Occasional thoughts, project updates and ideas from Team Bureau...
18th October 2023
Back at beginning of the Thrive programme we put a call out for people who would be interested in starting groups that would support wellbeing. Simon came to us with an idea for an art group for people in recovery from drug and alcohol use, Inspired by Art was born and for the past 18 months Kerris has been working with Simon to run weekly art sessions.
In recent months, Inspired By Art has received funding from the Community Asset Fund to keep the sessions going and a couple of weeks ago Geoff Wilkinson from the fund came to visit and was particularly inspired by Patrick's work and his artistic and personal growth.
We were thrilled to read his feedback!
"The Community Asset Fund has twice awarded grants to the "Inspired By Art Project" at The Bureau - Centre for the Arts in Blackburn. It is an arts project for those in Recovery in Blackburn with Darwen who may not necessarily benefit from the traditional Group Model yet still need Peer Support in their Recovery from Alcohol and Substance Misuse.
When they applied for their second Grant, they asked one of their participants, Patrick, to go on stage and talk about the Project and what it does and means for him. Lots of you will know or remember Patrick and realise that, to do something like that takes a lot of courage as he had always been known to be low in confidence.
What a difference a year makes!
Patrick is now an Exhibited Artist and a valued member of the Group. He is expressing himself in ways he hasn’t been able to before as he has been given the time and space, as well as the resources, to develop his skills. His work shows true progression both in the development of ideas but in his personality as well.
Art is too easily dismissed by some as being something whimsical whose benefits are ephemeral. The Inspired By Arts Project has enabled its users, especially Patrick, to create their own Social Networks whilst being able to successfully remain in Recovery. The Users horizons have been expanded and their outlook on the world around them has been positively changed.
Please take your time to look at the photographs of Patrick and his work. A year in the making but the benefits to Patrick will be permanent."
Find out more about the fund here.
17th October 2022
Cath reflects on our social sessions and their importance to us as an organisation
The Bureau is an arts centre, and we are passionate about the role that participating in, creating and experiencing art in all its forms can have for individuals and communities. We also know that, for many of the adults who come to The Bureau regularly, the opportunity to mix with other people, chat and have fun is crucial to their wellbeing, and at a time when the cost of living crisis is going to have an impact on the lives of people already struggling, these sessions are even more important.
We started our Place of Welcome sessions in early 2019 following a Near Neighbours project called Real People Honest Talk, where people came together to discuss local challenges and develop a social action project. We focused on social isolation and how difficult it can be to meet people if you don't work, if you don't have children at school, don't go to the pub, or if you aren't part of a faith group. Our social action was to set up the first Place of Welcome in the area, a weekly session where people can meet, chat, have a brew and some toast and find out what's going on.
Place of Welcome has become the heart of our week at The Bureau. We meet every Wednesday morning from 9.30am - 11.00am downstairs in the Long Room. There's always lots of laughter and conversations which can go anywhere (and regularly do). One of the things I love about the group is that people attend as individuals and are not defined by the challenges they are facing.
People attending might have been directed to us by social prescribers, recovery services, mental health or homeless projects, but unless you choose to talk about those things, the focus is on fun and friendship, community and a damn fine brew and toast.
Knowing the difference these sessions make, and that things are going to become even tougher for many people, we jumped at the chance to join the Camerados movement, which encourages people to #bemorehuman predominantly through setting up Public Living Rooms, places where people can just be, with no other agenda. We held our first Public Living Room in early October, deciding to make the most of the Long Room already being warm and in use for the Artful Minds group. We intended to keep them separate and just share space, but from the first session it was clear that the sessions sat very well together and we have decided to combine them. Already it feels magical, with people drawing, chatting, doing jigsaws or playing games.
These sessions engage people who often tell us that they thought an art centre was not a place where they would be welcomed, but now feel that they belong (sometimes for the first time). While some people just come along to the social sessions, others use it as a starting point for taking part in other activities or for volunteering. Some people come along at a time of need, move on and just pop back occasionally.
A couple of years ago, after we had held just a couple of Place of Welcome session, an artist said that they were concerned that these sessions meant that The Bureau was becoming a community centre that did art rather than an art centre that worked with people. I disagreed at the time and still do. The two are inextricably linked for me. As an arts organisation and as artists, we want to play an active part in our community. We want to make a difference to our town, and be part of the life and culture of Blackburn. We want to demonstrate, through our actions, that art is not something which sits at the edge of our lives, but that art and artists are integral to the happiness, prosperity and culture of our town.
The Bureau is a place where we hope people will know they belong and are valued, and Places of Welcome and Public Living Rooms are just part of that ambition. I know I am still an artist when I am at a social session and that underpins who and how I am in the session. People tell us that, being in a creative space, a place where art is at its heart, makes The Bureau special and changes how people feel about being there (even if it's just for a cuppa).
5th October 2022
Kerris reflects on our Fun Palaces Creative Cafe that was held on 1st October 2022
We had a fantastic day! Lots of new faces coming in to see what we are about and to find out what is happening locally and getting really excited.
Connections made - people who had never met before discovering they had allotments on the same site. Participants becoming Volunteers and stepping into the gaps to help newcomers with activities.
People feeling they had a voice and a chance to express their concerns about things- the energy crisis and how it will affect them, the fact we are losing our building again- this time to developers with bulldozers and their worries about this; and people writing messages of hope and solidarity to share.
Drums were banged, badges made, poetry written, cyanotypes printed and placards created, conversations held, connections uncovered, mutual support given, confidence built and community created. This is what we are about all the time, Fun Palaces is a great chance to shout about it and give community members a real opportunity to be an active part of what we do .
21st September 2022
Vic, from the Shared Sounds team, provides an update on their progress.
It has been a great start to the Shared Sounds: Music and Wellbeing in Early Childhood project run by The Bureau Centre for the Arts in Blackburn, which began delivery in April 2022. The Youth Music funding has enabled us to develop our Shared Sounds programme, building on an earlier project. This includes running a core programme at The Bureau as well running an extended programme which connects us to a wider range of children and their families through partner organisations.
We have extended our core programme which now includes music session for Babies (birth to 1year), Early Years (age 1-4) and children with SEND and their parents/carers which run weekly at The Bureau. These sessions offer a mixture of led and free play musical activities, led by a specialist early years music practitioner and some of our team of volunteers and trainees.
The children and their parents/carers can explore instruments, play musically, sing together and interact with others in an environment which supports individual needs. The latest funding has allowed us to extend our range of quality musical instruments, particularly in relation to supporting children with additional needs. We have also invested in props and materials to create exploratory environments linked to music activities, which encourage the children to play and investigate independently. We have also been able to continue supporting sessions with bags so that familied can continue exploring music in their own home.
Feedback from participants has been amazing:
“We really enjoy these sessions, and I think it has helped her development, coordination, confidence and ability to engage with other children so much! I love the atmosphere in the sessions where there is guided activities and songs... and free play time to explore other instruments and activities at the end. I really like the new additions to the room to make it more atmospheric and scenic like the fish and fabric hanging from the ceiling.” Zoe parent of child aged 1 year old.
The next stage of the project is to focus on extending our networks with partner organisations across the Blackburn with Darwen area. Our trainee workforce will be central to establishing new outreach sessions and supporting engagement with new families in their own communities.