2012 certainly has been an eventful year here at the Potting Shed! There have been lots of memorable events over the course of the year and some exciting things to look forward to. Here are some of the highlights…
January saw the start of the wider community phase of Somerstown Stories. This project had already been nearly two years in the making, so it was both daunting and exciting to see it hit the streets of Somerstown.
Work continued from the highly successful launch of the project at Somers Park Primary School during the preceding autumn term. The opportunity for partnership work was very exciting, and a wide range of local groups and organisations got involved including Southsea Community Centre, SureStart, Portsmouth Film Society, three local churches (St Luke’s, St Peter’s & The Kings Church), Omega Street Centre and two separate departments (Architecture and Creative & Performing Arts) within the University of Portsmouth.
During the course of the project we realised there would an underspend in the budget, but we quickly put the money to good use by running some extra events and funding a book*. One of the best events was the Museum of Somerstown – a temporary exhibition in an empty shop in Somerstown. We saw over 200 visitors over the course of the four days it was open – a fantastic response, aided in no small part by a great article in The News and interviews on Express FM.
Somerstown Stories as a project continues to generate interest, particularly through the Facebook page and there are plans to carry out some follow-up work in partnership with the University of Portsmouth as part of their community engagement work.
Other projects this year included Storytelling Club at Stamshaw Infants school. This involved running an after-school club for 5 weeks, helping the children to explore facets of storytelling and then to write their own original stories. These stories were printed in a specially made book, entitled ‘The Story Chest’.
I also had the opportunity to get involved in a cultural Olympiad project called Dysarticulate. This was supported by legacy funding from the Creative Partnerships programme.
Working with local artist Jon Adams, I ran workshops in four different schools, facilitating flag making, using pages from recycled books. I can honestly say that every flag was unique and there were so many different ways to approach the work! Everyone was included, no matter what they felt their artistic skills were like.
The summer saw a change of pace with a return to North End Playscheme. This week-long children’s activity scheme has been running for nearly twenty years and is almost entirely staffed by volunteers. Here I exercised my storytelling skills once again with a suitably Olympic themed tale of daring-do entitled: “Lucy and the Race to Save the Olympics!” Lucy is a character I created years ago for a similar playscheme in London, and she often features if I’m doing a serialised story, as this one was. The afternoon saw a subtle shift from Storyteller to Administrator and First Aider, but as you might expect, Playscheme is always “all hands on deck!”
The autumn term has seen several days unpaid work go into finishing the Somerstown Stories book, which should be available in Jan/Feb 2013. There has also been some work for the University of Portsmouth, beginning to develop some community engagement work, and for the embryonic UK Community Partner Network a national group, supported by the National Centre for Co-ordinating Public Engagement (NCCPE) which seeks to nurture and support community groups and organisations who work with universities:
2012 has been a diverse year, and in a climate of spending cuts and increased pressures on education and the arts, it feels like no small achievement to have made it this far! 2013 is full of curious uncertainty, with ideas in the pipeline waiting to come to fruition. To find out more you can also visit the new Facebook page: http://ow.ly/gzbKr which also includes information about my photography and textile craft work or follow me on Twitter: @sharonaverona
No two weeks are ever the same in my world, and the summer break is no exception – in fact in some ways it’s even more pronounced! Now don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy variety in my work – it’s one of the reasons I work freelance, but it can occasionally make you feel a little dizzy!
Last week I had the pleasure of volunteering at North End Playscheme, which I wrote about in my last entry. Despite the odd rain shower and even a power-cut on the last day, adults and children all had a fab time! Lucy and the Race to Save the Olympics went down a treat with children and grown-ups (which is always nice!) and Uncle Trevor the aeronaut seemed to be a big hit! Hoot Hoot!
However, this week I’m turning my attention to books: two in fact. One isSomerstown Stories, which is the book of the project and the story of the area*. The other is a smaller, far more personal little book comprised of original stories from the children of Stamshaw Infants School’s Storytelling Club.
