What it means to work on your doorstep

This is a quick recap of the second in a series of three workshops hosted in collaboration with PlatformThirty1 as part of our new Creative Agents programme. The session was led by Jodie Cresswell-Waring and held at Somercotes Village Hall on Tuesday 17th June, 2024.

How might we step outside or comfort zones, find the courage to get to know ourselves and our neighbours in new ways, and spark creativity where we live?

Ouuufff that’s a big question right (!?!) feeling a wee bit uncomfortable just thinking about it, but with Jodie as our guide and a few lovely old match boxes we had a lot of fun exploring this together.

We kicked off the session with a quick re-cap from workshop 1, The Journey to Co-Creation. Jodie explained that this session was designed to dive a bit deeper into the “muck and the magic” of co-creation and to zoom in on the unique challenges and possibilities of collaborating with your neighbours in the place you live. Jody shared stories of living and working in her community and invited us to think deeply about the many hats we all wear and the role we might play in sparking and spreading magic within the communities we’re part of.

Every match is made to be lit…

Jodie kicked us off with her “Matchbox Musings”. Using matches and matchboxes to help us to think about people and places.

If every match is made to be lit, and every matchbox contains all that’s needed to create fire. How do we create the spark?

Jodie shared stories and experiences of the warmth, light and power that can be kindled when you’re able to create the right conditions for people “to spark”, and for sparks to spread. She also warned us of the incredibly delicate nature of this process and how often, the imbalance of power and agency of “professionals” working in community space, can undermine the potency of the raw materials (… a bit like dunking your match box in bucket of water!)

We talked about the external and internal narratives that a community exists within. And how disempowering it can be to exist within a box or a story that someone else (no matter how generously) has created for you rather than one you have created for yourself.

Before Striking a Light

To get us thinking a bit more about this and the places, people and the grit needed to create a spark, Jodie invited us to create a mini “match-box community”. Thinking about all the elements that might help bring our community sizzling to life.

What excites you?
What’s gonna motivate people to get involved?
What’s the grit you bring?
What do you want to nurture?
What people are you thinking about?

Each question was connected to an object that we added into our matchboxes including a tiny wee bottle filled with the grit (sparkly sea salt!) we need to bring!

Never Play With Matches!

We had so much fun with the match boxes (I still have mine in my pocket) that we started to run out of time!

Jodie raced us quickly through some thoughts on public art and the act of developing something with the intention of permanence. She highlighted the complexities of developing physical interventions that have a life beyond the original creators. Communities often want to celebrate and mark the physical presence of a space, and she reminded us that this is a very different beast from developing temporary spaces or activities that are built for the pleasure of the moment, and for people involved to enjoy. She touched on how important it is that communities feel ownership of anything that is going to be part of their everyday lives and what a difference it can make to involve as many people as possible in meaningful ways. She shared a few examples of high profile projects that have unsettled, and/or were undervalued or rejected by their communities, even when there was a wholesome intention to gift the community with “high quality” art. She also shared a few of her own bumpy rides with working on mural projects and the dance that had to happen between artistic freedom and authentic heritage. We heard stories about the beauty and brutality of these worlds colliding within the community and how important skilled co-design was to finding a way through. We also got to hear about one of her favourite examples of community driven public art Dream St Helens located on the Sutton Manor Colliery in St Helen’s Merseyside.

Getting out of our (match)boxes!

The last area we touched quickly was boundaries. One of the most challenging and beautiful parts of working on your doorstep! Jodes talked about the paradox of needing to “bring your whole self” but “not putting yourself at the centre”. And shared this beautiful quote to open us up to new ways of thinking about our “fertile edges” rather than our “rigid boundaries”:

“Complex networks of relationships offer very different possibilities for thinking about self and other. The very idea of boundaries changes profoundly. Rather than being a self-protective wall, boundaries become the place of meeting and exchange. We usually think of these edges as the means to define separateness, defining what’s inside and what’s outside. But in living systems, boundaries are something quite different. They are the place where new relationships take form, an important place of exchange and growth as an individual chooses to respond to another. As connections proliferate and the system weaves itself into existence, it becomes difficult to interpret boundaries as defenses, or even as markers of where one individual ends”

The Promise and Paradox of Community in The Community of the Future. Jossey-Bass, 1998 Margaret J. Wheatley & Myron Kellner-Rogers

If you’re curious to find out more you can dive into our Creative Agents Padlet and let us know of any other useful resources that we can add in.

Massive thanks to Jodie for sharing so openly and generously.

Creative Agents

We ended the session with a bit of a Q&A about our new Neighbourhood Creative Agents programme. You can find out more here and apply by sending us a completed version of this form here by 4th July.

We talked through the dates, application process and some of the requirements. A few questions that came up below:

Q: Can I apply with someone else?
A: You’re welcome to apply with someone else, but you would need to be able to make that work within the same budgets. For the peer learning sessions we would ask you to nominate one person to take part, so that there is a consistency of experience for all six Creative Agents.

Q: Do I need to know where I’m going to work?
A:
 Yes. This is a place-based programme working on your doorstep or in a place that feels like home to you.

Q: Do I have to spend all the money?
A:
 No. Each Creative Agent will have up to £5000 to spend, but not everyone will need / want to use that amount. Pots of funding for each Creative Agent will be held on our Open Collective platform. You will be trained up to use the platform and this will allow you to draw down expenses and make payments as needed, rather than managing expenditure through a personal account. Any unspent money will be rolled over to support future Creative Agents.

Next up!

Join us at Riddings Park Community Centre on Thurs 27th June for: Creative Agents- Planning for change and successful outcomes Tickets, Thu 27 Jun 2024 at 10:30 | Eventbrite

We’ll be talking about how to develop project ideas with outcomes and learning in mind. Thinking about how to juggle timelines, budgets, risks and resourcing when ideas are still forming.

ABOUT US

We are Make/Shift. A growing collective of people, groups and organisations who believe in the creative power of communities to make positive change in the places they live.

We are rooted in Amber Valley, Derbyshire with networks reaching out beyond. We believe everyone is creative and want Amber Valley to be a place full of makers, where everyone’s creativity matters.

A big part of our work is testing new ways of working and learning together, which shift more power and resources to communities to make decisions, take action, and make change together on their doorstep.

Make/Shift is part of Arts Council England’s Creative People and Places programme. Find out more >>> www.wearemakeshift.uk

Platform Thirty1 are a local arts organisation specialising in enabling others to cultivate social change through artistic practice, cultural endeavour and creativity.

We are interested in changing the balance of power and agency through a co-created approach, with partners and participants. There are three core strands to our work:

  • Sector Development: predominately cross-sector work supporting professionals in arts, education, and neighbourhood spaces
  • Community: predominately co-creating with residents and a community-first approach in ex-industrial places in Derbyshire
  • Refuges: predominately women and children who are victims and survivors of domestic abuse

Find out more >>> www.platformthirty1.com

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