• Past Projects
BBC Outreach Project 2011
BBC Points West feature on the project (15.50 mins in): Points West 29.3.11
BBC Outreach feature on the project: BBC Oureach Newsletter Feb '11
A small insight into what we've been doing:
What a busy month, but what a satisfying one!
I've been living the 'community arts dream' working on two fabulous projects in my home town of Bristol. One run by Bristol City Council (more info soon) and 'Live In and Live On: Easton'; a BBC Outreach project working to bring the generations together in Easton, Bristol. Over the past 7 weeks we have been working with pensioners who have been based in Easton for decades or even generations, and teenagers recently arrived in the UK with English as a second language. Some of the young people came from conflict zones just before the project began, with little or no English.
We began the project by sharing stories of Easton between us all; around 22 teenagers from the DICE project at City Academy and 10 pensioners from the Kensington Baptist Church day centre, 7 local artists including myself and several BBC and youth worker facilitators. It was interesting to see common ground between some of the pensioners who came to the UK from Jamaica in the 60s and the young people who are now finding their feet, fighting racism and making new friends in the same neighbourhood a few decades on.
We then slpit into smaller groups, one artist facilitating their sharing, by using their artform as a common language, away from the fraught concentration of grammar and vocabulary.There were three people with me in my group: Hani who arrived from Somalia just before this project with no English at all, Michi who came to the UK from Romania 4 years ago and Ann, a lady who has lived in Easton for most of her life.
First we shared our stories about Easton and looked at Ann’s photos from when she was growing up here just like Michi and Hani. There were some photos of a street party on All Hallows Rd (1945), an Egg and Spoon race (1953) and Ann’s painting class at Nursery School (1947). She even had photoof her dad and granddad at the same school in Bannerman Road. Mixing these old photos of Easton with modern-day ones, we built up a visual conversation about our memories and experiences of these same streets.
Then we each made two pinhole cameras: the first one was made out of matchboxes and used film, the second one was made out of re-cycled cans and we used a darkroom to develop the photos from it. We decided to use our cameras to re-create some of Ann’s old photos in today’s Easton - echoes from the past with faces from today. Even though lots of things are different from when Ann was growing up, some things are still the same. Kids (and big kids like me, Marion and Tom!) still run races in the park and cheat at egg and spoon races, and feel at home on the same streets.
It was touching to see cheeky-monkey-Michi put aside his sometimes disruptive behaviour to help Ann with care and attention, taking pride in the group's work as well as his own. By the last session Hani had not only learnt everyday words like 'house' but was able to teach other children how to print photos in the darkroom. This was a particular success story, since Hani had started the project in complete silence and with a very shy attitude. The confidence Hani buit up, the behaviour patterns Michi started to put into place and the language skills they both learnt were incredibly touching to see.
Ann went above and beyond her many other pensioner's committment to the project, attending each session, with a real willingness to understand where these children had come from and a desire to welcome them into the community with her stories of it's history and culture. Marion, another pensioner who came every week despite severe mobility and health issues, was a star 'egg and spoon racer' in our reconstructions of Ann's 1953 race. She posed, both sticks in one hand, egg and spoon in the other laughing at her childhood memories and at Michi's determination to pose just slightly ahead of her!
Thank you to all, it has been a real privilege. Here's to many more wonderful community projects like this one!