The Atomic 50 factory closed its doors last week after an incredible sell-out month for London Borough of Culture delivering 62 performances and 14 adult metalworking classes. 720 local primary school children from Leyton and 1110 members of the public came to experience the theatrical making performance, who’s mission was to challenge the approach and environment in which making skills are taught. Atomic 50 was one of five major commissions for London Borough of Culture, and kick started our young people’s programme to be continued at the workshop.

The Factory Experience: 

On entering the factory participants were greeted by three factory technicians – who would guide them around the incredible set of the factory, putting them to work as tinsmiths for the day, introducing them to different machinery and periods from tin working history.

In the ‘Industrial time’ room using rivet guns, sheet metal rollers and hole punches, the factory workers created a series of tin trumpets. In the ‘Natural time’ room they were shown how to use hand tools to create personalised badges, using hammers and letter punches to write their initials in the tin with a traditional tinsmith. Next they encountered the surreal  ‘Future Mart’- a supermarket from the future that explained tin’s environmental benefits over plastic, through the medium of talking fruit cans. This was followed by the domestic dining space, inspired by the ‘homeworking’ of women in the toy factories of Waltham Forest, with every-day tin objects suspended over the table like chandeliers. The tinsmiths were given blueprints to design new inventions from tin, incorporating sustainable processes discovered throughout the journey so far.

In the final room, the Atomic 50 archive was revealed – a light brightly lit room hosting a large tin trumpet sculpture with ghostly voices talking about the old tin factories in the borough, courtesy of the Waltham Forest Oral History Archive. Children were then led to recording studios to capture their own messages for the archive, and to add their own trumpets to an ever changing sculpture.

The Atomic 50 legacy will continue this summer, with a series of one-off holiday club sessions running on Wednesday mornings from the 24th July – 30th August and an after school club for 7-11 year olds starting this September.  Full details will be announced in June.

Thank you to everyone who supported, designed, developed and helped with the project and made it such a success!
‘it was an absolutely ingenious and original experience’. Simply incredible.’ – Sylvie Huckle, Parent

‘a brilliant little immersive theatre show all set to take the makers revolution to the kids’.  – Time Out

“Such a creative and well thought out project! Its so exciting to see people learning with their bodies and tools instead of ubiquitous screens.  I had been feeling quite depressed over the years at the way arts education cuts at all ages have meant a gradual but thorough decline in making and its associated histories and cognitive values . Its good to know that there are people like yourselves and at Blackhorse Workshop who are offering valuable alternatives.” – Dr Pen Dalton

Photos by Ellie Kurttz
Film by Paul Cochrane