Last year I started talking with Newbridge Memo (a stunning venue in the Caerphilly Borough with loads of history that runs as a social enterprise with amazing staff and volunteers) about some joint working. I wanted to combine my skills in photography with my years of experience in Community Development by creating a community arts project. Newbridge Memo wanted to extend their intake of young people using the facilities... and after meeting Helen a partnership was born.
A year later, and thanks to the Big Lottery Small Grants fund we have completed the short 10 week project. In a nut shell I used photography to engage with 5 groups across the area: Caerphilly Young Parent's Project, Abercarn Cubs, Pantside Youth Club and Pentwynmawr Primary School. The essence of the project was to explore through photography what we liked and disliked about our community. A mini community study I guess. To give the research some punch we are having an exhibition of our work in early April, where we have invited local decision makers such as local councillors, youth work staff, participating teachers and people close to the Memo. The exhibition will give the young people a chance to speak to local councillors about what is important to them and find out how to make changes.
The age range that I worked with started at 7 years within Abercarn Cubs up to 40 years old within the parents project. Obviously my approach had to vary with each group to meet their needs.
The ladies from the Young Parent's project live across the Borough so our work was based around a community of interest - being young people and being parents! We looked at what was important to us as individuals and again as parents, setting up scenes with their babies to represent how they feel. Mainly access to healthy food, health care, good quality play, safe parks, education and community activities came out strong.
In contrast the children from year 6 at Pentwynmawr Primary School all lived locally and we spent half of our time walking around the local area, documenting hot spots and grot spots. They photographed everything and issues like litter, broken glass, graffiti and dogs poo became a common issues. However we found that most of the 'grot spots' are hidden within beautiful scenes of nature - in open green spaces with stunning views. Also found that there are some budding photographers in that year group with a lot of potential.
The sessions in Abercarn Cubs and Pantside Youth Club were one off workshops where we discussed what we had, what we needed and what we wanted. I then taught them to take portraits of each other using a portable studio. The images have been put into a collage for the exhibition. (Abercarn Cubs have not given permission for photographs to be used online so they can only be seen at the Memo when we exhibit).
I've throughly enjoyed delivering this project, it's been lovely to work with some old colleagues from many moons ago, get my training hat back on and deliver in 2 areas that I'm passionate about. A huge thank you to all the participants, the organisations that made it happen and of course to the Memo for hosting the project and the Big Lottery for funding it.
Anyway, enough talking - here are some of the behind the scenes images...