Brief Report on Connect & Create
“Connect & Create has basically helped me stay in touch with so many people I have come to call close friends.”
“We had so much fun, we have created so many videos.”
“And not just that, we have connected, we will stay in touch long after the Connect & Create programme.”
What did we do?
This second Connect & Create programme ran over a period of 3 months from January to March 2021 with a variety of regular arts-based sessions happening every day of the week Monday to Thursday, including visual arts, film animation, drama/theatre, song-writing. In addition we programmed 2 activities for Friday afternoon specifically focussed on wellbeing with a Rest & Relax Yoga session followed by our popular café-style online drop-in – Funday Friday.
“I am so blessed for Connect & Create in my days here in process of asylum. I am happy to know people, this programme – to know there are different topics – about music, about movies, about different diversity of topics.”
Here is the song Sanctuary is Yours written by the group attending the Song Writing workshop held by Citizens Songwriters which explored what sanctuary means to different people.
100 people registered to attend events with some attending more than one activity. The majority of participants were people seeking sanctuary but attendees also include City of Sanctuary staff and volunteers, and the wider community. It is interesting to note that some artists have themselves been attending sessions run by other artists and this has had a positive effect on the participants who witness that everyone can be open to learning new things. It also helped to strengthen relationships between those artists showing a wider interest in the programme and participants.
Participants attending both Doodle Fun and Moving Pictures sessions could see how the skills learned in Doodle Fun could be useful when creating animations. We sent out art/craft packs to all the participants attending these 2 activities and this was greatly appreciated. One of the participants has shown a particular interest in animation and from the very first session was able to create short films even adding soundtracks. One of his early offerings was a charming ‘Thank You City of Sanctuary’ animation which we shared on our social media.
“Sanctuary is best option, it’s amazing, it’s incredible, it’s wonderful – I am grateful – I don’t have words to describe that!”
Many of the participants attended with their children which added extra interest to the sessions and also inspired the artists, for example the animator Sheryl Jenkins embarked on making a film about the 6 month old baby Wisdom whose mother appeared every week with her children. Whilst the mother could not actively participate due to her caring duties she enjoyed being in the session and contributing ideas. It made her very happy to see her child become the focus of a creative endeavour, transformed into a dove flying across the mountains of a remembered homeland. Another participant spontaneously burst into song upon seeing this animation and we captured her singing to create the soundtrack. It was a beautiful moment of co-creation for all concerned.
Other bite sized activities
In addition to the regular weekly arts sessions we delivered several Bite Size creative activities during Funday Fridays. These included visual artists, percussionists, dancers, a poet, magicians and circus artists plus a session with the Freedom to Sing Choir who were recently nominated for a Community Integration Award. The disability-led dance company Dance Syndrome taught Funday Friday participants a simple choreography as part of the global One Billion Rising campaign to end gender-based violence. Meanwhile on International Women’s Day we screened a short animation made by and with women refugees as part of Moving Pictures.
Thanks to Arts Council England who helped with our call out which resulted in 47 proposals. We contracted 13 artists or arts organisations with others now signed up our Arts Network Gathering through this process.
The offer of support with free data top-ups was absolutely crucial in enabling people seeking sanctuary to participate in the programme, especially as many of the participants were attending several sessions a week.
“Connect & Create helped me form a community and helped me free my mind from Covid for one hour a week. For me, Connect & Create helps me feel close to everyone even if we are very far away.”
The Connect and Create programme has been an important mechanism for people seeking sanctuary to build and maintain relationships of solidarity during lockdown as well as being a means of developing skills and confidence. The chat function on zoom sessions was particularly revealing as many participants dialogued with each other and with the artist(s) and hosts as if in a room together enjoying person to person contact, rubbing shoulders with each other and the wider community. In this respect City of Sanctuary has been able to deliver its principles during lockdown in the online environment. Many participants still enjoy our ongoing Funday Fridays sessions and are still in touch with us.
With many thanks to our funders at National Lottery Community Fund and Barrow Cadbury Trust