From feeling isolated by society and then physically and mentally trapped inside their homes, adults with learning disabilities who have experienced more challenges than most in recent times have managed to remain connected thanks to the power of creative arts.
Wakefield-based CoActive Arts Charity has been working with adults with learning disabilities throughout the lockdown period via zoom and now in human as part of Wordfest 2021 as they prepare to showcase extracts of physical theatre, sculptures, and scripts they created throughout the Pandemic. Not So Alone will be performed as part of Wakefield Council’s literary festival Wordfest 2021 which is centered around the theme of ‘making words count.’
Jody: “We have had to change the way we work over the pandemic, but we have really missed being able to gather in large groups and being able to perform. It will be an important moment for us to be able to show our work in our new home in ‘The Make Space,’ in The Ridings Shopping Centre.
The performance will be 15-20 mins with a further 10 minutes for Q&A. The performance is at 12 noon inside Make Space next to Poundland inside The Ridings on Saturday 2nd October 2021.
All about Wordfest 2021 which runs from 1-31 October 2021:
Returning in 2021 WordFest will have the theme of using words to capture our wondrous planet and combat climate change. The festival will blend digital activities, fun family events with local creatives, and community library activities and experiences, all promoting the message: 'Make Words Count'.
You can read performer Dan’s blog all about the show below too:
CoActive’s mini-performance of Lily and Cedric love story
On Saturday, October 2nd, a small group of CoActive members will be performing a short section of their Lily and Cedric performance. It came about during the 1st or 2nd lockdown when the writers’ group wrote a story and they came up with the 2 character names and how the story would develop.
So what you should expect is: the 4 seasons and how the Lily’s and Cedric’s perform in those 4 seasons and different things will happen depending on the season, you should expect some happiness, sadness, and loneliness too. You should also expect some romance,
I love being a part of CoActive because we have some serious stuff such as when we are performing, but we also have some fun stuff like art, creative dance, line dancing, yoga, and other things too. All the members are friendly and approachable too, so are the staff who work extremely hard to make CoActive sessions fun and want to go to.
There are some members who have been around since the start, some for a couple of years and we occasionally have some new starters who want to have a taste of it, and they don’t always come back but some do come back.
It feels exciting to be performing in public but some of the members do get nerves too, but they don’t show it. This will be the first performance in front of people since January 2020, so hopefully, it’ll go well!
WAKEFIELD ARTS CHARITY HAS DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION TO CONTINUE CREATIVELY SUPPORTING ADULTS WITH LEARNING DIFFICULTIES DURING PANDEMIC - NEWS Press Release
A Wakefield-based creative arts charity has managed to connect more people, through their artistic approach to continue helping adults with learning difficulties through arts, dance, media, digital and life skills.
CoActive Arts has totally transformed to continue helping adults with learning difficulties, after fearing that the people they supported would be isolated. As each individual they work with has different needs, talents and interests, the team of artists have worked closely with group participants, carers and support services to be able to continue to provide weekly sessions and support by adopting a multi-platform approach. From weekly hand-crafted DVDs created at home by the artists who normally deliver in-person art, dance and drama sessions, CoActive continue deliver sessions in a new interactive way, as well as live videos online, group chats online, phone calls, Zoom sessions and hand delivering activities for people to continue enjoying sessions at home.
Co-founder of CoActive Jody Gabriel, said:
"We were really concerned that our member's mental and physical health would deteriorate under isolation. We knew many who have learned to cope by adopting routines and having familiar places to meet and get what they need, and that such a massive change would cause big problems. Many do not have an internet connection, IT equipment or the skills to use it, and so isolation would be especially harsh. We knew we had to use our experience as artists and as a charity to adapt activities like never before to keep people connected and engaged in something positive whilst at home.
We committed to creating a magazine style programme of activities on DVD every week. The weekly deliveries contain activity resources for Art including acrylic paint, glue, A3 cartridge paper and hand-made craft resources. We hope the DVD format will help in creating meaningful activity and a structured day. Unlike mainstream TV, we have a personal relationship with people and include contributions from members on the DVD to help us feel connected. Gemma is leading story creation sessions on a live facebook slot for those that use social media, and Mel has led on connecting through Zoom, and more recently facilitating distanced one to one outdoor meet ups between group members. This is leading us to adapt again as hopes grow of the lockdown coming to end, yet the virus remains.
