The aim of the arts and crafts workshops was to get people talking about Brierley Hill; past, present and future while involved in a fun, creative activity. The approaches were pitched at the age ranges of the participants.
Paint and Postcards
Shona Rose Gilsenan ran an arts workshop with children aged 2 to 8. This was working with Homestart, Dudley.
The group were shown pictures of the town to spark recognition and asked to imagine they were visiting Brierley Hill on holiday. They then had to write a postcard to someone to tell them what it was like.
Chloe wrote on her postcard:
“To Mom and Dad
We have had a great time in Brierley Hill. We have been to Barneys. I wish you was here too it is great here. I saw lots of big flats and I have been to McDonalds. I have been shopping to get some fruit. I love Brierley Hill. I have seen horses.
Lots of love from Chloe”.
The two eight year olds in the group found it easy to talk about the town, what they liked about it and went there for. This was more difficult for the under five age group.
In times when it is often easier to be negative, we found that creating postcards is a good way for people to think about positive experiences they have in a town as they associate postcards with holidays and good times.
It became apparent early on that the under fives in the group were not engaging with the postcard activity. They were producing some wonderful blocks of colour, shapes and textures – so we decided to do a group collage so their work could contribute to a piece of art.
Together the group decided what features of Brierley Hill should be in the collage – the flats, the market, the park and some shops.
Shona asked the older children and mums to draw specific things to go on the collage – people, market stalls, fruit, ducks – or cut shapes from the paintings of the younger children. We found that giving the more reluctant parents specific tasks such as drawing a shop, a person or cutting out shapes for the collage helped them to engage more in the workshop.
Reminiscence, maps, luggage tags and collage
Jon Dean incorporated various activities into the workshop with AgeUK, with a focus on reminiscence.
The session started by looking at historic photos of the town, reference books and old magazine cuttings.
Some of the participants who did not live in Brierley Hill at first were concerned they would not able to get involved, but they soon realised they all had memories of the area. Having materials brought in sparked memories.
The next activity was making suitcase labels and writing words and expressions about Brierley Hill – what comes to mind when you think of the area? These were stuck on an old suitcase to create an installation.
Jenni, the Age UK Coordinator said “The luggage tags were very good, the group were happy to write down expressions and ideas. Unfortunately the group are more talkers than artists and reluctant to get creative. Books and pictures were very well received and instigated conversations.”
Participants created their own maps and drawings of how they remember Brierley Hill High Street and memories associated with being there.
Through this workshop we learned that some older people are reluctant to get creative through craft materials; painting or drawing could be difficult due to eye sight limitations or arthritis. Visual materials and discussion worked well with this group.
Jon negotiated the workshop with participants so they could share the decision-making and feel able to get involved. It is always useful to plan a range of activities to ensure inclusive practice.
Hand Print Art
Shona Rose Gilsenan ran a drop-in activity day during the school holidays. Children aged between five and fifteen were involved.
An objective of the workshop was to get children and their families talking about Brierley Hill today and what they would like for the future Brierley Hill town centre.
Children were encouraged to write words they would like to use to describe Brierley Hill in the future around their handprint pictures. In planning the workshop we were hoping that words could be written on the actual fingers so the tree collage was covered in aspirations about the town, but the paint didn’t dry quick enough and many were covered in glitter so words would be lost.
A tree collage was created using the participant’s handprints as leaves and displayed in the Artspace shop window. Participants enjoyed contributing towards a group piece of art.
One of the lessons we learnt was that because the participants did not know each, some felt uncomfortable giving their opinions in front of the group. As one of the main outcomes of the workshop was to learn about what people think about their town, we maybe should have included individual self-completion questionnaires or additional word based activities at the same time to ensure we got lots of feedback.