We are still here

Outdoor community initiative highlighting local children’s creativity

Children set up camp, displaying their outdoor art for ‘Out The Front’
Credit: Nora Mulready

By Angeline Conaghan, Director of Groundswell Arts

Throughout June and July, we presented our second socially distanced festival. The first festival: ‘We Are Here’, took place in May and included a big chalk day, a children’s photograph trail and a family jam, where musicians and families played music in their doorways across eight local streets.

We set these events up initially in response to lockdown as much of the work we were doing with schools and families was cancelled indefinitely, but we wanted to find a way to try and make a difference to people’s well-being without offering another online event or workshops.

The second socially distanced festival, ‘We Are Still Here’ included a word trail whereby a post box was installed for postcards on Conway Rd N15, an art trail encouraging people to decorate and put art in their front yard, and some door-step films about children’s experiences of lockdown.

Lots of this work has been about trying to keep a sense of connection and optimism in the community and raising the profile of children’s experiences and voices, as they have experienced unprecedented disruption to life as they know it. As the response to the initial events had been so positive, we felt it was important to extend the invitation to all members of our community to take part.

Locals have responded particularly well to our initiatives, and almost 200 postcards were deposited in our special walking with words post box, in the first fortnight of July. The postcards provided a way for people to share humour, reflections, ideas, and even sadness with the world, as many people had remained at home in this time. They were mostly from children, but there were also a nice range of postcards from adult members of the community.

As a community arts organisation we wanted to find safe ways of continuing to connect with people in our own neighbourhood through art, music, language and play. Activities that were socially distanced, but outside and in the world rather than online – especially when we began in May when the weather was so great! This was important to raise spirits, and to encourage families to play and create together, expressing whatever they wanted to.

It has been nice to see people stopping to look at things or reading the postcards or photographs we have attached to signs when I’ve been out and about.

For us, it was about doing something manageable in the area we live in, where we could create small impact that would hopefully spread some positivity and optimism locally, at a time when people are experiencing many difficulties.

I like the idea of physical distancing, not social distancing, and We Are (Still) Here was our very small response for our neighbours and local community.
We sought direct engagement with families through this initiative at a time when schools and childcare settings were dealing with many other things.

The festivals have given a voice to children, making their hopes, fears, their right to play, and an education, visible during this time of crisis.

We hope that by putting some of this work up outside where it can be seen, changes how other people may feel about their neighbourhood, as it brings about beauty, optimism, strength and community participation.

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