For five weeks in the summer term I ran an after-school club, with around 12-14 children aged 6 and 7, to develop their storytelling skills and write their own story. We used freeze frames and storyboarding to break the story down into sections and help with sequencing. The children played with Story Cubes© (www.storycubes.com) and Story Pegs as well as listening to music to give them inspiration. Despite a very tight timescale all but one of the children managed to produce an original piece of work, and I was very pleased with the variety and degree of imagination they had. The stories are being compiled into an anthology and each child will get their own copy. I hope that it’ll inspire them to keep writing, and maybe they’ll be the next generation who could give JK Rowling or Philip Pulman a run for their money!
*The Somerstown Stories book, relates the story of the area as I’ve discovered it. It would be difficult for it to be a complete account as I haven’t been able to interview every single resident! However hopefully it will provide a good flavour of the area as it’s developed over time. The book is being paid for by the Heritage Lottery Fund and will be free to the public. It will have a limited print run, and people can apply for a copy through the website: www.somerstown-stories.org.uk A copy of the book will be allocated one per household, on a first-come-first-served basis. We hope it will be available in early October.
Did you know that certain plants can only be pollinated by bees? One of which, I believe, is the fabulous apple tree! Artificial pollination was found to be unsuccessful and bees are considered to be – the bees knees!
There have been LOTS of things happening at the Potting Shed recently – hence why the blog has been quiet the last few weeks. Here’s the buzz on what’s happening currently:
- The project is in its final phase, but shows no sign of slowing down! Somerstown Museum is part of this: a temporary exhibition in an empty shop in St James Road, just off Winston Churchill Avenue. A preview evening will be on Thurs 19th July and the museum will be open to the public Fri 20th – Sun 22nd July. It’s being run by those talented chaps at NebMedia: http://www.nebweb.co.uk/ More info to follow.
- In addition there is a final exhibition taking place at Central Library in early July which will promote the Somerstown Archive which will be held and managed by the City Museum and Records Office. There are also plans to produce a book documenting the story of Somerstown and the project itself.
- Year 9 students from Charter Academy and Priory School are taking part in a specially designed charette led by Post-Grad Architecture students from the University of Portsmouth, who will be sharing their knowledge and skills on Somerstown. The School of Architecture students have been focussing on Somerstown this year in their studies, redesigning significant elements of the area and some key buildings.
- UK Community Summit – linked to Somerstown Stories, I’ve been invited to attend the first UK Community Partner Summit, which aims to build resilience and strengthen relationships between universities and community partners: http://www.publicengagement.ac.uk/news-and-events/events/uk-community-partner-summit-0
Beyond Somerstown Stories, there are other interesting and intriguing things happening:
- Storytelling Club – this is a five week project running at Stamshaw Infants school. By the end of the project the children will have explored freeze-framing, storyboarding, and used Story Pegs and Story Cubes http://www.storycubes.com/
- Interpretor/Demonstrator at D-Day Museum – working with children to understand and explore the significance of the D-Day landings, using the Overlord Embroidery and artefacts from the period. Enjoyable, engaging, sobering and thought-provoking, I’m enjoying the work there and the chance to inflict my feeble French on some very patient teachers and students from Caen!
There are other potential projects in the pipeline, but I’m always interested in hearing ideas for new pieces of work, so if you’ve got an idea, drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call on: 07986-674709
After a hectic rush up to Christmas getting the brochure to print (it looks very shiny, thanks to Keli at http://www.digitallyenriched.co.uk/), the wider community phase of the project is about to start – with a vengeance!
A range of activities and events will be taking place over the next few weeks, starting on Tuesday 17th January at Somers Park Primary School with a free local history course – but this time for the grown-ups! It’s a fantastic course which will include a trip to the D-Day Museum, a look at archive maps & photos, wartime cooking and lots more. A second class is taking place at Omega Centre on Thursday mornings, and both are being run by the Omega Centre team.
