Bradford Stories: Artworks Creative Communities

Highlights of Bradford culture, nominated by Hidden Bradford

For the latest in our series of Bradford Stories, Vicki Egan of Artworks Creative Communities and the Delius Arts and Cultural Centre introduces us to these projects,  gives us an insight into how they are helping the community in which they are based and explains some of the challenges they face.

Since Graduating in 2004 I have worked with many schools and charity organisations that aim to improve the lot of ‘underprivileged’ and ‘excluded’ groups across Bradford: a monumental task given that nearly every single citizen falls into a ‘group of interest’. As you can tell, I am not a fan of management speak that pretends to understand the ‘common man’s experience’. This is one of the reasons that I volunteer for Artworks Creative Communities. Just one look at their website and Annual Report will tell you that they do what they say on the tin.

I am currently supporting a project to teach young homeless people how to decorate. From the concept stage and design board, through to finishing touches, 16 – 26 year olds are encouraged to increase their practical skills and learn new skills that are transferable in the broader context of their lives; making them tenancy ready in the process.

See! It’s not easy once you are in it, to avoid using jargon to explain what, exactly, it is that Artworks are delivering. They call it “Pick up your paint brush and pass it on”. Mission accomplished, I would say. I have watched every member of staff work hard, without exception. They are committed and passionate about the work they do as individuals and as colleagues. I reckon it’s true to say that they are passionate about Art and Bradford and the wider area. I have never heard a bad word said. It’s easy when you are new to float about undetected and over hear conversations people would rather you hadn’t. Laughter is common, the occasional cry of frustration escapes and lots of facilitation talks. I am regularly asked why such and such has not been into the centre for a chat.

They are eager to have you engaged. They are quick to pull you in and get you working. Not for them. For you. Artworks Creative Communities want to know what they can do for you. Recently, they have shown work by dancers, singers, painters, and musicians. All aimed at bringing Art to everybody, even those that don’t belong to a marginalised group. I asked Estelle Cooper what her thoughts on the project where and how she sees it developing in the future.

“Artworks began 13 years ago, as a community arts project on the Newlands Estate in Bradford, it was a project with an aim to engage with local residents and for them to learn and pass on creative skills. Initially they created their own celebration parade with costume, banners and puppets and since then Artworks has continued to grow and give a voice through creative means to people and sections of the community that can go unseen and unheard.”

“I have been a part of the organisation, for the past 7 years and have seen the positive impact of it’s work, on individuals, groups and communities, leaving an empowering legacy that has improved and changed lives. Artworks is the place where I have been able to develop myself, having first arrived as a trainee on their community artist training course, Rise. I have had the support, people and inspiration around me to grow within the artistic community.”

“Currently, the challenges are many. Some of the people we work with, have had the system turn it’s back on them, but together we persevere because we believe in enabling people with opportunities and help them to develop existing and new skills they need, in order to take back control. This is the kind of work that suffers when highly skilled enablers have to spend the bulk of their week searching for pots of funding here and there and writing and submitting lengthy funding bids.”

“We understand we are not alone in doing this, but money is tight and frontline delivery is suffering because of it. The staff team has recently been reduced and those of us that remain have cooperatively agreed to reduce our hours to keep the charity going in a state that it can survive. Presently the situation of Artworks is ‘touch and go’, we’re waiting for applications for grants and other funding streams to get back to us. We are striving to be more self sustaining by developing our present home, the Delius Arts & Cultural Centre. We exist for the benefit of the community and to prove the case for the arts as a way to create, inspire, connect, engage, develop, reach, and grow. If you would like to lend a hand, be it through donations, fundraisers, volunteering or simply by coming to one of the Centre’s events and buying a beer we would be right pleased.”

To find out more about Artworks and the Delius Centre visit their website

Main image by Tim Green and licensed under Creative Commons BY 2.0

If you have a Bradford Story to tell about your project, community or business, please get in touch.

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BradfordOne December 19, 2012 Blog, Bradford Stories