In 2002 Camden Council funded Theresa Pateman and Nicola Lane, 2 artists from Kilburn’s Kingsgate Workshops, to engage with a group of local Irish pensioners in a series of workshops. The Irish Pensioners Group had been meeting for tea, bingo and chat at Kingsgate Community Centre for 16 years; so the artists decided to evoke the group's memories through creating a participatory tea party installation within Kingsgate Gallery, together with Theresa's photo-etchings created from photographs of the participants' early life in London. In the exhibition text, Theresa wrote:
"As artists we thought about how to take the reality of people's lives to a concluding exhibition. Observing the photographs and texts we collected, there seemed to be a necessity to transfer these experiences, to let them speak for themselves. We concluded that transfer media would, literally, be the answer. As a printmaker, I believe this method is particularly apt, since once selected, the material goes through certain processes - in this instance photographic transfers and photo etching - and changes occur, sometimes unintentionally; but the essence of the original will remain. The mark of a hand on a cave wall retains the life of the person who imprinted it..."The tea-table was covered with a white table cloth with transfers of text from participants' reminiscences, letters and written memoirs. The artists created 2 large sponge cakes, one with an edible transfer of a 1939 map of Ireland, and one with an edible transfer of the London A to Z map of Kilburn. All the pensioners and their families came to the Gallery for the opening and were served with a slice of the part of Ireland they came from and a slice of the street in Kilburn where they lived after emigrating:
Nicola used photographic transfers from the pensioners' personal archives to decorate 16 porcelain teacups and saucers, representing the 16 years the group had been meeting in Kingsgate Community Centre. The fragmenting of the images on the cups and saucers reference the nature of remembering and the dispersal of the past, the fragments that remain and those that are lost; informed by Nicola’s experience of coming from a colonial background, with its nostalgia for ’The Old Country’ and its struggles to cope with different cultures. A selection is pictured below:
Bridey, one of the Pensioners, left her family and farming community in Co.Tipperary when she was seventeen, and went to live with her sister in London. From 1940 to 1945 she worked in Cricklewood's De Havilland munitions factory. Nicola sourced archive footage of the De Havilland factory from the Imperial War Museum's film archives, editing the footage to represent Bridey's experience as a “Heroic British War Worker’ in munitions, with a soundtrack from her interview with Bridey. The video of women making bombs in Cricklewood was exhibited surrounded by Bridey’s own paintings of rural Ireland, inviting the viewer to experience paintings and video together.
A Slice of Ireland was an exceptionally well attended and received event in the local community. In 2004, the Archive of the Irish in London, Irish Studies Centre, London Metropolitan University acquired the exhibition in its entirety, described in their catalogue as: "Porcelain cups and saucers, tablecloth, etchings, photographs, video recordings and documents relating to the multi-media exhibition by Nicola Lane and Theresa Pateman based on the lives of Kilburn Irish Pensioners Group."
A selection of the cups and saucers were recently exhibited in Adopting Britain / 70 years of Migration at London's South Bank.