DREAMS – Summer 2017
Over the last 15 years verd de gris has delivered a number of successful but small-scale participatory projects with women and girls – many of these projects have been targeted directly to support women dealing with a range of issues affecting their quality of life – depression, social isolation, domestic violence, low self-esteem. What has always amazed us is how important ‘culture’ was as a contributing factor – and something often overlooked by commissioners, support services, health professionals etc.
“We might go our entire lives without truly seeing and be seen by someone just because society tells us we are different than each other. We are different, each and everyone one of us and there is nothing wrong with that. We should embrace and celebrate one another and projects like this is the beginnings of that.” HALIMA, Project Participant
In May 2015, at the beginning of our 3-year Reaching Communities project, we delivered a short, pilot project as part of our Year 1 programme. The aim was to encourage cross-community working with groups of vulnerable women – for the women to draw strength from meeting others from different ethnic / cultural backgrounds. The pilot led to a very successful ‘recovery’ project for local women dealing with poor mental heath and related social issues. This successful model was delivered in Year II.
As part of Year III we wanted to continue to develop this model of cohesion and shared learning, and bring on board some new local agencies who work with women ‘in recovery’.
We began by developing a campaign to recruit participation from local 3rd-sectors networks and providers. Meetings were set up with women’s support agencies and past project work and methodologies were shared with e.g. social workers and support staff. We were pleased to make contact with a local church support group at The Gathering Place in Halifax, which offers support to a number of very vulnerable women. Cath & Angus Music, who develop project work within The Gathering Place, helped us recruit participants and Sharon from verd de gris ran a number of taster sessions to help reassure the women and build confidence.
We complimented this targeted approach with more open recruitment via social media, posters and fliers in cafes, libraries and other public spaces. This resulted in a very diverse mix of women coming forward to join us on the creative retreat at Whitestone Arts – women of differing socio-economic, religious, racial and sexual orientation.
The two-day workshop at Whitestone was facilitated by artists Sharon Marsden and Natalie Speake, and musician Amy-Rose Atkinson. The aim was to create a neutral yet creative space where every woman could relax and spend quality time without judgement – but also to see a reflection of herself in the other women around her.
As in previous years, the space and the mood created in the retreat led to very open conversations about e.g. meeting others from different backgrounds; the importance of recognising the things they all shared as women. The impact on each of the women was quite profound and very moving to witness. For all the women, their understanding of ‘difference’ deepened and was enriched. At the end of the final session we used a creative form of gathering information to get feedback from the women about the impact of the project:
“I will take away: Love from the group. belonging from the group. Hearing the whisper in my ear from the group of beautiful women. I will treasure the memories created. When we all sat and created the piece of art, you could feel the energy in the room. I will remember the many smiles that were shared and the singing was just WOW. I closed my eyes to feel the vibration in the room. Truly grateful, an amazing gift.” DEBBIE, Participant
The project was funded through Big Lottery Fund and part of the Creative Communities initiative with Square Chapel Centre for the Arts.