This week from 16-18 July Ellie Harrison is bringing democracy to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

The 7 seater bike will be in the park from Thursday with 15 MPs, councillors & London Assembly members who are kindly taking part.

We asked her to spill the beans about her work to delve deeper into this political experiment for the people…

Tell us a bit about yourself & your work…

I’m a visual artist and activist based in Glasgow. Over the last few years I’ve been organising more and more events and performances involving groups of people as active participants, such as High Street Casualties: Ellie Harrison’s Zombie Walk staged in Birmingham City Centre in April, Dark Days for which I invited 100 people spend the night together at the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow on Friday 13th February, and, last summer’s The Global Race – a mini Olympics on Segways in Berlin. It’s because of projects like these, I guess, that I now find myself now working with a theatre this summer to create This Is What Democracy Looks Like! I try to entice people to take part in my projects, by offering fun / gimmicky experiences (in this case, the opportunity to travel around the Olympic Park on a seven-seater bike), which I hope will then become something more provocative and profound (because of the interesting discussions that happen on board).

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High Street Casualties: Ellie Harrison’s Zombie Walk from Ellie Harrison on Vimeo.

What’s your favourite thing about being an artist?

It has to be getting to travel and meet so many new and interesting people. That’s why I’m increasingly drawn to organising these sorts of events. I call them “social inclusions projects for a socially-engaged artist.” Haha!

Tell us a bit about your Walkie Talkie piece. What can we expect to see & experience?

This Is What Democracy Looks Like! makes use of the Conference Bike – a seven-seater bicycle designed by American artist Eric Staller, so that all its passengers are facing each other and can take part in a group discussion on equal terms. There are not many of these bikes in Europe, and they mostly seemed to be used to offer tourists boozy city cruises (I saw one in Berlin last summer doing just that). The idea of the project is to put the bike to better use, by using it as a public platform for people from the local area to meet and discuss their ideas and concerns with their elected representatives – their councillors, their MPs or their London Assembly members. The event makes visible the staid conventional politician’s “surgery”, transforming it into a fun and engaging experience for all. We have fifteen brilliant politicians lined up to host our “roving roundtable discussions” across Thursday 16th, Friday 17th and Saturday 18th July. Please come on down and join us! Just show up on the hour outside the Copper Box Arena in the Olympic Park to get on board for a chat (plus a bit of light exercise – no cycling experienced required!)

How did the idea for your event come about? Who or what inspired you to make this experience for people?

This year, particularly, I’ve been looking for simple ways to make visible complex economic problems or political ideas. My recent project in Cardiff There’s nothing More Unequal than Equality amongst Unequals attempts to explore different interpretations of the concept of ‘equality’ – contrasting the ‘equality of opportunity’ and the ‘equality of outcome’ favoured by different parts of the political spectrum. With This Is What Democracy Looks Like! I’m interested in looking at different ways of understanding ‘democracy’ – contrasting the concept of a ‘participatory democracy’ in which we have responsibility as citizens to actively contribute to the direction of our society and a ‘representative democracy’ like the one we live in, where we elect people to that hard work for us. Part of the research for this project has been to unpick and make sense of the layers of representation that exist in London, where every citizen has at least four people responsible for representing their views at various levels, from the local: Borough Councils and the London Assembly, to the national: the UK Parliament, to the international: the European Parliament. I’m making a map for the event programme to illustrate each of these.

What other events in the Walkie Talkies programme are you most looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to all of it. I’ve known Beckie Darlington for four years, since we worked together on the Desk Chair Disco in Newcastle in 2011. I know she has great taste and a brilliant sense of humour and will have put together a fantastic programme!

Desk Chair Disco from Ellie Harrison on Vimeo.