Newcastle City Council Artist Residencies 2019/2020- Chapter One: Belonging In Fenham

Each year, Newcastle City Council's Arts Team construct up to five residencies for five months to rejoice in the cultural heritage of our city's diverse makeup. Professional artists are chosen for each locality to commence their project, linking with community-based partners and residents who may not have access to exceptional artistic opportunities.

Using the lead's expertise, the art produced holds aesthetic appeal with integrity, but that is merely the sail that tops a boat of newfound skills, friendship and purpose. A legacy shines through as, after the celebratory events, participants often continue their cultural voyage when the project has formally ended. Northern Stars filmmaker Alex Ayre captured the projects visually for others to understand the cause.

Plants are synonymous with new beginnings. In the right conditions underpinned with nurturing and attention, a luscious new can life grow and feel at one with our planet. This guidance can be applied to human beings. Fenham's offering was named Belonging, where Newcastle Treatment and Recovery Team and Newcastle Library Service partnered with Change Grow Live: a service that provides support and treatment for adults with drug and alcohol problems. If they wished, users of the service could participate as part of their recovery journey alongside folk in the community where CGL is based.

Like a great many things, the creative process is just as valuable, if not more. Multi-talented artist Nicola Lynch- inventor of the famous Rye Hill Wallpaper- appreciated the freedom to explore the growth of self, development and the ability and faith that change can happen. An element that stoked her imaginative fires was having the chance to encourage tolerance and acceptance from others and the understanding that belonging can be achieved when all seems lost.

Knowing how to build trust, Nicola and her student Jade Booth Malone organised drop-in sessions on Fridays, where everyone enjoyed a variety of craft. The footage then reveals several frames featuring an allotment that the ingenious creator was not aware of when she applied for the role. Although it was in a tired state, it soon became the focus of the work. The purpose was to transform it into a peaceful, meditative space, where one could take a deep breath with nature to aid healing. The group carefully considered what would be needed to achieve this, producing insect boxes, wind-chimes and mosaics.

The focal point became a seating structure which they designed and made, with their geometric artwork entwined; meetings at the centre will be held there in fair weather. A tender moment is recorded when a gentleman discusses a painted container in the garden, another commanding highlight of the sanctuary, full of colour. A member of the group reveals that, along with new skills, the importance of teamwork is crucial.

CGL key worker Wendy about summarises her overall experience:

"Our allotment project has that sense of wellbeing but also physical activity as well. Being part of something that other people understand, and that's the whole point of the allotment, it's therapy really with a little bit of growing and physical, hard labour thrown in."

Fiona Hill, a service delivery specialist in Reading and Health evaluated:

"The library team were delighted to be part of the Belonging Residency. The film captures perfectly the creativity of everyone taking part. This project is a great example of people connecting and bringing a community together. A remarkable achievement, well done to everyone involved."

There's no doubt that the garden will be used to its full potential in the future, especially with the ownership felt by its inventors, who leave the project with pride and self-worth. As the closing shot showcases sunshine that warms the face before dusk, the art is there to acknowledge in plain sight. The star chair crafted glows, but knowing the story behind it makes its, and its producers' futures brighter.

Visit Newcastle City Council webpage for the videos

Article by Beverley Knight