It's amazing how many live streams, video tutorials, and other brilliant online activities there have been since we first went into lockdown - and the internet is such a constant presence in my life, it's easy to forget that many people go without it. In fact, in 2018 the Office of National Statistics put that number at more than 7 million people.
That's why I was delighted to be chosen as one of the ten artists for 10x10 Creative Gateshead, a project to design and distribute creative activity booklets that will support the wellbeing of community members who have little access to digital technology. Each of the artists worked with a Gateshead-based community organisation to create a fun and engaging activity to be included in the booklets.
About my activity
I was paired with a lovely lady called Michelle who runs an organisation called Creative Youth Opportunities. CYO 'uses art in all its forms to enrich the lives of children & young people', and so together we decided I would create a writing activity focusing on nature and the environment, something that's been so important to all of our wellbeing during lockdown. I can't imagine how isolating the past year has been for people who have little or no access to outdoor space, or people who are clinically vulnerable and have been shielding.
My exercise encouraged people to evoke the natural world in their writing, so that even somebody unable to get out in the fresh air could read their piece and feel transported there. Here is what I created:
All of the artists and organisations had worked on their activities in isolation from one another due to Covid restrictions, and so it was super exciting to be called for some press photographs in Saltwell park, meet the others involved in the project and receive our very own hard copies of the booklets. The rest of them were distributed to community groups, families and other individuals across the local area, but there is also a downloadable copy of the booklet available via the Dingy Butterflies website for everybody to enjoy:
You can even see some examples of the work created using the booklets, including some nature writing and leaf rubbing inspired by my activity, which was so fantastic to see!
Follow up workshops
In January 2021, all artists created a follow-up workshop based around their 10x10 Gateshead activity. I worked with a group called Gateshead Art Diamonds - who deliver a programme of arts activities and events for people of retirement age in Gateshead - and delivered them a nature poetry writing workshop via Zoom.
We focussed our attentions on the idea of the arrival of spring - snowdrops appearing in the garden, bulbs pushing their way up through the soil, the days getting ever so slightly warmer and longer... It was such an uplifting session and the group coordinator Karolynne described it as 'just what we all needed'!
I had such a wonderful time being involved in the 10x10 Creative Gateshead project. It was such a nice way to make a small difference to my local community during lockdown, as well as meeting other creative people at a time when meeting anyone has been made extremely difficult.
The resources 10x10 Creative Gateshead have made are, excuse the nature pun, 'evergreen', and are great to pick up in lockdown and outside of it, whether you're shielding or not, whether you're sick of your own four walls or just enjoying the peace and quiet.
Big thanks to Ben Jones @ Dingy Butterflies, Rachel Horton @ The Culture Vulture, Best of Bensham Collaborative and all of the other creatives involved.