Community art for New Parks
By Kat Collins, Communications Officer, BIG East Midlands region
Tucked between two terraced houses, behind a big blue door, one hard-working community project is making a huge difference to the lives of local people.
Leicester-based Soft Touch Arts offers a range of outreach projects for people of all ages. Using arts and crafts, mobile street sessions, health awareness campaigns and mentoring, their aim is to bring the community closer together.
The charity extended its work on Leicester’s New Parks Estate after receiving funding from BIG in 2011. From young to old, there’s something for everybody.
“The first year of our project has been a great success,” says Christina Wigmore, Business & Strategic Director. “We’ve worked with over 300 people, from ages 5-80, and we’re already having a big impact. New community groups have formed and started to deliver their own creative activities.”
On Wednesdays the sound of laughter can be heard from the Sharmon Crescent Tenants and Residents Association. Here a group of mums take part in weekly ‘On the Make’ sessions which teach women to create craft items from recycled materials, learn new skills and establish stronger friendships.
At New College, a group of children also gather weekly to tackle issues of bullying. Using design, computer skills and most importantly teamwork, the group’s goal is to develop an anti-bullying programme from their own perspective.
Healthy eating and lifestyle is the focus at the Parks Primary School’s ‘Well Cool’ group. Children and parents are invited to attend together, to talk about the importance of a well-balanced diet, and learn to cook healthy, nutritious meals.
Back at Soft Touch Arts’ main base, creative mentoring sessions are offered for young people not in employment, education or training. Berwick is 17 and his passion is music. Working with his mentor to create his own track has boosted his confidence. “I like it here and the staff are nice,” he says. To him, it’s a place to make friends.
Dwain is only 14, and fell out of the education system two years ago. Soft Touch provides him with a place to go and express his creative talents, of which there are many. He now attends arts sessions three times a week and his mentors have seen a real change in his behaviour.
This development is also noted by his mother: “Dwain hasn’t been at school for two years and has had problems with his temper,” she says. “Soft Touch is working well for him because his temper isn’t a problem when he’s there.”
For both Berwick and Dwain, the Creative Mentoring sessions have allowed them to take pride in their work and build for the future. To the same degree, the staff and volunteers at Soft Touch have equal reason to be proud of what they’ve achieved.