions to being celebrated have been positive and very touching.

The ECDC has given me (and the next eleven artists) a wonderful opportunity to create these portraits and exhibit them in their gallery on Lillie Road. People have popped in to see the portraits of their friends, and often shown me their own artwork too. I could not have enjoyed it more.

Helen McCallum
Artist In Residence
January – March 2023

Photograph of Helen McCallum Copyright © 2023 ECDC.
Other photographs Copyright © 2023 Helen McCallum.