While making one DVD delivery I was able to go out on the grass with one member. We both had masks on and remained over two metres apart. We talked and rehearsed a little dance session, using elements that we were both used to from regular sessions. We went through a warm up and created some very basic movements to develop. I was struck by the deterioration in this person's concentration and range of movement. Clearly the lockdown is taking its toll both physically and mentally. It's a mixed picture though, and our interactions are making a big difference for people. Members really look forward to when the DVDs arrive and far from being just a source of entertainment or connection I am seeing people develop artistically in their use of acrylic paint. We are even issuing certificates to celebrate achievements and solid learning criteria being met.
Julie Crossfield, who is the mother of one of CoActive’s members, said...
At CoActive we have a great team of freelance Community Artists who are able to adapt and bring a range of skills to the situation. We are all really grateful for our funders who have all been quick and proactive to respond to the changing needs. We have received an extra grant from NOVA's Coronavirus VCS Resilience Fund (from Wakefield Clinical Commissioning Group of the NHS). We have worked with our existing funders; Creative Minds, NOVA's 'Live Well Wakefield,' and The People's Health Trust who have formed the backbone of our funding over the last 2 years, and have committed to support us for a further 2 years.
For more information, go to: coactive.org.uk and CoActive are also on facebook, instagram, twitter and youtube.
Covid 19 has brought about a lot of change and uncertainty for everyone including us and our team. One of our members, a part of the CoActive Arts family, Dan, explains how he worried at first with how he would cope to now... he is making the most of staying at home by adapting his schedule during this difficult time.
"How my new week looks currently compared to my old week"
I’ve been used to going to five different groups in different places. However, everyone’s being told to stay at home, unless it’s essential that they go out, so I’ve had to make changes , but I’m trying to make the most of my time while being at home...
Here’s how my new life looks:
Mondays: I do some social media training over Skype, with someone who knows a lot about this, and I’m learning to say I’ve finished, because obviously they can’t see when I’ve finished doing something.
Tuesdays: I try to either have a chill day, or try and do some website work for my parents’ printing business.
Wednesdays: I have a 40 minute Zoom meeting with a couple of CoActive staff and members, and we tend to share news, discuss arrangements for the DVD and if there’s anything we’d like to include in the DVD. I also have some more social media training over Skype.
Thursdays: I have an online drama session with one of the artists at CoActive on the CoActive Facebook page, and this is all about us typing ideas up for whatever they have said, this usually lasts for about an hour. I also try and have a read through my lines ready for my theatre group meeting on Fridays, which I’ll explain below.
Fridays: I have a 40 minute Zoom meeting with my theatre group called In The Sky, and we share one piece of news and then we have a line readthrough and we have to try stay quiet, when others are talking, otherwise it goes wrong. I also have some more social media training over Skype. On a Friday night, I relax have a drink and watch a bit of TV.
Saturdays and Sundays: These have changed a lot since coronavirus started, as I have to watch some old football games to fill the void of no sport, which is OK I suppose, but not as good as the current football which I miss badly. But I do get to watch things on TV that I would have had to record and watch on a Sunday morning.
My old week used to look like this:
Monday – Go to do social media session with Sophie in the morning, then football and multi-sports on a Monday night.
Tuesday- Volunteer as a coffee shop assistant at Barnsley hospital on a Tuesday morning, then on a Tuesday night I would go out for tea and a game of bowling with GT Care.
Wednesday – I would go to WWMC to CoActive and do their sessions from 10am-3pm
Thursday - I would go to WWMC to CoActive and do their sessions from 10am-3pm
Friday – I would get picked up by a 1:1 on a Friday morning, and I’d go to Into the Sky theatre group at Pontefract Racecourse from 10am-2pm
Saturday: I’d watch my sport all day, then get ready to go to Carlton Club with GT Care on a Saturday night.
Sunday: I’d either go to a Featherstone Rovers game in person, or I’d listen to them if they were on BBC Radio Leeds. I would then write a blog post for my sports blog on the game.
How has your week changed?
