Author: Debra James 5th June 2017
Today I had an unexpected trip to a local radio station HillzFM to help support my colleague, Katherine Wimpenny, in promoting the Arts Gymnasium project, and in particular the showcase being held at the Albany Theatre Coventry on June 10th. The Arts Gym project on paper has been developed to ‘help support the over 50s community in Coventry in participatory arts’; but what does this actually mean?
I was introduced to two of project ‘participants’ Rita and Bernie. These were two very different personalities who had been brought together by the project. Also, representing the project was Media Production student at Coventry University, Chris Sterk, who was there to talk about his experience of working with the participants and how this has helped towards enriching his degree. The work has allowed him to personally get to know people deep in the heart of a local community in Coventry and also develop an understanding and consideration for a group of people that he would not normally have chance to meet. This journey I feel must, and will at some point, provide him with a head start when leaving University to forge a future career in his chosen industry.
So, Alice Williams (Project Manger for the Arts Gymnasium at the Belgrade) and Katherine (Lead Researcher on the project from the DMLL) and Chris went into the studio for the first part of the interview which gave me more time to sit and get to know Rita and Bernie a little but more.
Rita and Bernie have clearly developed a strong bond and great friendship during their time at their sessions and if you didn’t know better you could’ve mistaken them for childhood friends. Rita went on to tell me that being involved with the Arts Gymnasium project was the best thing that happened to her after her husband passed away just last year because it had given her a chance to “get out of the house and speak to people” and provided her with “something to look forward to” each week. As a 77 year old lady living alone for the first time I guess those words had more depth to them than I, at the moment, could ever appreciate.
Then there was Bernie, on first impression she seemed to be the more confident of the two, however by now I’m starting to think that if I had met her before getting involved with the group Arts Gymnasium sessions I would’ve met a completely different person to the outgoing personality I met today. She also explained that, “this has been a major turning point in my life” and went on to say, “my life is so full now! I feel I have blossomed and this project had had a knock-on effect in all areas of my life.”
It’s always hard to enter a room of people you don’t know for the first time, especially at times when self doubt seems to be getting the better of you, but seeing the spark in these two ladies today, I think it’s definitely a risk worth taking!
I haven’t really been heavily involved in this project but to know that my Disruptive colleagues are, makes me enormously proud of the things we are doing at the DMLL. If you want real impact look no further than here…and if you want to see and feel for yourself, please visit the Albany Theatre at 7pm on the 10th June, where Chris and the other students involved, will be presenting their documentary exhibition of photographs and films of the project and participants experiences!
“Water your dreams with fear, and they will wilt; with doubt, and they will wither; with hope, and they will grow; with faith, and they will flourish.”
― Matshona Dhliwayo
To find out more about the project and how to get involved please visit the Belgrade Theatre website here