Erin Corrian-Alexis is a visual artist and footwear designer who grew up in Harrow, North-West London. Unsurprisingly, art has always played a major role in Erin’s life. Sitting in Liz Café in Shepherd’s Bush, Erin laughs as she remembers feeling unhappy with drawing “just stick people” as a child: “I was always trying to make them look better; adding more and more detail until they looked exactly how I imagined them in my mind”. Throughout school, Erin balanced her artistic talents with her budding academic career, before landing an art foundation at Central St Martins, and then going on to study footwear design at London College of Fashion.
“I grew up with my Dad being very particular with how he spent his money. He would never buy things, but we would always be on holiday”
Erin’s most recent project is taking her back to her Caribbean heritage. Born in Trinidad and spending his early years in Grenada, Erin’s dad, Dennis, has always been keen to keep his family in touch with their roots and excited about travelling: “I grew up with my Dad being very particular with how he spent his money. He would never buy things, but we would always be on holiday”. Dennis – who once took the family on a road trip all the way from Harrow to Morocco – would regularly tell Erin’s mum that he was taking the kids to the nearby river, before revealing the pile of passports stuffed in the glove compartment and announcing in-between excited squeals that they were instead going to France for the day.
During Erin’s most recent visit to Grenada in 2016, she had an idea for a new project. As a born-and-bred London artist, Erin was struck by the difference between creative opportunities in the UK compared to the Caribbean island. “In London, we are so lucky to be surrounded by such a DIY mentality” she explains, “we are constantly surrounded by so much talent, and everyone is so keen to help each other out”. Erin knows that the same level of creative talent exists in Grenada; however, the problem is that the level of opportunity is not always the same. With her upcoming project, Erin’s dream is to “inspire some more of the ‘we can do this’ attitude that we are lucky to have so much of in London”. She is aware that too often organisations go into communities with the intention of helping, but end up causing more harm than good by leaving and providing no continual help nor advice. For this reason, Erin not only plans to stay in contact with all of the young people involved in the project, but also wants to be able to provide small investments to help the students create something tangible themselves.
“I want to inspire some more of the ‘we can do this’ attitude that we are lucky to have so much of in London”
Dubbed as “The Spice Isle” (due to its numerous nutmeg plantations), Grenada boasts lush rainforests, mountainous terrain and miles of white sand beaches. The combination of the island’s enviable weather, lush tropics, rich cuisine, diverse culture and extremely welcoming population make it a sought-after destination for travellers. So perhaps unsurprisingly, tourism is crucial to Grenada’s economy; making up a ¼ of the island’s GDP. However, due to the isle’s small size, its vulnerability to natural disasters and largely rural population, today an alarming 56% of Grenadians under the age of 25 live in poverty. In 2004 and 2005, Hurricanes Ivan and Emily caused such widespread damage that a number of schools are still yet to be restored, impacting the availability of educational resources for local people.
The worldwide love for Caribbean culture and music has meant that certain lights have been shone on aspects of Grenadian culture, supporting the emergence of talents like Michael Sparrow, the ‘Calypso King of the World’, and David Emmanuel, one of the best-selling reggae musicians in history. However, Caribbean art has not always been given the same limelight; particularly due to lack of resources, government funding and little prioritisation in schools.
So, this is where Erin and Kenny come in.
In September 2018, the pair and their dedicated team will be flying out to Grenada to run “The Home Team Project”: a series of free creative workshops for the local teenagers of the island. The sessions, aimed at kids between the ages of 12 and 18, will range from drawing, painting, footwear customisation to photography, with the latter being assisted by NYC based photographer Brandon John. All teaching, equipment and materials will be provided free of charge, funded by the sale of Erin’s own (beautiful) artwork, as well as a Go Fund Page.
“I want the island to be seen, and so these workshops are a way of getting the people who actually live there to document it for themselves; rather than people staying there for a month and trying to do it for them”.
Although eager to showcase Grenada’s diverse creative culture, Erin is determined that documenting the island should be done by local Grenadians: “I want the island to be seen, and so these workshops are a way of getting the people who actually live there to document it for themselves; rather than people staying there for a month and trying to do it for them”. A lot of the time, destinations like Grenada are presented to us via a white, western lens, and this is one of the things Erin wants to overcome. She hopes that this project will let young, local people express their own realities, reclaiming back the Grenadian narrative.
When they return to the UK, Erin and Kenny will be putting together a coffee table book, showcasing the art made during the workshops. “It’s really important to me that everyone involved is able to see the final product: to actually hold in their hands what they have achieved”. It’s clear to anyone that speaks to Erin that genuine authenticity is at the heart of this project. She asks herself, “what’s Grenada like from the point-of-view of a 15-year-old teen who has lived there all his life? That’s the feeling that I want to shine through in the book that we make”. Not only will this end product show the kids what they can achieve, and therefore inspire them to pursue their talents, but Erin will be shining a light on the artistic culture that Grenada has to offer. What is more, all the money raised by the books will be used to fund similar projects in the future, which Erin hopes will become an annual thing.
Erin’s enthusiasm for her Grenada project is contagious: “I’ve wanted to do this for about two years now, it’s honestly like my baby!”. Having organised every detail of the expedition between herself and Kenny, including all the finances, Erin laughs that “you’d never normally catch me smiling about numbers, but when it’s to do with Grenada I don’t really mind”. Despite her disarming and evidently fun-loving character, it’s crystal clear that Erin’s incredibly determined and tenacious underneath. This September, Erin and Kenny will be handing the artistic reigns over to the teenagers of Grenada, giving them a voice and a space to tell their own story. No doubt this project will be an inspiring success, so make sure to keep an eye on this dynamic duo to see what they achieve next.
If you feel inspired by what Erin and Kenny are doing in Grenada this September, please go to their Go Fund Page and support them on their mission.
Quick Fire Questions with Erin!
Ultimate London hang-out? Primrose Hill or hopping over the fence into Harrow Boys’ School and enjoying the panoramic views of London at sunset
Highlight of the UK calendar? Notting Hill Carnival
If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be? New York City
What would be your dream subject and setting for a painting? A huge picture of all my loved ones together, dressed how they actually dress, on a beach in Grenada… but DEFINITELY done from the shade.
Favourite thing to eat in Grenada? Doubles (a street food made with two pieces of flat bread and stuffed with curried chickpeas) and fresh roti
Travel essentials? Sketch book, pencil and a good night cream
Lastly, submit a track that makes you feel like Trippin for our Spotify playlist! Lifestyle, by Kranium – a “must listen”