Alongside this we’re rather delighted to be able to partner up with Angel Radio http://www.angelradio.co.uk/ as part of their Pass It On project http://www.pass-it-on.org.uk/ Angel Radio is an on air and online radio station made by older people, for older people. It’s a nostalgia station with, in their own words “snap, crackle but no pop!” We’re planning to do regular slots during the course of the project, at each of workshop venues, gathering the stories of people who visit.
One of the main aims of Angel Radio’s Pass It On scheme is to pass on skills from one generation to another – and that works both ways! Older people have been learning recording and editing techniques and how to use the last equipment including FlashMics. Younger people in turn can learn from the stories and skills of people from a different generation.
If you have a story to share about Somerstown, we’d love to hear it! Or maybe you’ve got some old film footage or photos we could look at? We’d be delighted to see you at any one of the four drop-in workshops that are taking place across Somerstown:
Tues 24th & Weds 25th January at Omega Centre, Omega Street, 10am-12 noon
Thurs 23rd & Fri 24th February at Wilmcote House Community Room, 10am-2pm
Thurs 1st March at St Peter’s Church Hall, 10am-12 noon
Weds 14th March at Southsea Community Centre, 11am-1pm
I travelled up to Leigh Park today to meet with Lynne Dick, the Director of Making Space www.makingspace.org
They’ve recently completed a Heritage Lottery funded project and I wanted to learn from her what she thought made the project a success and how it might have been better.
Making Space as an organisation is a refreshing blend of valuing the creative (seven studios available for artists starting-up) whilst underlining the practical (artists need to have a business plan and show how they’re going to make a living from their work) and outreach (using creative approaches to engage and value local people and skills).
Whilst their former project doesn’t link so much with Somerstown Stories, the new one they’ve just applied for may overlap a great deal with ours. The new project seeks to explore Leigh Park in the post-war era and they’ll be recruiting a Historian-in-Residence. Given that many of the former residents of Somerstown may have been relocated to Leigh Park, there may be some interesting cross-overs, as their stories and ours, weave together.
More to come on this, I’m sure!
Ground rush: the feeling of the ground rushing up to meet you when you’re falling from a great height.
This is something of how I’m feeling at the moment, with several projects and deadlines all clamouring for my attention at once. It’s great to be able to involved with so much good work across the city, but with Creative Partnerships wrapping up and Somerstown Stories and Fratton Big Local just starting to get into their stride, there’s a lot going on!
My writing has been forced not just to the back burner, but to someone else’s back burner, in a house two doors down the road… All the Creative Partnership projects are now due their evaluations and Project End forms, as well as budget reviews to plan for any underspends.
We’re about six weeks away from finding out whether Somerstown Stories will be successful in its bid to Heritage Lottery Fund http://www.hlf.org.uk/HowToApply/programmes/Pages/yourheritage.aspx This is very exciting, but while we wait, I need to create a Plan B, in case the funding doesn’t go ahead.
Fratton Big Local too, is waiting to hear if they will be successful in their attempt to get the second tranche of money for the consultation http://frattonbiglocal.org.uk/ We held our second public consultation event last Friday, and despite having my purse stolen by someone, while I was speaking to someone else, we did get a good range of responses. It was a useful exercise and helped me work out how I need to change the layout of the stall in order to get people’s attention more effectively. Its surprising how many people dismissed me and what I was saying without really listening or understanding what I was trying to tell them about. Maybe something like a giant interactive Monopoly(C) board featuring Fratton localities or a spinning wheel where people can nominate areas they feel are most important…? I think fun, interactive and creative approaches can be more effective, but in the end I can’t make people listen.