At CoActive we have been really busy making plans while we are stuck at home during the Coronavirus outbreak. We are very grateful to receive a grant from The Wakefield Coronavirus VCS Resilience Fund (from Wakefield Clinical Commissioning Group of the NHS administered by NOVA) to do work in order to encourage people to stay at home and to support their mental and physical wellbeing.
Starting with our current members, but also reaching out to others, our focus is supporting people who have learning difficulties by:
Making regular telephone contact with CoActive members.
Conducting a weekly live online session, currently Drama Story Creation.
Creating and delivering a weekly magazine type programme on DVD every week.
Click here for online version of Episode 1 'CoActive at Home.'
Many of our members do not have internet access, IT equipment, or the ability to use it at home and so are especially isolated. Many of these also live alone! All are able to play DVDs at home (and easy to set up if not), so our plan is to deliver a DVD pack every week. The deliveries will contain activity resources and we will develop a lending library of CDs, books etc, making the most of our weekly drop. We hope that this will work give meaningful activity and connect us while separated.
Our leading artists will work across their disciplines in the arts to bring stay at home activities, especially in Dance, Drama and Art. We hope the DVD format will help in creating structured activity and a structured day. Unlike mainstream TV shows of this kind we can build and draw on activities people have participated in during groups and to a certain extent we will have feedback to inform future content. For example a photograph taken on the doorstep of art work produced can lead to ideas for the next content.
The weekly magazine programme will be sent out in two forms. We are hoping to have features where CoActive members will contribute their news, feelings and creative input. Being careful with the sensitive nature of what people might share, the online content will have much less of this. The hope for the DVD distribution is to create a connected community of friends who are hearing from each other and sharing in the same creative activities. From sending in photos and videos, to relaying messages/greetings via telephone support. We are hoping that support workers, friends and family will play a key role too.
CoActive Arts who work with adults with learning difficulties in Wakefield, West Yorkshire offer creative movement, dance and drama sessions as well as life skills.
Here one of the group members Dan shares what happens in a session:
Creative things to do for adults with Learning difficulties
The sessions are: Creative dance/movement and Art
Dance and Singing
On a Wednesday morning, we split into two groups: Creative dance and Art. The creative dance group come up with ideas of what they want to dance about. At the moment, the creative dance group are working on movements for a musical they could do. Recently, the creative dance group created a piece that they performed at the Ridings, which was based on four things: Twist, Crumple, Stretch and rise and fall. The Art group do art based on what the dancers are doing, so for example Our project at the moment is based on musicals, so the art group are doing art based on that. What I love about the creative dance session is that for the last 2 projects, we’ve done something different to our usual performances, which is perhaps making us think more. We do this session from 10:30am until 12:30pm.
On a Wednesday afternoon, our session is Personal development and wellbeing . So at the moment, we’ve been asked to do some artwork by someone called Tony Wade based on the four standards at the NHS, because he told us that too many people with learning difficulties were dying at the NHS, so he’s working with groups across Yorkshire to create some artwork that define these four standards. Me and 2 other CoActive members made sculptures out of wire to show that people were involved with each other, which I thought was a really good thing to make, as I hadn’t done anything to do with wire for a while. Some of the other things that CoActive were planning to do on a Wednesday afternoon have had to be put to one side, for a while but they include: doing table top games, going for a walk somewhere, visiting farms and some other interesting stuff. What I love about this session is that we will be able to get out and about once this crisis is over, and do these fun type of activities. We also occasionally have Steering Group meetings, which is where the core group on a Wednesday discuss what type of decisions we should be making at CoActive. These sessions are from 1:30pm until 3pm on a Wednesday afternoon.
On a Thursday morning, our session is Drama. What we do in this session is we start off by doing a physical warmup, followed by a vocal warmup. Then we may play a few games to get our brains warmed up, and then we either do drama based on ideas from people or at the moment we’re doing scriptwriting that may or may not be used in our musical.
On a Thursday afternoon, our session is Twist and Shout. It’s a little party like atmosphere as before the day opps people come, people can choose a song to put on, or they can sing a particular song. And then the line dancing starts and we do a few linedances, led by Mel or someone else if they know the moves.
