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Creative Civic Change brings inner-city communities together during lockdown in partnership with Birmingham Repertory Theatre


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Since lockdowns began to come into force in March 2020, both Birchfield and Welsh House Farm Big Local partnerships have remained steadfast in their delivery of Creative Civic Change, bringing intergenerational communities in Birmingham together with a wide range of artistic partners including Birmingham Repertory Theatre.

The REP has proudly been working with Welsh House Farm Community School on a project led by local artist,Sophie Handy who has developed a selection of engaging activities throughout recent lockdowns and periods of isolation to bring generations together in difficult times.

Welsh House Farm Community School pupils and local residents in the Community Garden – credit: Vanley Burke

The origins of the project began back in 2019 and plans were in place to launch a series of new workshops and projects throughout communities in early 2020. Unfortunately, COVID restrictions and lockdowns brought these plans to an abrupt halt. However, the Hard Times Require Furious Dancing (HTRFD) Creative Civic Change partnership have found innovative ways to continue actively bringing people in Birmingham’s communities together.

As the first lockdown of 2020 took place, the project’s first initiative was to bring together artists from across the community to create a selection of art packs for adults and young people alike to complete at home and share. The art packs, including materials and equipment, were made available to those visiting the local community hubs in both Birchfield and Welsh House Farm during the pandemic to take away and complete at home.

Following the first lockdown, the project has then been working closely with Welsh House Farm Community School. Moving between online lessons and in-person projects when possible, pupils have been working hard to make their community smile. Projects have included sculptures and pieces of artwork to spread a sense of joy and hope in their local area.

Working in the Rutley Grove Community Garden, the children have also been learning about caring for the environments around them and being resourceful in making artworks from found materials. One of the artworks, “SMILE”, uses recycled materials to create a moment of joy for those attending or passing by the school.

Project lead for The REP, Sophie Handy said; “Over the last year I have felt very blessed to be involved with Creative Civic Change project. Initially having regular zoom meetings with the other artists was very grounding; a supportive place to discuss ideas and feelings during first lockdown. With the collaborative development of the art packs, I was able to maintain a sense of creative purpose. Never before have I realised quite how important that is for one’s well-being. Now, working with the children from Welsh House Farm Community School has been a chance for these young people to connect with the communities and environments around them despite the challenging circumstances of the last year.” 

 Ben Walters, Deputy Head Teacher at Welsh House Farm Community School added “We have all thoroughly enjoyed working with Sophie and The REP over the past few months. Our pupils have been given the chance to create and explore whilst connecting with our local community.” 

HTRFD Creative Civic Change, The Big Local and The REP will continue this work in Birmingham’s communities throughout 2021 and beyond, continuing with a mission to bring people together through artistic led work.

For more information on the work of The REP and to find out how you can support local projects visit birmingham-rep.co.uk. For more information on Hard Times Require Furious Dancing visit hardtimesrequirefuriousdancing.org.

Written by: Sharon Evans

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