And as if that wasn’t enough, I have now embarked on the Kaospilots summer programme. This is a joint venture between the Kaospilots School in Aarhus, Denmark http://www.kaospilot.dk/ and the Centre for Enterprise at Portsmouth University http://www.port.ac.uk/departments/academic/pce/ led by Richard Sant. I and the other participants had to produce a video outlining the project we would be focussing on during the programme, and I hope to post that here shortly. The summer programme is funded by the Diocese of Portsmouth Council for Social Responsibility and Portsmouth University, so for me, many of the costs are covered, which is a great blessing. This includes a week long trip to visit the Kaospilots in Aarhus in June, which I’m looking forward to (despite the burden I know this will leave on my husband at home!).
So, plenty going on. Plenty to do and plenty to look forward to. Ground, here I come!
I met with a chap called Tim Raw who’s the Marketing and Communications Officer for Somerstown Regeneration. Jan Fleming put me on to him and we had a very useful meeting where I was able to update him on the Somerstown Stories project and its scope, and he in turn explained to me about the next campaign they want to run called ‘Supporting Somerstown’. This is where the Housing team will work with the residents to find out how they can support them in developing their locality “beyond the bricks and mortar”.
I’m very excited and pleased to hear that people within the Housing team are looking beyond the built environment and acknowledging that a successful, sustainable community is based on more than good street lighting and regular rubbish collections.
Now, don’t misunderstand me: lighting and rubbish collection can do a lot to improve an area, as well as well-planned streets, green spaces and good transport links. And that’s just the start of the list. But to make a community truly successful, everyone living in it needs to be able to understand that they EACH have a part to play and contribution to make. One drop of water won’t fill a bucket, but if everyone adds just one drop, the bucket will overflow. In the same way, successful communities have co-operation and a shared sense of ownership and belonging. People know and understand that its a symbiotic relationship: what happens over here has an impact on what happens over there. Positive and negative events create ripples that touch more than just those who might be immediately involved.
As we talked, Tim explained that he didn’t really know quite how to launch the campaign, or how it might link to the heritage element of this project, but then we realised that Somerstown Stories actually provides a really good platform form which to launch this forward thinking campaign.
Having looked back at where we’ve come from, and understanding more about why and how we are now where we find ourselves, people in the locality can look forward, with a greater degree of informed understanding and a better grasp of the implications of the decisions they might choose to make.
We can’t fix people. Its not our responsibility and we haven’t the right. But maybe, through a good combination and variety of activities, opportunities and events, we can help people to choose to fix themselves.
PS Tim Raw from PCC sent me details about a local heritage project taking place in Leigh Park that has also been funded by HLF. I’ve contacted the project Director to see if she’d be willing to share some top tips with me!
Just left a meeting with ‘Somerstown Matters’ parents forum at SureStart centre, Somerstown. Yet more positive feedback and good ideas from them about ways in which those children and families might like to engage in the ‘Somerstown Stories’ project.
Ideas included a time capsule buried at the entrance of the new community hub and a Family Fun Day themed around 1940s including an ‘I am Three’ birthday tea party with wartime food and cooking.
Awesome! I love meeting real people and making space for their ideas – almost always means the project can really bloom when its owned by real people
Met up with Jodie Blankson from the Brook Club in Somerstown this afternoon regarding the Somerstown Stories project. She was very enthusiastic, which was great and it ties in really well with some work she wants to do with her young people: the Brook Club will be relocating into the new Community Hub once its been built, and she wants to do a project looking at the the history of the club, before they move.
Because of the project, I can offer my time for free and come in and run sessions, tailored to the needs of young people. Enabling the work at the Brook Club to be planned and shaped by young people is great from my point of view, but also from the HLF (Heritage Lottery Fund) bid point of view as participation is one of their key values.
I also dropped in on Lin Sharpe from Southsea Community Centre, which is just around the corner. She too is looking into the history of their venue, as her manager has asked all Community Centre Managers to explore their history. The community centre will also be relocating to the new Hub, so for both venues, this project is very timely, and has the potential to offer some great intergenerational work as well.
I have another half a dozen leads to follow-up, and a deadline of Friday for the draft version of the HLF bid….just keep swimming, just keep swimming….