The Innovation Challenge in Leicestershire. What a great idea! Leicestershire County Council provided an opportunity for housing providers and microproviders to come together and do some really innovative stuff. A small amount of money making a BIG difference to the lives of a wide range of people involved in all sorts of housing support schemes. Add to the mix innovative Community Catalysts as co-ordinators, and it was always going to be a winning recipe.
I have to “declare an interest”. I have been closely involved in this project – some of you might have spotted on Twitter that Mum & I pitched up for one of the sessions recently and Mum (who IS rather good at art) produced a lovely painting on silk. We went along again yesterday to view the fabulous artwork and join in the “end of project” celebration.
I am also really looking forward to “following up” Katherine and Winsome’s project, facilitating some Whose Shoes? co-production discussions with the residents of St Mary’s in Lutterworth. We will work together to see what they think of the services they receive (see, once again, it is the GOOD providers asking their clients how they can improve!) and how the arts project can best be followed up.
Watch this space. But meanwhile, this is one of the wonderful creative projects I have been raving about when I have tweeted about the “Innovation Challenge”…
“I’m not very good at Art”Back in 2011, I wrote a project brief around the theme of art and reminiscence for the over 50s after experiencing first-hand the gap in services that still exists for older members of our community.
Earlier this year, Leicestershire County Council and Community Catalysts launched the fantastic Leicestershire Innovation Challenge programme where micro enterprises were given the opportunity to network with housing providers and look at bidding for projects to benefit service users.
“I’m not very good at Art” was a Beauty and Utility Arts project partnered with East Midlands Housing Association, working with participatory artist Winsome Ruddock. We chose the title because that was the disclaimer uttered by most as they sat down with us on day one – how wrong they were!
To make the project a little more unique, we involved ten children from John Wycliffe Primary School for the first four weeks and as they arrived at St. Mary’s with their teachers Marie and Charlotte on the afternoon of 15th May 2012, nobody knew quite what to expect!
We asked each pupil to sit next to a St. Mary’s resident and work with them for that session. From that point on, ‘project buddies’ became inseparable and relationships blossomed.
Over the course of four weeks the group worked with us on a desert island made up of food and drink; explored some ‘Touch Tables’ from Leicestershire’s Open Museum and historical objects from Lutterworth Museum; developed, designed and made a brand new food product and wrote and performed a mini advert to camera.
The children may only have worked with residents for a short period of time, but the impression they left will be ever-lasting.
For the final four weeks, Winsome and I worked with our St. Mary’s group on artwork and video recordings inspired by a lifetime of memories. Stories of gardens, holidays with family, school and riding on the back of motorbikes were just some of the things we talked about and by doing so the environment became relaxed and the pressure of producing artwork became less.
Many of our group members had not picked up a paintbrush or pencil since school, but with the right guidance, materials and support together with made mosaics, silk paintings and still life drawings which have formed part of an exhibition.
So … what do you do after all that? You celebrate! You celebrate very special time spent with all the residents, children, staff and supporters who made everything possible and on Wednesday afternoon we did just that with the exhibition, book and DVD, officially launched by opened by the Mayor of Lutterworth.
When I started writing this project, this was the quote I was drawn to:
“In addition to creative expression, the arts offer a whole range of personal benefits for older people themselves and to the wider community in its relationship to older people.”Ageing Artfully: Older People and Professional Participatory Arts in the UK, David Cutler, The Baring Foundation
Now that the project has drawn to a close I can look back and acknowledge that we tackled all of our anticipated outcomes around reducing social isolation, increasing participation and using lost skills, but it was the ones that nobody could possibly have dreamt of that will stay in all our minds; a young boy asking his Mum if he could visit is buddy in his school holidays; the school inviting all the St. Mary’s participants to a special assembly and the clear evidence that such a small project has made such a huge impact on those involved.
For more fab photos of the celebration event on Wednesday 15th August, please see Katherine’s own blog