I have often wondered when people tell me that the S2C Unit is full of light, welcoming and positive as a space. Sometimes when I am in there by myself doing odd jobs or working at the desk it can feel an empty and cold place. The faint echo of hard flooring and white walls. A quite silence broken only by the crack of contracting or expanding roof components, an odd distant voice muffled by windows and walls. The vibration and hum as some piece of construction is carried out or maybe the faint whiff of music from behind adjoining walls.
It never feels like an unsafe space. I have never felt uncomfortable or isolated there. You wander through the empty rooms and are reminded of recent and deeper memories. The gouge in the floor where several volunteers maneuvered a massively heavy giant drying rack into position. The paint splat on the wall from a joyful creative session where accidental flying paint produced rounds of laughter. The picture on the wall by that person who is struggling, remembering them for the joy and inspiration in that moment rather than for the difficulties they face. Memories and sights, artwork and faces all come rushing back. You remember those people who have been through the building and are no longer with us or have moved on to brighter things propelled by the creative impetus generated in a thousand painted moments.
Maybe that is why people come into the unit and express how safe they feel, how welcome. It’s the ghost of all that positive creativity that has left its physical mark on the fabric of the building. The knowledge and awareness of those moments of joyful creativity that exude from the artwork around. The presence of laughter and the sound of creative togetherness. These are the ghosts that swirl around me as I sit at the desk. This is why not just any old building will do. The building needs to earn its ghosts.
A selection of this weeks artwork………….
Why do we do this? A load of volunteers turn up every week. Some of them are themselves in extreme pain or harbouring really desperate life situations. Some of them are lonely, some of them have been through the most horrific experiences and come through and want to help others. Why would you give up your time and cause yourself pain or anxiety or stress to help and support people even more vulnerable. Well……..
There is the person that is so lonely and isolated they barely talk and only answer direct questions with a yes or no and have an air of despair or no hope. Then after attending sessions one day they suddenly start chatting and laughing and joining in and talk about their hopes for the future.
There is the person who wouldn’t get involved, watched or did the clean thing but wouldn’t get involved in creative activities, couldn’t cope with mess and getting covered in paint. Then one day they are in there with the paint on and saying how much fun it is to ” slap the paint on” and smiling.
There is the person who was so painfully afraid to get things wrong, slightest splodge or mistake and anger or giving in was the only escape. Many pieces in the bin. Then one day they drop paint on a clean piece of work and everyone holds their breath. “Ah well”, they say, “I can turn that into a bird” and they carry on.
There is the person who is so convinced that everything they do is rubbish and worthless that it goes straight in the bin despite the praise and support from the group and the encouragement. Then one day their work is framed and on the wall and they are inviting friends and family to come and see it.
There is the person who is so sad. They sit by themselves, they are with the group but not in it and paint quietly, head down. Then one day they are up, laughing, chatting offering to make everyone a drink.
Those are the reasons the S2C volunteers, often at cost to themselves, turn up. Because a community accepts everyone and everyone helps each other through the tough times and give each other hope.
This weeks achievements (some!)
Well just when you are feeling a bit low and alone in getting on with running a charity and the stuff with it, you get a bit of a boost unexpectedly. We held an Eden Communities Event at the Space2Create Unit on Saturday. Eden Communities are an offshoot of the Eden Project in Cornwell (The one with the bio domes and gardens not to be confused with the local Eden). This brought together community project leaders and workers from across the North of England to meet up and chat, network, support each other and make connections.
The first thing that struck me was the passion they all had for what they were doing. The belief that they could make a difference to their communities. It made me a little sad, with lots going on I realised I had maybe lost that a little. It has been a bit swamped by personal illness, family illness and just the day to day grind of keeping things going.
The second thing that struck me was how very similar it all was. The focus of the projects was all different but the real need to help communities was shared. The problems were all common ones. Finding and retaining volunteers in the face of so many attractive opportunities. Funding and maintaining funding for projects. Space and suitable accommodation. Public awareness of the project and getting support in the community.
It is a very tough climate for charities and community projects. There is so much need developing and there are so many voices asking for help.
What made my day and kind of stopped me being miserable, maybe even pushed the start button again was a conversation with a young lady (well young from the point of view of my approaching lofty age!) who told me what an inspiration S2C was to them and how it had developed, how it was inspiring them to do something in their community. Wow, I thought. If we achieve nothing else this year, being able to inspire somebody to do something for their own community was pretty cool. Sometimes actions have far bigger legacy beyond the immediate pond you are tossing stones into.
This weeks stones…….
Well it’s getting close to the closing date for voting in the Epic Awards. It has been great to be nominated for the various awards this year and we have certainly gained a lot more contacts around the UK from similar likeminded organisations who use volunteering to give back to their communities in creative ways. Voting closes at 5pm on Tuesday April 11th.
Space2Create is rapidly coming to some tricky decisions about it’s future. One look at this weeks timetable show the creative community centre we have become, and all the different organisations we work alongside to benefit the local community in many different ways. Increasingly when people say to me “So, what do Space2Create do?” it is getting to be harder and harder question to answer. There are so many different aspects to it from the drop in sessions to room hire to supporting groups to exhibitions to outreach and more.
We start looking at the space we are in, brilliant as it is, and start thinking if it meets our needs anymore. But then what do you do, pay more rent for a bigger space, get a second home, Do we do more, less? Ahhhhhhhhh! Answers on a postcard. One thing for sure is that it is a group decision. We have and always will be more of a collective where everyone who uses S2C as some ownership of it and helps run it. Anyway, answers on a postcard.
Meanwhile, please do, if you have not already, vote for us in the Epic Awards. The link below takes you there. Some people have had trouble as the full list of nominees doesn’t always appear so look down list, if we are not there then click on the link below the list to find the full list.
Thankyou for those who have supported us, it is much appreciated.
Vote here: http://www.voluntaryarts.org/epic-awards-peoples-choice-voting
Some of this weeks creativity: