2019 started with a bang as we received wonderful news that we have been awarded Arts Council England and Big Lottery Awards for All funding – funding that will go towards the delivery of more joyful projects! As we celebrate this positive start to the new year, we thoughts we’d revisit one of the lovely projects that we produced during 2018 that was also funded by the Lottery…. The Clevedon Communi-Tree project.
‘Communi-Tree’ was a 10-month project we were commissioned to deliver by the ‘Winash Wingers’, funded through the Lottery’s Award for All programme.
The project was delivered in Clevedon, North Somerset, at the Winash Care Home. Over the course of the 10 months from February to November 2018, we facilitated weekly sessions with Winash residents – all elderly adults with differing abilities – and different groups of children and young people from the Clevedon community, with professional artists. The fantastic youth groups and organisations involved included Rydal Nursery, St Nicholas Chantry CofE Primary School, the Clevedon Sixth Form College, the Clevedon Beavers and Brownies, Ravenswood School and Clevedon YMCA.
Our very own Livy Powell, Hannah Clarke, and Josie Rogerson were the Artists who delivered the sessions, and we were lucky enough to work with some other incredible Associate Artists, including Lin Powell – a Willow Weaver!
Each weekly bespoke session was based on the needs and abilities of each of the individuals involved. Every session brought different arts-based activities for the groups to work on that ultimately contributed to the co-production of a large community tree – dubbed the ‘communi-tree’. The aim was that this would bring many benefits and enjoyment to those involved during the project but would also mean they had something to enjoy and remind them, and the wider community, of the project afterwards!
The sessions built participants’ skills in creativity through fun and accessible arts and crafts activities including clay work, papier-mâché, aboriginal art, and stone painting. The intergenerational element meant that many had contact with the other age group when they usually wouldn’t, and different life skills, stories, memories and interests could be shared between young and old. Everybody involved had a brilliant time – “It was just great! I love being with the kids, it makes me feel a lot younger!” (Resident)
Each new session brought a different creative activity, and every time a new youth group was involved, the dynamics and creative focus changed also. This kept an element of excitement in the project. Those involved also learnt many different creative techniques, and tried things they hadn’t ever done before, whilst also reminding them of activities they may have done in their youth.
To celebrate the culmination of the project, we threw a party! It’s hugely important to us that we offer a platform that celebrates the relationships, the process and valuing each participant as an artist in their own right. We revealed the Communi-tree made by residents and youth groups at the Clevedon Community Centre – publicly sharing their collective artwork, celebrating their friendships and offering a platform to their memories and stories.
As a legacy for the project, several additional ‘trees’ created by those involved and were given to each of the youth organisations as a thank you. Several children brought along Christmas presents for residents they had made particularly strong connections with. Many brought food along, and parents of children attended too to celebrate in the project along with participants. A folk band attended to provide music and leading some dances. It was clear that everyone involved had a wonderful time – there were plenty of smiles and positive feedback to those we spoke to. It was visible how touched each of the residents were to receive something so personal, and to have been part of such a memorable and meaningful process.
We saw some real connections between residents and children. Many found they had a lot in common and could talk about things and share stories about their lives. Some of these connections developed in to friendships that will continue long after the project finished. A pen pal scheme was set up so that those who had established friendships could stay in touch, and some residents have even been visited by wider family members of the child they’ve connected with. It’s wonderful that sustainable connections have been made in this way! This is something we aim to do with all of our projects, whether it means developing relationships that last between individuals, communities, or organisations.
Big thanks to everyone involved in this wonderful project, particularly Anne Ellis at Winash, The Winash Wingers, and all the youth partners. Here’s to more like this in 2019!
Photo credits: Camilla Adams