Cotton Eyed Joe,
Achy Breaky Heart/Don’t be Cruel (we alternate)
Then we have a 5 minute juice break where people can sing a song if they want to, and then after the juice break, we do one more line dance called Waka Waka
Then we do some bellydancing, and here’s what we bellydance to:
Spirit in the Sky
Hips Don’t Lie
Reggaeton Lento or Subeme La Radio
Then we finish with Happy which is another line dance, and then we have a cool down song which is: Let them be Little.
Then to end the session, usually Anne, Barry or me sing a song to two.
What I love about this session is that people enjoy it, and they have a smile on their face and it makes them feel good about themselves.
This session usually begins at 1:30pm and runs until 3pm.
At CoActive we have a goal for our work to be led by our members. The People’s Health Trust funds our work and as a partner in addressing health inequalities, putting our members in charge is a shared goal for our project. NOVA also funds a weekly afternoon session which compliments the morning session with skills development.
With such a lot of members, it is impossible to address everybody’s preferences. There will always be a fair amount of compromise. Doing this well is easier said than done. Within CoActive membership there is a prevalence of people who are happy to please and go along with things, and others who like to assert themselves, but are seen as difficult or unreasonable. Both characteristics can end up with people missing out on influencing the direction of travel. To be honest it is easy to dress up the quality of our work in this regard, so this blog post aims to take an honest look at our recent work.
Our core group of members meet on a Wednesday afternoon to, among other things, engage with the politics and decision-making within CoActive. During one meeting recently, in order to evaluate the degree of self-determination within our group we spent some time breaking down the decision-making process. We looked at 5 stages:
1. The question?
What should we do next in our sessions?
What about providing soup for everyone at lunch-time?
Do we take on this invitation to perform at an event?
It is important to look at who sets the agenda. For us, usually the agenda and questions flow from what has gone before. Occasionally, random suggestions from members take root and become future direction, but usually future direction comes out of evaluation of what has happened and so forms a journey that we are part of together. Sometimes the agenda is set from opportunities that arise. For example Wakefield Council set up an event called, ‘The Museum of the Moon,’ and we were invited to make proposals to be involved. So Wakefield Council kind of set the agenda in this instance.
2. The ideas and options around the questions
This is a strength with our group. Generating expansive, multiple ideas and options around a question is the easy bit it seems for us. In fact generating so many different ideas makes the decisions harder. This is maybe a symptom of being a bunch of creatives, facilitated by artists. The role of our facilitating artists includes introducing new approaches, techniques and possibilities. We give our artists license to inject ideas and so they do influence the process here. We have been good at making time to dream together.
3. Weighing it up.
Even though most of our members have cognitive difficulties and/or communication difficulties, together we have considered really complex factors. This includes costs, and time constraints. We have looked at the benefits of taking on an ambitious performance piece, which sets us in a channel of hard work versus the benefits of less ambitious and being able to respond more to members needs and wishes week by week in a more fluid way. For us it goes in seasons. We have considered how tired we have felt and the fact that some of us are getting older. We bear in mind that some factors are more weighty than others. Creating it visually with pictures helps everyone. It takes the thinking out of our heads and makes it physical. If someone in the room struggles to understand and process the factors, the fact that they are there means that the others consider their needs as well.
4. The decision
The decision usually follows on easily when a lot has been put into the previous steps. Sometimes it is a season to go easy for example, and so necessary to help the group reflect on the big picture, that next time maybe a different matter. We seek consensus, finding out what is troubling to people about a decision and modifying things to try and suit. The capacity (time mainly) of facilitating artists to enable the needs and wishes of the group is a massive constraint, which inevitably puts a lot of power in their hands of the artists and unfortunately often puts them in the position of final decision maker based on this. Our response to this so far has been to employ a Development Worker to try and address unmet requests, and also to build capacity with members to take on more responsibility and do more for themselves.
5. Feeling part of it
More than ever we are seeing that holding responsibilities and having simple jobs within the group, helps us to feel part of it, because we genuinely are. During our evaluation of self-determination holding a place and doing a job led to members feeling that they had a strong voice within CoActive. I am still trying to understand this fully, but I think it may be that having control over small areas, even if it is keeping up with the vacuuming and being an important cog in the whole workings is empowering, even if influence over strategy and the overarching decisions has appeared minimal. A lot of people are happy to go with the flow, but want to be there for the discussion and be part of the story. Thank goodness that not everyone needs to assert themselves all the time. Following through and being part of the implementation soon gives rise to feedback. Even if that person cannot verbally express issues, people around will soon realise when that person isn’t fitting in well and remedies often follow quite naturally and this influences direction.
