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.
Lemington is a wee place that can boast of an enigmatic industrial history. From its Glass Work brick cones built in the late 1700s, with the last one still standing proud, to the remains of the Ironworks and Staiths, there is plenty to acknowledge and certainly admire. Situated in the outer west of Newcastle, adventure seekers pass through the ward while visiting the world-famous Hadrian's Wall: the North East's renowned Roman heirloom. Visitors are encouraged with beaming smiles from the locals. However, this can add to the distressing problem of littering, fly-tipping and general disrespect of the surroundings.
As part of a local social media campaign, #yourcityyourhome strives to spread awareness of caring for the city by tending to your roots, this residency asked for engagement with ages young and old, and a range of groups that enhance the community, in tandem with the Environmental Engagement and Educational Team. Recycling is a reoccurring and indispensable theme, and if you scratch the surface, there is scope to reuse items, with a touch of inventiveness, to create a brand new object, free from waste, and quite possibly, noble art.
Sculptural artist Cath Campbell is practised in projects of grandeur- if you cast your eyes to the top of Northern Stage, you will note her handiwork- but also working with a wide variety of individuals on a smaller scale. As the footage commences, she reveals that she is interested in repurposing materials and endeavouring to use recyclable elements in a new and ambitious way. This is not the first time the residencies marked this topic- through music-making digital arts, mosaics and more- so Cath decided to highlight a material high in danger to landscapes yet extremely accessible: plastic.
Lemmington Riverside Primary School took your average pop bottles and transformed them into playful flowers showing that you can find the beauty in anything, with school worker Craig Heely proclaiming that the children were gaining knowledge: "It was fantastic for the children to learn more about recycling and how they can be creative with recycled products too." To Coffee on the Corner next, where delicious tea and cake was enhanced by a craft club. Studying the knotting technique of Macrame, a close-up shot reveals that the group weaved disused bags while savouring a much needed moment of rest from busy lives.
Lucinda Thompson from the cafe comments,
"It was great to be involved in the community art project; hosting some of the workshops meant that I could meet residents and see their skills improve week on week. There were some fabulous ideas put forward at the annual ward meeting of ways we could continue the project to brighten up the village. Unfortunately, the pandemic put these plans on hold- but I'm hoping we can put these ideas to use in the not too distant future!"
Over at Wansbeck House, the accessible activities forged a feeling of togetherness, and a resident informs the camera, "Everybody's friendly and mixes in." At the destination of St Georges Primary School, pupils constructed large scale, brightly coloured models and trees using disused materials. Again, their impressionable minds absorbed the relevance of their actions from the lesson that our conscious artist and student Izzy Carpenter delivered.
The sculptures produced were going to feature in a transformation of a small picnic site on Hadrian's Way that is popular but a tad shabby to spotlight their goal. All participants were going to input their creations to add to the scene of hope. In a poignant section of the film, we learn that the force of Covid put a stop to this plan. Celebrations halted, Cath seeks the positives of the project by reflecting on the time spent with the people involved who not only discovered imaginative pursuits but the contentment felt when caring for their neighbourhood and looking after our precious planet.
Article by Beverley Knight