New Public Space Celebrates Portsmouth as a Multicultural City

A new public art installation – The ChatterBox Pavilion – celebrating Portsmouth’s diversity and local culture was unveiled at the end of the Guildhall Walk in September 2019. Paris Ali-Pilling reports. 

The installation celebrates diversity and local culture and aims to provide an interactive and playful environment that will spark discussions about migration and culture in the city. Inside the artwork, spinning panels reveal opposite faces inside timber frames, supported by illustrations, interactive games and information about migration in Portsmouth.

University of Portsmouth Architecture students Helena Kranjc and Pepe Sánchez-Molero came up with the original concept for the pavilion and worked with members of a local community group, Chat Over Chai and students from the University’s Cultural and Creative Industries Faculty to create the artwork itself. The artwork was produced through a series of community workshops held between August 2018 and June 2019.

The project is part of a long-term partnership between the University of Portsmouth’s School of Architecture and Portsmouth City Council led by Guido Robazza, Senior Lecturer in Architecture. The partnership’s aim is to improve the quality of public spaces in Portsmouth and to encourage people to use public spaces more.

Guido said, ‘I hope the making of this project has offered those in the Chat Over Chai group a way to channel their own creative energy and given them an opportunity to speak out, decide, take action and craft an underused central area of this city, making it become a positive place for them and other local people.

‘I look forward to seeing this space transformed from an odd piece of land to a charismatic small meaningful place that talks about the positive vibrant energies hidden in Portsmouth.’

Councillor Darren Sanders, Cabinet Member for Housing at Portsmouth City Council, said; ‘It’s great to see so many groups come together to create such a useful and interesting piece of art, which transforms this unused space at the end of Guildhall Walk.

‘We should be celebrating the diversity of residents in Portsmouth as it’s one of the things which makes this city so fantastic. The Chatterbox Pavilion project should help people to do this and it’s something that I’m proud of the council being involved in.’

The ChatterBox project also collaborated with The Maker’s Guild and Journeys Festival International Portsmouth and was supported using public funding by Arts Council England.

One of the community participants said: ‘We are all excited to see the fruits of our joint imaginings and endeavour. Whatever the outcome and however the installation is used this has been an interesting, motivating and unifying project; the process and the eventual product being valuable for us all.’

The project will be looking to do other installations in public spaces across different areas of the city on different themes.


This project was co-created by:

Chat Over Chai Members:
Aaishah, Runi, Lupa, Sumaiya, Milly, Chris, Shelina, Lynne, Wahida, Mandy, Shahanara, Shela, Salina, Roger, Monuwara, Rosey, Mala, Sharon, Ruji, Peter, Sandra, Millie, Christine, Razia, Jan, Lucky, Lamia, Rebecca, Yvonne, Fiona, Rowshonara.

Students and lecturers from the University of Portsmouth:
Helena Kranjc, Pepe Sánchez-Molero, Guido Robazza, Steve Oliver, John Daltry,  Phevos Kallitsis, Nikos Nanos, David Beggs.

Journeys Festival International Portsmouth and Maker’s Guild:
Claire Woollard, Sam Asiri, Gavin Hodson.

Portsmouth City Council
Jo Bennett, Holly Easlick, Marshada Chowdhury.

Original story published on the University of Portsmouth website.