Kindness reigns with Participate Arts

Kindness reigns with Participate Arts

Participate Arts are a socially engaged company bringing together The Wonder of Where I Live as part of Eyeview (extra)ordinary. Working with local residents of all ages in the Winner Street area of Paignton, they’re seeking out and sharing ideas on how to deliver Neighbourhood Kindness Actions. We spoke to Co-Directors and lead artists, Becci Eriksson and Gaby Lovatt to find out more.

Why did you want to get involved with Eyeview (extra)ordinary?

The Eyeview (extra)ordinary programme is all about celebrating communities and the cultural assets of Torbay. We had the seeds of a project about connecting people together through kindness and felt this could be the perfect vehicle to bring it to fruition. We also thought it would be great to get involved in an exciting cultural programme that approaches the arts in a really interesting way – questioning, relevant to place and people-centred.

Tell us a little about Participate Arts

Participate Arts have been designing socially engaged arts projects and workshops around Devon since 2013. We facilitate creative expression, explore what community is, and bring people together to articulate their stories. Our programmes are designed to meet the needs of participants, working creatively with people of all ages. We encourage active participation, nurture art skills and the imagination, promoting health and wellbeing. We are always looking at ways to make contemporary arts and culture approachable and relevant to participants’ experiences. Our organisation has worked more recently in Health and Wellbeing projects with young people and Care Homes across the Bay.

What was the inspiration for The Wonder of Where I Live?

We believe kindness is a necessary, vital topic to explore, in a world where media increasingly reports negative aspects of society – we wanted to give people and especially children an opportunity to explore Kindness as an antidote to this and agency to be part of creating more caring communities. How can Kindness play a role in local communities, both individually and collectively? It felt natural to create a space for older and younger minds to connect together, with a subject everyone would be able to share a story about. We began with the idea of Welcome - Paignton has for a long time welcomed tourist visitors and older people to retire to the area, forming a large part of its cultural identity and economy. We were inspired by the imagery around the heritage of tourism and souvenirs which has also informed the work. Choosing to work in the Winner Street area of Paignton, that itself has a long history of serving the community with its variety of shops. It has become a destination and amazing backdrop for the project to evolve, alongside other Eyeview shop projects.

What is a Neighbourhood Kindness Action?

A Kindness Action is a kind gesture… could be something very simple like smiling at someone, helping a stranger who is struggling with a pushchair, holding the door open, feeding the birds… The children we’ve worked with have highlighted Kindness to the environment and nature. When someone does something kind for you, you feel better about yourself, other people and the world in general. One of ‘The Wonder of Where I Live’ participants said, “There is an awful lot of kindness out there. You just don’t always hear about it much”. We would like this project to celebrate some of those kind actions and open up more dialogue with the public.

How are you working with local residents?

We have worked with older people from some of the Preston and Paignton Ageing Well Coffee Mornings (Manor Mates, Bright Bean Café and Devon Dumplings groups) and Year 4 children at Oldway Primary School, asking them about what kindness means, collecting stories and creating different ways for the children to illustrate them. Bringing the older and younger people together at the Eyeview Shop in Winner St has been a highlight of the project, interacting with each other’s stories, opening up a dialogue and making artworks. The children are very interested in putting their Kindness Actions into place. We have also worked with some of the local traders on Winner St to develop a Kindness Trail. Another aspect of our project is distributing postcards for Torbay residents to share their stories of kindness. You can pick up a postcard at Paignton Library or the Eyeview shop on Winner Street. Return them to The Shop by 7 June to be included in the exhibition as part of Eyeview (extra)ordinary.

What are they making/producing together?

Older peoples stories have provided the inspiration for the Artworks. The children have looked at mapping the area, drawing and print-making their developed symbols to represent kindness, as well as creating lots of Kindness actions! An exhibition of prints, souvenirs and an installation of the intergenerational project will take place at the Eyeview shop on Winner Street. There will be a chance to interact with the project, and participate in a trail of kindness actions in local shops along Winner Street during Eyeview (extra)ordinary.

Join-in ‘The Wonder of Where I Live’ by going to a drop-in session on Friday 7th June, 11am - 12noon at Eyeview’s Winner Street shop. You can also see the resulting exhibition on Saturday 8th June, 10am - 5pm as part of the Winner Street Takeover and then between Sunday 9th - Wednesday 12th June, 10am - 5pm where there will also be daily activities.

Come along to Eyeview (extra)ordinary from the 7-16 June. Free to visit. Everyone welcome! Download the day by day planner and find out more about the events:

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