Grow FM: a new commission by artist, broadcaster and DJ Zakia Sewell announced

Image: Zakia Sewell by Caspar Swindells

We’re excited to announce a new Chiswick House & Gardens commission with Hounslow-born broadcaster, writer and DJ, Zakia Sewell. Her Grow FM audio artwork will be aired exclusively on our pop-up roaming radio station launching on 14 July.

Taking inspiration from a family member’s own challenges with mental health, as well as Chiswick House’s past life as a progressive asylum in the 19th century, Sewell uncovers the lesser-known history of Chiswick House & Gardens while sharing her appreciation of our green oasis in the midst of urban West London.

The audio artwork features sounds of nature recorded at Chiswick House & Gardens, as well as readings from the casebooks of the Tuke Brothers, the Victorian residents of Chiswick House whose radical approach to mental health centred exchange and dialogue as a means of connecting with their patients. While revealing uncomfortable narratives and giving voice to unheard stories, Sewell’s piece offers listeners a transient and meditative space to think about what community means to themselves and others.

Zakia Sewell said:

Having grown up in Hounslow I have strong connections with the Borough but hadn’t fully appreciated the fascinating history of Chiswick House as an asylum. In my sound piece, which will be aired on the Grow FM radio station, I will be exploring the theme of sanctuary, which weaves through the different chapters of the House’s history. I hope to evoke feelings of tranquility and peace, while uncovering the lesser-known stories that emerge from the house.

Sewell’s commission will air exclusively on the pop-up, roaming community radio station at the heart of the Grow FM programme. The Grow FM radio project was inspired by the DIY ethos of the pirate radio stations that proliferated in Hounslow in the 1990s, becoming a catalyst for communities disenfranchised from mainstream media. The Grow FM radio station is powered by local voices and produced by young people from the London Borough of Hounslow. Broadcasting for six weeks online and onsite from 14 July, it will feature live conversations and debates as well as participatory experiences, all exploring themes of wellbeing, community and identity.

Our radio station producers, Phoebe Cramer, James Douglas-Quarcoopome and Joshua Jeremiah Olumodi, will be trained ‘on the job’ in a 12-week paid learning and development placement led by radio producer and educator Harry Murdoch. Funded and developed by the London Borough of Hounslow using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, the training programme was developed to address grassroots inequalities and barriers to developing a career in the arts. Open to all Hounslow residents, the scheme attracted over 80 ambitious local applicants with the three trainees selected following a rigorous process.

Image: Phoebe Cramer, James Douglas-Quarcoopome and Joshua Jeremiah Olumodi by Nico Froehlich

The radio station launches on Thursday 14 July at a Chiswick House & Gardens Summer Late. This after-hours event will include the premiere of Zakia Sewell’s new commission and screenings of ‘Depictions of Hounslow’, a series of short films made by local residents working with artist Martin Newth, commissioned by the Creative People & Places Hounslow Visual Arts. The films explore the borough’s identity, geography, culture and history, uncovering untold stories and bringing them to life through moving image and slow, mindful looking.

Further highlights include Spice Stories, a spice blend and exchange workshop by chef Manju Mahli in
which visitors will transform memories of favourite childhood dishes into feel-good spice blends to
exchange with someone else on the night. There will also be workshops and tours by UCL Urban Lab,
spoken word performances by Hounslow Action for Youth Young Women’s Writing Project, DJ sets from
Zakia Sewell and the Grow FM producers and a licensed bar and food stalls all night.

The Grow FM season also features {Paradise in the Sun} Or a garden of all sorts of pleasant flowers, an immersive, interactive audio experience, by creative studio affect lab, that opened to the public in May. An antidote to pandemic isolation and anxiety, {Paradise in the Sun} invites participants to slow down, disconnect from the ‘noise’ of city living and instead reconnect with the natural environment.

In partnership with: