Well, things have certainly been busy here at the Potting Shed over the last few weeks! A burst of feverish funding bids and applications have yielded some encouraging results…Here are some of the highlights:
Somerstown Stories project has been signed off by the Heritage Lottery Fund. This marks the end of the grant funding from HLF…but not the end of the project. On-going interest from the local community has sparked three follow-on workshops at Priory School, Portsmouth Foyer and Somerstown Adventure Playground. Each event has been tailored to meet the needs of the individual venue and are noticeably different in feel and approach. For the Adventure Playground, for example, we’re considering how a derelict piece of nearby land could possibly be transformed into a wildlife garden, and to help the children and their families understand what this could look like we’re borrowing from Helen Oxenbury’s ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ story, whilst we explore the nature reserve at Admiral Lord Nelson School in the north of the city. This piece of work is looking at Somerstown in the present, rather than the past, but during this period of regeneration it’s important to help local people make the connections that will help them participate more fully in the process of change in their area.
Somerstown Stories has also enabled me to develop stronger links with the University of Portsmouth, and I am now working alongside staff within the Creative & Cultural Industries faculty, supporting the development of their community engagement strategy. They want to specifically focus on an area which includes Somerstown and the city centre, where a lot of the University’s work is based, and I’m pleased to be able to be involved in this exciting piece of work!
It also dovetails very nicely with some work I’m doing with the National Centre for Co-ordinating Public Engagement, who are supporting the establishment of the UK Community Partner Network (or UKCPN) which is being set up to support organisations and practitioners such as myself who are working with universities on research and community based projects. The UKCPN is being funded by the Connected Communities programme which is in itself a new strand of funding with input from five of the major research councils in the UK. As part of my work with them, I will be attending the GUNI (Global University Network for Innovation) Conference in Barcelona in May 2013 to speak informally with delegates about the UKCPN and what we hope to do.
However, history is never too far away, and two more community heritage projects have emerged at Stamshaw Infants School and All Saints church. All Saints is a classic Victorian church which was built in 1828. They want to re-order part of the interior of their building and I’m supporting them with the fundraising element. One of the funders they’ve applied to is HLF and part of the bid includes some ‘taster Victorian Day’ workshops which are being tentatively planned with local primary schools, in order to draw out some of the valuable heritage of the site. I also plan to link these workshops to the nearby Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum, which is less than 5 minutes walk away.
Stamshaw Infants School building will be 115 years old next year and I approached them with an idea about doing a local history project, exploring the history of the area and inviting collaboration from local residents and former staff and pupils. The school are really enthused about the project and again I’ve supported them in putting together a funding bid, to enable this project to go ahead. In many ways it’s like a slimmed down version of Somerstown Stories, with one notable difference in that it’s the area in Portsmouth where I live. If the funding bid is successful the project will include 3 ‘Detective Days’ where the whole school will be engaged in activities linked to the local history of the area and the entire project will culminate in a summer Birthday Party, inviting parents and residents to see the results of the children’s year of enquiry.
And last, but by no means least, I also doing some work for Portsmouth Anglican Deanery, researching and developing a model of Chaplaincy for Further Education providers in Portsmouth. There are two colleges and 3 private schools currently offering sixth form provision within the Deanery and the FE Chaplaincy project sets out to consider the needs of these different organisations and suggest ways in the which the resources of the Deanery (both lay and ordained) could meet those needs. This research also includes an element of face-to-face work at Portsmouth College, which I’m looking forward to!
So, plenty of seedlings to nurture over the coming months! Don’t forget to visit the Facebook page ‘The Potting Shed’ for more regular updates and insights or to connect via Twitter: @sharonaverona
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
Today was the long awaited Creativity Conference, which took place at St Thomas’ Cathedral in Old Portsmouth. It was a legacy from the Creative Partnerships programme, which I used to work for, as a Creative Agent and you can look back through previous posts to find out more about that work.
However, it was something that happened during the afternoon that I want to reflect on here, and that was the address given by Kristen Birkland from the Kaospilots.
She talked about creativity and ways of nurturing creativity. She used a creation story to illustrate how and where creativity can be seen and understood, and the commentators and people on twitter quite rightly commented that she ‘mesmerised’ and ‘captivated’ the audience.
Having visited Aarhus and the Kaospilots school myself last year, I was forcibly reminded of my visit there, and it felt to me like suddenly breathing in again after having held my breath for a long time. I don’t know if you’ve ever done that: held your breath without realising it, because you were concentrated or absorbed by something. Not for any length of time, but just a few moments, until you suddenly realise what you’re doing – and you breathe in again and feel that life-giving revitalising air swoop into your lungs.
Spending time with the Kaospilots and with other people who have been there – all dreamers in their different ways, is life-giving to me. Food for the soul. And there were a lot of moments in those keynote speeches, when what was being shared really resonated with me…which brings us to the singing bowl.
I daresay you were wondering why I’ve included it? Maybe by now you were inventing your own reasons and theories as to why? The answer is two-fold:
Firstly because Richard Sant, the Director for Creative Enterprise at the University of Portsmouth had one at the conference today, and he chimed it whenever a session was due to finish. And it struck me what a fabulous illustration it is of the second and more important reason:
About how a singing bowl actually works:
The tone is caused by the bowl vibrating. You can see this fairly clearly in the first section of the video when the large bowl is struck. The way in which the bowl is hit or rubbed makes the bowl oscillate – that is it wobbles in a oval shape, and that is what causes the sound. It is a very clear sound and it carries very effectively across a large space.
Much of what I heard today – and particularly in Kristen’s talk, resonated with me. It caused an answering vibration which I heard, felt and understood. And yet I hadn’t appreciated how much I’d missed it, until I heard it again.
The challenge of any conference, training or retreat is: how are you going to apply what you’ve learnt when you get back? How will you make it stick? I think for me, I need to action some things I’ve been mulling over for a while, including writing my paper on education entitled: ‘The Writer, The Illustrator and General MacNamara’, which I’ll post here when its finished. Another action is to work harder at making time to reflect. Making it a priority to create space for daydreaming, doodling, meditating and reflecting. It’s too, too easy to get caught up in the ‘doing’ part, but always far harder to employ the discipline of stopping, pausing and being still.
Perhaps I’d better invest in a singing bowl while I’m at it…?
The first drop-in exhibition/workshop event took place on Tuesday last week at the Omega Centre. We didn’t have high numbers, but those who did come along had some interesting stories to tell about their own experiences of Somerstown. I was able to interview someone during the event, and have arranged interviews with others to document their stories. This phase of the project will naturally include gathering (and transcribing) some oral history interviews which is, I believe, where the real treasure will lie.
This was followed in the evening by an archive film screening of Portsmouth, hosted by Portsmouth Film Society http://www.portsmouthfilmsociety.org.uk/ using footage that is in the care of the Wessex Film Archive http://www3.hants.gov.uk/wfsa.htm
Meanwhile the Somerstown Stories website, also includes details about the great work that took place at Somers Park Primary School in the Autumn term last year, when the teachers and children were engaged in their part of the project: http://www.somerstown-stories.org.uk/?page_id=100
Overall the project is now in its wider community phase, and local people are getting the chance to go on the same journey of exploration. As I start to gather oral history accounts from local people, these along with the photographs and maps will be catalogued and collated into the Somerstown Archive which will be held and managed by the Local History Centre: http://www.portsmouth.gov.uk/learning/15605.html
This means that the conversations that are being started now can continue after the project has finished, and the material will be available for other people to access and add to.
Part of this second phase series of events includes a creative workshop being led by two local artists: Jane Kilford http://www.janekilford.com/ and Julie Graves http://www.artwanted.com/artist.cfm?ArtID=5843 who are also planning to do some preliminary work with the children at Somers Park, inviting them and their families to bring an object from the past into school to share with others and to use as a prompt for telling their own story of Somerstown.
Meanwhile, Julie has enabled me to make a link with the University of Portsmouth’s School of Architecture http://www.port.ac.uk/departments/academic/architecture/. Her husband Francis is an architect and senior lecturer and his current cohort of students are engaged in a project whose theme is the redesign of Somerstown and some of the key buildings within it, including the churches of St Luke’s and St Peter’s. This is a beautiful overlap for me, and so I was able to attend the students mid-term review on Thursday of last week and see and hear first-hand their ideas and visions for the area. It was fascinating to see an area I’m so familiar with through someone else’s eyes. Francis has kindly invited me back to speak to the group about the Somerstown Stories project and share some of the resources I’ve found and what I’ve learnt so far. I was impressed with the breadth and depth they are required to consider and include in their planning and I’m looking forward to teaching and learning more about Somerstown with them.