This July, award-winning artist David Shearing, known for his immersive multimedia environments and spaces takes over the historic marketplace in Romford which celebrates its 775th Anniversary this year, with a unique interactive piece of public art. The The Rising Sun will be a striking light-responsive installation, a structure designed in the shape of a pub which will stand proudly right in the centre of the square, in sight of the marketplaces’ three pubs.

Inside, visitors will be bathed in a haze of light that follows the movements of the sun. The magical and evocative space will be filled with the town’s familiar local voices, telling moving stories which map their life journeys of arrival, living, loving, and longing.

Romford-born Shearing, who is also a two-time winner of the World Stage Design awards for Installation (2013 and 2017) says: “The Rising Sun is a snapshot of everyday people, shining a light on hidden stories of the local community, not the stereotypes that are often portrayed in this unique and changing outer East London town. Pubs are at the heart of our communities and can serve as a place of conversation. I hope this piece of art will encourage debate about what’s possible in our town centres by building a sense of destination and pride.”

Shearing adds: “Inspiring and unusual art can animate our public spaces and help to bring us together. Like so many town centres, Romford is a different place following Covid, with the loss of many major retailers, and a different night-time economy landscape. I wanted to create accessible art that would inspire a sense placemaking.”

The installation has also been designed to explore and celebrate the complexities and changing identities of East London and Essex. The borough of Havering has the 4th lowest level of public arts engagement in London, placing it firmly in the bottom third of places nationally, however this installation, which is commissioned in partnership with Romford Business Improvement District (BID), Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch and is also supported by Havering Changing, a consortium of local organisations, is part of a wider progressive strategy being undertaken in the borough to trial radical new ideas to engage local people in arts and culture in different ways. The research impact of the project is supported by The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

Mathew Russell, Queen Theatre Hornchurch’s Chief Executive comments: “It’s great to see work of this ambition in Havering. As a sub-regional producing theatre, ‎we’re increasingly interested in different forms theatre might take and how this can animate a variety of exciting locations, reaching new audiences. Romford High Street is dear to our heart, and it’s brilliant that an award-winning artist of David Shearing’s stature is creating work for an iconic public space in Havering for the very first time. It’s definitely going to be a highlight of this summer.”

Julie Frost, Romford’s BID director adds: “Town centres can no longer be conceived as merely places of economic exchange. Rather they must be understood as areas which are to provide an ‘experience.’ They are spaces into which the individual person can derive their own unique understanding and sense of fulfilment from what is on offer around them. The Rising Sun captures the very essence of this.”

Havering is also embarking on a £1billion regeneration scheme. As one of the fastest changing boroughs in the country it has been identified as having the highest predicted growth in 0-24 year olds in Greater London. While 25% of the population are from Minority Ethnic groups this jumps to 40% of young people at primary and secondary school age. The recent opening of the Elizabeth Line will further transform its shifting population and fortunes in the future.

The installation can also be experienced by a wider audience online via an interactive digital website in which viewers will be able to click on and ‘ease-drop’ into the many captured voices. The online binaural soundscape has been built in partnership with artist/composer James Bulley and Rabbit Hole, a creative agency known for their leading digital work for Coldplay.

The Rising Sun can be experienced from Friday 15 July to Saturday 30 July, 8am – 8pm daily in Romford Market or online. Entrance is free and pre-booking is not required. For more details, visit www.variablematter.com

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