- Date: 21 December 2009
- Area: South East
Kindness sketchbook, People United, Kind Schools Programme, 2009. Credit: Photo: L. Sumray
The arts can be a fantastic tool for helping communities develop a greater sense of aspiration, cohesion and pride.
An ambitious new project taking place in the Kentish seaside town of Herne Bay, and supported with more than £90,000 in Grants for the arts funding, is celebrating everyday acts of kindness to boost the whole town's sense of community.
'We are so often surrounded by negative news that we wanted to tell positive stories from across a whole community,' says Tom Andrews, the Chief Executive of People United and mastermind behind the project We All Do Good Things.
By encouraging people to take part in a range of creative activities and events, People United aims to kickstart greater participation in the arts. In the process, an increased sense of neighbourliness and community connections, and a stimulus for more people to become volunteers.
In pre-project research carried out by People United and the University of Kent, approximately 90% of local voluntary organisations believed there was a need for work that brings people together. The We All Do Good Things project will do this by highlighting stories of kindness, generosity, courage and everyday altruism.
Local people will come together to learn different skills such as photography, textiles, film-making or illustration and in the process learn about each other and uncover and recount positive local stories. These will then be celebrated through public events, a creative trail around cafes, businesses and public spaces, interactive exhibitions and a newspaper distributed to every resident.
People United is not delivering the project alone however. A partnership has been created made up of Canterbury City Council; University of Kent, which is evaluating the outcomes; and the Canterbury and Herne Bay Volunteer Centre, which is looking at ways to harness the energy and commitment created by the project.
Since the project began in July this year and there has already been significant progress in creating community links with a diverse range of organisations and community groups. Work currently taking place includes a group of Age Concern clients creating books about friendship, local young people producing cartoons, adults with mental health issues making a film about kindness and young parents exploring parental love by working on a textile project together.
From local schools, sports clubs, residential homes to hairdressers, the project is aiming to involve everyone in the town. 'We will be producing a regular calendar of events and we are always looking for new stories in any artform to be included in the final exhibition,' says Tom Andrews.
It is testament to the project's early success that other towns have expressed an interest in learning from the experience. This chimes perfectly with the aim of all of People United's work - being a catalyst and offering a lasting legacy. It certainly looks like We All Do Good Things will benefit not only Herne Bay but also communities across the country.
Says Tom: 'This project is not about places and spaces, it's about people, their simple acts of kindness and the connections between us all.'
What better way to say Happy Christmas?