Our Art Exhibition in The Museum of The Moon gave us fantastic exposure, with very large attendance. On reflection, although all the artwork was very much from group members, the curation and set up of the space was all done by me for the group. Within the group we decide to work towards another Art Exhibition for the next Art Walk. Artists can develop the work better and be involved in the planning and curation of the exhibition. Rebecca gives us the contact details for Lucy from The Art House who is coordinating Wakefield Artwalk. She offers us a space at The Ridings for the November Art Walk. Later than what we first intended, but we decide to go for it. Lucy takes on board and supports the idea of the group being involved in the whole process of planning and curating the exhibition, by hosting a meeting at the Art House for the whole group (11 of us that day), to discuss and plan. During this meeting we have a piece of paper for each week leading up to the exhibition and write down the tasks that need to be done. We follow this up with another meeting the following week at the unit in The Ridings where our exhibition is to be. Group Members measure the space and take photos.
Our morning session leading up to the exhibition we work on our Art Work, and in the afternoon we work on the planning and prep around putting on the exhibition. One afternoon session is particularly memorable, some are writing a letter to plan the exhibition day and communicate arrangements clearly and with individual’s carers. A couple of members take a tablet and hunt down some lanyards for sale, because we understand we will be present to host the exhibition. Artists are helped to write some information about their Art Work to display alongside the Art. We get to mount some of the Artwork on mountboard together, but then a lot of it is left to me to do. Not too bad though, and at least I get to discuss mounting preferences with all the artists.
The exhibition space has a slat wall system. I order a box of hooks that fit this system for easy installation. I buy good gaffer tape, fishing line, and thick thread, thinking, ‘Keep it simple,’ with the idea of sticking the thread/line to the back of the art work and hooking it on the slat wall hooks.
Everyone shows up for the Exhibition set up on the afternoon of the day. Good energy and excitement. A couple of members go on shopping run to buy refreshments and do a good job. The second can of spray mount which is a different make to the first but looks very similar turns out to smell very strong, which causes some problems and is useless at sticking. Sticking line to the back of the Artwork with tape, turns out to be a lot more challenging than I thought, and it turns out it needs to be done well to work. There are no tables, and it is hard for some working on the floor or with work propped up. This fills up the attention of all those assisting, and slows everything down. The actual business of negotiating whose artwork is going where is rushed, but everyone works well together, and are happy with their space. Absolute disaster when we find that some Artwork is missing! It turns out to be somewhere obvious, but this is frustrating and diverts our attention from where it should be. The group break for the planned evening meal out before returning to host the exhibition. The eating venue wasn’t agreed beforehand, and the group argue and split into two groups. Members returning from the break find 3 Students from Wakefield College volunteering to help, sent by Lucy. The extra help is a game changer. Some artwork had fallen to the floor. Repairs made by our volunteers and all artwork has hangings attached. 3 extra people to come alongside members and help position Art means we are ready to open.
CoActive members really step up and talk to people coming into the exhibition. One particular member struggles to talk to anyone, but engages with strangers about her artwork. The shift pattern planned in advance works a charm. Members spell each other off so as not to swamp the space and take the opportunity to visit other exhibitions and meet other artists. Guests appreciate the Artwork and get to share some moments with the artists and get to have a window on their world. Authentic deep human engagement. All CoActive Members seem very positive and energised by the experience.
CoActive Arts led a community ‘Secret Garden’ themed Easter Camp for young people in Havercroft, West Yorkshire as well as running a range of drama, music and dance workshops in the area. The project was funded by Culture Cures through Wakefield Council which enabled 31 children aged 8-12 years-old to take part in the 4 day Easter Camp.
The immersive theatre experience included music, drama, art, vlogging, dancing and much more on the itinerary, all set within a Secret Garden setting which had been created inside Havecroft and Ryhill Community Learning Centre. The camp was led by a team of six professional artists, five teenage volunteers from Ryhill Youth Group, a volunteer act from with learning disabilities from day opportunities, two volunteers from Havercroft Parent’s Forum and one employed member of staff from the parent’s forum. The camp culminated in a performance for 30 parents and carers inside the community centre.
