Hearts for the Arts Shortlist 2022 – We Found Love in the 80s

City of London and Waltham Forest's We Found Love in the 80s has been shortlisted for Best Arts Project in the 2022 Hearts for the Arts Awards

We Found Love in the 80s was commissioned by Waltham Forest Council, the Barbican and Future Arts Centres, and made in a collaboration between Dawinder Bansal and musician Martyn Ware, founder of the Human League and Heaven17. The project was launched during the pandemic and at the moment when George Floyd was publicly killed in 2020 by police officers. At this time, many people around the world experienced prejudice and outward racism. For Bansal and Ware, the 1980s had many parallels to modern times, with a deadly virus which was killing people as was HIV / AIDS in the 80s, racism and prejudice against differences within communities, high levels of unemployment and all under the Conservative government. This project was about bringing to light those hidden stories of struggle, sacrifice, kindness, and acceptance of difference through love stories of diverse couples. As part of the commission, Bansal interviewed 40 local couples in order to create a film and an accompanying podcast series.

This was a digital project which enabled people to share their stories via online platforms across the UK, with submissions coming in from even further afield, from Australia and Finland, for example. The online nature of the project meant that the artists were able to speak to people they would not ordinarily have the opportunity to engage with and particularly through Martyn Ware’s network of fans – they successfully managed to get people to participate from far and wide. Bansal also engaged with the Council of Voluntary Organisations where she was able to talk with people who could talk on the phone, but did not have a computer. The purpose was to try and find those hidden stories through careful outreach work, which was within the government strict guidelines, as well as making a project which had real heart at its core about the diversity of Britain, through its love stories.

The resulting film was screened as part of Wolverhampton Literature Festival and the accompanying podcast series was selected by the Guardian as their top picks for podcasts to listen to.

What started as a piece of work about uniting communities through the subject of love in the 80s, revealed itself to be a piece of work about how everyday people navigated their lives against a difficult and turbulent 1980s. It was about how people overcame obstacles through great difficulty of serious illness, bereavement of child loss, secret worlds of homosexuality, South Asian stories of inter-caste marriages and arranged marriages. In the midst of this pandemic, people needed to see stories of hope, and be offered uplifting work which tackled hardships but also offered the sense of a light at the end of the tunnel. We Found Love In The 80s delivered that for the participants and audiences alike.

What the judges said:

“This sounds like a fantastic piece of work, really capturing a moment in time and telling important stories that connect us to our past. The way the project found new ways to engage with its subjects and audiences, despite the pandemic, was particularly positive”

“This is a truly inspiring project. The parallels of 2020 and the 1980s, which were identified to create the project are so pertinent.The overarching themes of celebrating difference and bringing communities together are very important – now and always. Well done on a brilliant piece of work!”