Blythe Bridge Creative Hub

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At Blythe Bridge Library, artist Jennifer Collier has worked collaboratively with local crafters, library visitors, community groups, library volunteers and the wider community through pop up activities & outreach events to form a hub of experimental activity where people of all levels of experience and ability had the opportunity to take part, contribute ideas, develop creative skills and try new techniques.

The hub have produced a stunning array of art work inspired by their local heritage, including memories, stories and feelings about where they live. Participants have made their own work as well as contributing to craft kits shared with individuals and
groups in the community who may be housebound or isolated and a final piece of work to welcome people back to the library. Jennifer has included each contribution to form large scale hanging light shades each panel representing an individual’s creative story.

It has been an utter joy to be artist in residence at the Blythe Centre and it has given me the opportunity to work with a wide cross section of the community through outreach workshops; such as family groups, local history groups, art club, friendship group, but also through the regular Thursday hub group workshops. It has been fantastic to have longer engagement with the hub group, watch them grow in confidence and flourish as makers over the 12 weeks of this project; some had been shielding on their own for such a long time, but are now confident to join in and even help others in the group.

Over the course of this project I have been working across all the groups to collect their memories and stories about the area to be included in the final artwork. It became obvious early on that the piece had to be site specific, as there was a wealth of information, images and anecdotes we could include. Archive images, local maps, memories and quotes collected have been printed onto papers (even the colour palette used are from the Blythe Colours archive) that have been stitched into by members of the hub group. Every person who took part in this project, even if only in a small way, has their memories of
Blythe Bridge included in the final piece, so they can be enjoyed for years to come by all.

Jennifer COLLIER

Resources

As part of the project, Jennifer has developed a ‘Stitchionary’ – an A-Z guide of different stitches inspired by the project. Each page has instructions on how to create the stitch and space to practice sewing directly into the page. This resource will enable existing & new members of the craft group to keep developing their practice. To download the resource, for your own use, click on the link below:

Feedback

We asked participants, ‘What have you enjoyed most about this project and what difference has it made?’

`Everything! The interaction, making, meeting others, achieving. The learning! Getting together, learning from other people, sharing experiences. It’s just been wonderful. I didn’t think I could do this sort of thing…I’m now thinking of new ways to use this creativity at home’

`Getting out, feeling part of something, using my sewing skills in new ways. I loved spending time at home with my family during lockdown but, having met with more people outside of my household, I’ve realised how important it is to interact with others’

`Meeting people, particularly the volunteers. It’s been good to do something for the community’

`I have enjoyed being creative, having a go at something new. I have learnt new skills and found it relaxing and therapeutic’

`I’m happy that it has reached those in the community that are vulnerable and it has provided a safe environment for them’

‘Made me feel part of a new group in the village which is nice as I am bereaved and live alone.’

‘Sense of achievement. It’s given me a real boost after such a tough year. It’s been like a jigsaw, it’s put me back together. It’s the confidence more than anything, it’s meant the world’

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