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A festival of art, climate and community

Illustration by Mohammed Z. Rahman

What Shall We Build Here, Artsadmin’s festival of art, climate and community, returned for its second iteration from 28 June – 2 July 2023.

Taking place in Artsadmin’s home at Toynbee Studios and across Aldgate East and the City of London, What Shall We Build Here staged an eclectic programme of talks, walks, feasts, workshops, performances and meditations.

Check out the festival film by Pictures for the People

Featured artists and events

On Wednesday 28 and Thursday 29, we co-hosted the Art, Climate, Transition (ACT) Symposium, an international gathering of artists, academics and practitioners including Zamzam Ibrahim, Daniel Linehan & Michael Helland. Through lectures, panel discussions, interventions and feasts, we offered hopeful and inclusive climate action though the culture sector

About What Shall We Build Here

Tower Hamlets is one of London’s most polluted boroughs, with 7.4% of deaths in people over 30 attributable to air pollution. The What Shall We Build Here programme is deeply rooted in climate justice and social justice, responding to the Tower Hamlets’ Net Zero Carbon Plan 2020 which calls for the collective and collaborative action necessary to ‘meet its part of the global ambition’.

Friends of the Earth highlight the lack of diversity in climate debates, and our research partner The Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP) emphasises that democratic dialogue and artistic engagement are powerful ways to develop action around climate, particularly with the areas where people live, work and study.

Community Climate Champions

What Shall We Build Here is not just a moment in time, but a legacy of collective action and imagining in response to the Climate Crisis for local communities in Aldgate, Whitechapel, Spitalfields and the City of London. In order to connect these different communities with each other and build a wider conversation on the impact of the Climate Crisis in this area, Artsadmin recruited eight Community Climate Champions who live, work or study n Aldgate, Spitalfields, Whitechapel or the City of London, to participate in the festival programme.

Pricing system

We priced our tickets on a means-based Pay What You Can band system, based on a model developed by Buzzcut, SQIFF and Glasgow Zine Library. We know that ticket price is a huge barrier for some, and this model offers people who can afford to pay the higher bands a chance to support others who can’t.

Band 1 – subsidised

Choose this option if:

  • You frequently stress about basic needs and don’t always achieve them 
  • You may be underemployed or unemployed 
  • You rent low-end property and require assistance from government and/or voluntary assistance including food banks and benefits 
  • You have little or no expendable income 
  • You likely cannot afford a holiday or could not take the time off without financial burden 

Band 2 – paying the price

Choose this option if:

  • You may stress about meeting your basic needs but regularly achieve them 
  • You have access to financial savings or have the ability to save 
  • You are employed 
  • You may buy some new items and others second hand 
  • You have expendable income 
  • You can take a holiday annually or every couple of years without financial burden 

Band 3 – feeling generous

Choose this option if:

An organisation is paying for your ticket, or sponsoring you to attend 

  • You rarely stress about meeting your basic needs and are comfortably able to meet them 
  • You have access to financial savings 
  • You are employed or may not need to work 
  • You own your own property or may rent a higher-end property 
  • You have expendable income 
  • You can always afford to buy new items 
  • You can afford to take an annual holiday 

Download the programme

Friday 23 June 

  • Benched (performance), Tink Flaherty. 7.30-8.15pm, Golden Lane Estate Community Centre. Ticketed 

Wednesday 28 June 

  • ACT Symposium (all day event). 10am-5.30pm, Toynbee Studios. Ticketed 
  • Extreme Unction Vol 2. (performance installation), Nwando Ebizie, Toynbee Studios. Entry times: 2pm, 3.20pm, 4.40pm, 6pm, 7.20pm. Duration 70 minutes 
  • Palace Feast (dinner event), The Bare Project. 8-10pm, Mallon Gardens. Ticketed 
  • The People’s Palace of Possibility (outdoor installation), The Bare Project. 10am-8pm, Mallon Gardens. Drop in 
  • We are before, Sarah Vanhee (performance). 7.30-8.35pm, Toynbee Studios. Ticketed 

Thursday 29 June 

Friday 30 June 

  • Deliverance, Maria Andrews (film screening). 7.30-9pm, Toynbee Studios. Ticketed 
  • Extreme Unction Vol 2. (performance installation), Nwando Ebizie, Toynbee Studios. Entry times: 2pm, 3.20pm, 4.40pm, 6pm, 7.20pm. Duration 70 minutes 
  • The People’s Palace of Possibility (outdoor installation), The Bare Project. 12pm-8pm, Mallon Gardens. Drop in 

Saturday 1 July 

Sunday 2 July 

  • misery movies, misery (film screening) 3-6pm, Rio Cinema, Dalston. Ticketed (not on sale yet) 
  • Benched (performance), Tink Flaherty. 7.30-8.15pm, Toynbee Studios. Ticketed 

The Artsadmin Canteen at Toynbee Studios, operated by Caffé Genco, will be open from 9am-4pm during What Shall We Build Here, serving sustainable, nourishing food using seasonal ingredients. Inspired by the flavours of Turkey, Italy and the Mediterranean, guests can expect vibrant salads, focaccia sandwiches, slow-roasted vegetables and delicious cakes throughout the festival, all made with a zero-waste ethos.

Genco will also be catering the vegetarian and vegan lunches at the ACT Symposium, which are included in the price of the day tickets.

Check Google Maps for their latest opening hours, as they may change nearer to the time.


Supported by BE PART and ACT, through the Creative Europe programme of the European Union, by The City of London Corporation, Aldgate Connect BID, and Arts Council England.

  • Full access details are listed on each event page.
  • Toynbee Studios is wheelchair accessible and there are wheelchair accessible, gender neutral toilets. Read more about Accessibility.
  • Free tickets are available for companion, carer or personal assistant tickets for paid-for ticketed events.
  • For relevant events, BSL can be requested when you book a ticket.
  • Please email if you have any further access requests.

Date and time

28 June – 2 July 2023

Please note
This is now a past event.


Various locations:
Toynbee Studios in Aldgate East
East London
and online