Harlesden art group launches first show at the Tricycle Theatre

A trip to a town planning meeting proved a stroke of inspiration for gabriel Parfitt

A trip to a town planning meeting does not sound like your typical setting for a lightening bolt stroke of artistic inspiration. They are more often associated with complicated planning documents and stilted power point presentations.

But for Gabriel Parfitt, the founder of the online Harlesden Gallery and co curator of their debut exhibition at the Tricycle Theatre, an evening spent at a meeting of the Harlesden town centre regeneration programme was precisely that.

“I went along with my other half. I don’t usually go to these meetings, but once I was there I came to think about the fact that we are at the heart of a major regeneration programme, and creating an artistic plank is often a good way adding to this type of project”, explains Gabriel.

“So I put together my own website, initially sourcing local artists that I liked and had seen at exhibitions at The Willesden Gallery, and it has gone from there.”

And so Mr Parfitt, a school art technician who lives with his partner in Charlton Road Harlesden, set up the Harlesden Gallery website, which features the work of 25 artists – half of whom are from Brent

“There are very few art galleries in Brent, so the website is really my response to that”, he explains. “The group is like a travelling show. We are bigging up Harlesden and creating an awareness of the great creativity and art it has to offer.

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“There are a lot of virtual galleries out there, but most have been set up by a group of friends and aren’t area specific. That is what makes our group different, we have an identity rooted in the area.”

The arts group is not the first to have been borne out of major redevelopment projects in the area. In the nearby South Kilburn Estate three poets in residence have spent the past three months writing poems with the community to immortalise in words their lives and feelings towards where they live.

But what marks the Harlesden Gallery out is its permanence. The gallery itself is online, allowing artists a cheap and easily accessible means of showing their work. While at least half its members live in Brent, meaning the project is permanently rooted in the community.

The group is putting the finishing touches to its first exhibition, which launched on Monday (7) at the Tricycle Theatre, in Kilburn High Road, Kilburn, which Mr Parfitt has co-curated.

It features the work of four of group’s artists, Cos Ahmet, Kitty Hiller, Ines Szamrey and Dijana Bekvalac, who are all painters, illustrators or printmakers.

It is the first professional show Gabriel, whose own work blends the realism of photography with hints of abstraction and cubism, has created.

“The artists we have chosen are all very up and coming, their work is quite commercial, and should give the gallery a real boost, and really start the ball rolling on the project.

“It hasn’t all been plain sailing. A couple of artists we hoped to feature dropped out, but I am really excited about the show.”

The Harlesden Gallery’s group exhibition is at The Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn High Road, Kilburn from 7 March – 10 April. Admission is free. For more information about the group visit www.harlesdengallery.co.uk