To get a feel of the week and to hear what people thought about it take a look at our film:
As well as the Easter Camp, CoActive was funded by Culture Cures to lead six youth sessions in drama and dance with 20 young people attending each session. CoActive also ran two sessions of drama, dance and singing for adults with learning disabilities with 15 participants attending each session. CoActive also held a training day for Havercroft parent’s forum with drama games and storytelling for the five people in attendance.
Lead Artist Jody Gabriel reflects on lessons learned during our project, 'Learning Through the Past,' funded by The Heritage Fund. This is a bit wordy, but has a lot of detail that maybe helpful to other groups doing a similar thing.
13 different people with learning difficulties participated in film-making sessions learning and developing a range of skills. 5 of these people concentrated on it for their whole time at the project. Over 46 half-day sessions we interviewed 30 different people, including 27 of these in edited films. We developed and practised skills including:
Setting up and using the video cameras, tripods, microphones, lights, light diffuser and reflector, positioning the subject and the cameras, framing the shot, communicating between camera operators to get the best shots when using more than one camera, being quiet on set, setting up the lighting using LED primary panel with diffuser and secondary lighting, getting the most out of natural light, studying different styles of documentary and chat show style interviewing, preparing questions, practicing using open questions, listening and responding appropriately, making people feel comfortable, working as a team and co-ordinating sound light camera and interviewing, editing film using iMovie application, editing by listening to extensive speech, holding this in your head while making decisions about what should be cut and what should stay, and piecing it together with other segments of film.
We faced many problems along the way and there has been much to learn. There was much value at the beginning of the project in setting up a film crew. There was a lot of joy and energy in feeling professional and adopting different roles. There was value in being able to improve the quality by setting up the equipment and making adjustments and improvements, except unfortunately this level of professionalism didn’t help get the best out of people being interviewed. Having a large film crew and kit meant at worst that interviewees felt intimidated by the set up and at best cases tended to make them tight and stilted. When we had a discussion around the big table about childhood TV and passed the cameras around without tripods the discussion was free and natural, but the camera work was so shaky that we had to edit using still images grabbed from the footage. It was difficult to find a balance.
Editing film is a difficult thing to do. You have to listen to complicated extensive speech, hold this in your head while making decisions about what should stay or be cut, then you have to operate the software to make this happen on the timeline. CoActive members applied themselves really well to this challenge. Working in small groups some mastered the keyboard shortcuts in imovie, while others were able to gain in confidence to make editing decisions. iMovie was good for us because there is a very simple uncluttered look, but lots of functionality via keyboard shortcuts, rather than intricate use of mouse or trackpad. It was very worthwhile for project members to be involved with editing. Feedback told us that individuals felt that they learned new skills with editing, and made them feel ownership over the work.
We were able to set up three editing stations working at the same time, with three MacBook pros all operating from external hard drives. In theory this should have meant that all the separate iMovie libraries on each hard drive should have been able to be interchangeable and each hard drive could back each other up. We encountered extremely frustrating technical problems, which caused disruption to our work and made many of our sessions unproductive. Three main things happened:
We intended to release films from the project as we went along, but this happened only once. Being involved in the editing many got to see their work being formed which gave feedback and enthusiasm, but it was a real shame that we couldn’t finish and publish more films during the course of the project. Getting that hit when you film, edit and get it out quickly would have added more to the project in terms of generating energy, enjoyment and learning. Things that stalled this progress included:
If we were to extend this project or do work like this again, we would like to look at using tablets and phones to do this work. This would represent a change in values. Less energy on high quality cinematics and more emphasis on being able to work quickly and more simply, and see and publish the results immediately. There would be far less editing capability, so instead of leaving cameras running and then gathering the golden moments, we would need to know in advance what we were trying to capture to a much tighter degree. Maybe the films would be much shorter if this was the case, with just important points being made. There would be much more up front time needed with the thing being story-boarded maybe and planned in advance. For sure, we have started developing a range of approaches for different situations and needs.
Problems with memory, confidence, and sequencing speech into something that someone else will find engaging is implicit to varying degrees to people with learning difficulties. We achieved greater success when for example involving Barry’s Mum with his interview. With having such a deep knowledge of her son, she was able to structure his story with him, bring photographs, remind him of things, and bring her point of view as well, which led to much deeper and interesting story.
