Making Connections is an arts outreach project funded by Arts Council England and managed in partnership between the Corn Exchange and West Berkshire Library Service.
Find out about our latest Community Project and how you can take part in the celebration event!
Hannah Elder is a freelance project manager working on the project for the Corn Exchange. We caught up with her to find out more about the groups and artists she worked with.
Hi Hannah! What's the Making Connections project all about?
The Making Connections project brings together professional local artists to work with groups for young or vulnerable people within West Berkshire. We worked with four artists; Helen Mortimer, Simon Jardine, Flora Gare and Becci Louise to run a series of 17 workshops with 10 different groups; poetry workshops with the Touch to See group (a Newbury based arts group for the visually impaired), drama sessions with Interakt (a community theatre company working with people with learning or physical disability), illustration with Younger People with Dementia, paper sculpture with Lambourn Silver Circle (a social club for the over 55s), and many more.
The project is about connecting these individuals with new opportunities to be creative and to interact together.
Were the different sessions linked by a theme in any way?
Yes, because we have been commissioned by the West Berkshire Libraries Service to plan and deliver this work, all the workshops were linked by a focus on reconnecting with reading.
We began each session by talking with the group about experiences of reading as children; who read (or reads) to them? What was the first book they ever read by themselves? What was a favourite childhood story? The conversations made for really wonderful stories being shared of peoples varied experiences through reading, and some fantastic pieces of related art.
What was special about this project?
The unique thing was to have been able to run many of these creative arts session in the local libraries themselves. To see local people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds engrossed in activity which captured the imagination, in a setting which is 'every day', approachable and somewhere where they can return to for further support and activity was a special element of the project for me.
Is the work produced through the project being showcased anywhere?
Yes, we're really pleased to be celebrating the project with a showcase day on Saturday 4 February at Newbury Library. A free family craft session will start the day where you can make Elmer nightlights out of recycled materials, and a short site-specific theatre piecefrom the Corn Exchange’s Youth Drama Company and the Interakt group will be performed in the afternoon. We'll be treated to interpretations of The BFG, The Gruffalo and Where The Wild Things are as well as some well-known literary detectives. All the artwork and comments from participantswill be displayed throughout the day for anyone to pop in and see.
Finally, what’s your most memorable childhood book?
One which I remember well is Swallows and Amazons. My dad would read it in chapters to me and my brother during one summer holiday when I was about 9. Dad drew a map of the islands where the adventures took place and we'd put in different coloured pins at the end of each chapter to mark where 'John, Susan, Titty and Roger's' boat was, to see if they were going to be caught in the next episode by the 'pirates', Nancy and Peggy! Once we finished the book, my brother and I sat in an old wardrobe in the garden, with a flag pole and woolly hats every day for about two weeks, re-enacting the stories. Good times.
Members of the public are invited to come along and take part in the celebration of the project on Saturday 4 February at Newbury Library.
10am – 11.30am: Free drop-in craft activity, Carnegie Lounge
2pm: Performance, Ground Floor
3.30pm: Performance, Ground Floor