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Making Surrey - craft project empowers disadvantaged communities in the South East

  • Date: 21 December 2012
  • Artform: Combined arts
  • Area: South East
Making_Surrey_The_Ribat_Institute Making Surrey, The Ribat Institute, Woking, Credit: Areeba Ashad

Eight disadvantaged communities across Surrey benefited from the Making Surrey project: a community-led project supported through Arts Council's Grants for the arts funding and Arts Partnership Surrey and delivered by Arts Council National portfolio organisation, Farnham Maltings, with the Tandridge Trust. The project was created to encourage local communities to respond to and make decisions about their local environment, while proving that work which is community-led can also be of the highest quality. 

Professional craft makers took up residency in Spelthorne; Waverley; Guildford; Mole Valley; Woking; Runnymede; Tandridge and Elmbridge. The artists delivered a high quality programme of craft, assisted by an apprentice in each of the communities. These apprentices gave insight into the fabric of the community and its people, offering a vital key in. The apprenticeship schemes responded to a need in the county to develop expertise in delivering community arts practice. The professional artists acted as mentors for the apprentices, supporting their development. 

Areeba Ashad, Project Apprentice for Woking says: 'Thank you so much for the opportunity to be part of the Making Surrey project. It's been an amazing experience.' 

Maybury, Woking 

The project began with craft makers exploring the communities; scoping out the social hubs and finding links to local residents. In Woking the project was working with the Maybury community, with artist Andrew Morrison leading the residency.  Andrew and Arts Development officer for Woking Council, Hannah Smith, researched the Maybury area - which houses a large proportion of the Asian population of the borough - looking to make connections and find workshop space. Andrew and Hannah discovered The Ribat Institute, an Islamic grass-roots initiative, focused on education and community based programmes. The institute provided space and workshops were held with over 50 young Muslims from the local community. 

Themes such as ''community', 'charity' and 'Hajj' were explored through workshops. The young people learnt skills of book-binding and photography, as well as print-making and had the experience of working alongside a professional artist. The creative output was a beautiful portfolio of work, including prints, handmade books and photography which will be exhibited locally. 

St John's, Elmbridge 

Another shining example of the work created in the eight communities was in Elmbridge, where artist Mary Branson led a project in ceramic lamp-making. The people of St. John's community in Elmbridge commented that their locality is known for its dark alleys and poorly lit spaces, with few people going outside at night. Mary worked with local schools, youths at risk, elderly tea groups, mum and toddler groups, the Sure Start Centre and care homes to create The Seeds of Light exhibition, comprising hundreds of ceramic lamps made by the community. A member of the community likened porcelain, the material used in the making of the lamps, to the St. John's community; it having the look of being fragile while actually being quite robust. This sense of strength in the community was brought out through this project. 

The Seeds of Light exhibition is now travelling to other communities in Surrey and the housing trust is in discussions about funding a permanent lighting solution in the area, designed by the community themselves. 

Garry Bacon, Community Champion, St Johns, Elmbridge says: 'To get that many people from our community to attend a great achievement. The installation was beautiful and really unique. We feel very lucky to have been involved with such creative and passionate people.' 

Further examples of the projects include the establishment of a pop up shop and community resource space where people can come and learn craft skills, as well as learn about the community's heritage, and the creation of a community craft garden where police now send young offenders to work and develop skills. 

The people engaged in the Making Surrey project benefited from developed confidence, skills, friendships and enhanced community cohesion and all eight of the apprentices are looking for and finding work in the local county. The project's outcomes boasted 2,591 new makers with an audience of 9,220. As such the overall aims of creating stronger communities in Surrey and facilitating new artists in creating quality art were met. 

Hannah Smith, Arts Development Officer, Woking Borough Council says: 'Our aim through Making Surrey, was to engage with the community through a creative project.....the young students learnt a variety of printmaking skills and contributed interesting ideas for workshops themes each week which linked with Islamic culture and their studies at the Institute. Making Surrey offered the students a unique opportunity to work with a professional artist, and we'd be keen to develop this link in the future.'