It has been a very ambitious project to achieve the outputs we promised, while involving people with learning disabilities and autism in all of the work to get there. For example it was really important to look after the humanity and care of each person and to form us as a group, so we would share news every morning, so everyone could get off their chest the stresses and joys of the day, to in turn help to focus on the work. This always took a good chunk of time that wouldn’t have happened with just professionals focusing on the task.
Essentially project members enjoyed taking part, having their shared stories valued, learning new skills, and giving others a voice. Project members have grown in confidence and have a greater appreciation of other’s experiences. People were allowed to get their hands on all the equipment and have a go, and also were allowed to make mistakes, which is a prime method to learn and take ownership of the project. There is now an online catalogue of our work, linked to the actual films streamed online, which shows a range of unique and interesting personal accounts in an accessible form. It records the voices of a diverse range of people, who would of been over-looked in the past.
We were invited to train as Community Reporters by Creative Minds at an event held at the Mental Health Museum in Fieldhead Hospital in Wakefield.
Community Reporters is a movement to encourage people across the world to share stories from their own communities.
We at CoActive encourage our members to develop a range of skills through creative ways from dance and drama to life skills, art and film-making, so we were excited to use our digital skills and train as reporters.
The course was held inside the Mental Health Museum which is full of artefacts old and new - which was a fitting place to be learning reporter skills through digital technology.
Rachael and Dan from CoActive’s steering group and Sophie who facilitates workshops on blogging, vlogging, film-making and journalism, all attended the two-day training course.
Here Rachael shares her experience of the training workshop:
Me, Dan and Sophie went to a course for two days The course was called community reporter training. We talked about about mental health and how it affects us and how we deal with it. We also filmed ourselves about creativity and how it helps us and makes us feel.
“Soft and Fluffy”
We also discussed as a group how often creativity is seen as “soft and fluffy” in the medical world when it comes to treating people with mental health problems. But actually, everyone in the group finds creativity a necessary tool to help their mental health.
The training involved an overview of what community reporters do as well as lots of practical elements for people to share their own stories through video and audio means.
Rachael also booked CoActive to return to the Mental Health Museum for a future session.
It was great to see how capable Rachael and Dan are of using digital technology. They both took initiative too to share the skills they have learnt.
The course also gave Sophie time out from delivering to realise how huge an impact creativity plays in her life and helps her mental health as well as other people’s health.
And we at CoActive have realised that using smartphones and tablets are a good way forward to create simple but effective content without the hassle of lots of cameras and gears all the time. We will still use cameras for different occasions but when it comes to evaluating and creating content often smart devices are the simplest tools to use.
We hope to be able to use our skills to train other community reporters as well as to keep sharing our own stories.
People used to say a picture tells a thousand words… but actually video can speak volumes.
The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded CoActive Arts with funding to help our group of adults with learning difficulties research what life was like for people with learning difficulties 120 years ago and to research how things have changed.
We did this by making films about people lives now, interviewing people with learning difficulties. We also found out about people 120 years ago by visiting the Museum, the Archive and the Library and then using drama to bring it to life.
Start of our Heritage Lottery Fund project
The group started by doing film interviews, and deciding what to talk about.
It was really useful, because we got alot out of it & when we showed our short films out in the public. We thought it would help out others to understand & learn about us.
The making of our film project
Everyone enjoyed setting up the cameras and lights but we soon realised that having too big a set-up could be intimidating for the person being interviewed. So we tried to film in a more informal way and used our group table time to discuss important topics.
Once we discussed general themes, such as school days & support. we then focused on individuals stories. we dedicated alot of time to individuals stories, and the editing process.
Editing our Heritage Lottery Funded film
Then came the longest part of the filming process - the editing!
We started off editing in big groups so we could all take part but we quickly realised this wasn't conducive and it was hard for everyone to follow.
So we started editing in smaller groups so that we could get more done and people could have more control and learn to skills.
How we found the project
We didn't just help others learn about what we did. but also we learned about knowledge we didn't know ourselves.
We hope others watch our films & learn about our own history.
By Dan and Dabion, CoActive Arts members