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Community project Take A Part brings new life to Efford

  • Date: 19 November 2012
  • Artform: Visual arts
  • Area: South West
Back of girl wearing t-shirt which reads 'Nowhere Island Radio' - she faces out to sea

Take A Part is a community arts project, using contemporary art to regenerate the Efford area of Plymouth. Since 2009, community groups, residents and organisations in Efford have worked directly with artists from the UK, Portugal, France and Austria to explore Efford and its future.

Grants for the arts funded project case study

This project was supported using public funding through the Arts Council's Grants for the arts Lottery funding programme. For more information on the programme and details on how to apply visit our funding pages.

Background

Events have taken place in various community spaces in Efford including the library, a care home, a school and youth centre. Projects have included working with artists and the Plymouth communities to explore the Cultural Olympiad project Nowhereisland, a large-scale public arts programme for the south west. Take A Part is ongoing until 2013.

Take A Part is a partnership between the Heart of Efford Community Partnership, Plymouth Arts Centre and Plymouth City Council. Additional partners are NHS Plymouth, Stepping Stones to Nature, Real Ideas Organisation, Cooperative Membership, South West Regional Development Agency, Big Local Trust and Kaleido Arts.

Challenges

The biggest challenge for Take A Part has been developing an audience in an area which, historically, has not been engaged in art. Kim Wide, Community Curator for Take A Part, remembers how 'we kept being asked 'why art?'' She addressed this problem by hosting events that would engage the local community, and 'evidenced a quick win for the community to develop ownership and buy-in. Events such as three-day cob-making, stone-carving, Christmas fairs and fun days allowed for residents to come together and talk in a fun way about their area and their aspirations, as well as find out more about the process and ensure that they had a part to play.'

They also developed 'Crazy Glue' – a group of parents and young people who work with Take A Part as community ambassadors, enabling the project to work with the community in a grassroots way. In addition, they involved the local residents in the act of actually commissioning the work, which helped to engage them and ensured that they understood the process and value of the artists. 'We opened up the process of co-commissioning widely to the community,' says Kim. 'They write the brief, we run the design challenges and canvas opinion, and we all share the overall process. Transparency is key… We just have to keep talking to people, being open and trusting the community to make the right choices.'

Outcomes

To date, Take A Part has commissioned 25 different artists to work on more than 14 commissions in the city of Plymouth. Each year, more than 1,600 people take part directly in volunteering and decision-making, and audience numbers top 20,000.

Since the early phase of the project in 2006, Efford ranked fifth in the most deprived areas of Plymouth. As a result of the regeneration work, Efford has already moved up two places on the register. Many local organisations are seen as adding value to the community through their work with Take A Part. For example, Efford's local school, High View, once seen as a standard primary school, was recently awarded 'outstanding' from Ofsted, with a commendation for the work the school had undertaken with Take A Part to engage the local community in arts.  

Kim says that the community projects have brought 'increased ownership, cohesion, skills sharing and development, and a sense of place and belonging' to the residents of Efford, and she recognises that Lottery funding has been key to the project’s success. 'We trusted a community,' she says. 'We had the ability to say to people – what do YOU want? We had the budget to bring in only the best experts. In an area like Efford, with huge issues, this would never have been possible without Arts Council funding. The Arts Council trusted us to trust in audiences. And the result is fantastic.'

Kim says they heard about Lottery funding via Plymouth Arts Centre. 'We never thought we could get it but we did! A fantastic achievement for Efford, which has been seen as unimportant in the city until this recent investment. Now Efford is the place to be!'

Find out more about National Lottery funded arts projects.