My last portrait commission finished before headed to Thailand. Posted to a happy customer - nice to receive a photo of Isaac's portrait hanging on the wall next to his sister Amelie's portrait in the morning sun.
festival 8 set in the beautiful Lincolnshire wolds is a celebration of the senses. The festival theme for 2015 was Earth so what better place to host the Create->Change space. Throughout the weekend people of all ages wandered into the space curious and became inspired to make a positive affirmation for the earth.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals were there to offer guidance of what main positive changes need to be made for the planet agreed by world leaders. The positive intentions that were made by the festival goers usually resonated with a particular goal so these were added to hang proudly in the art space throughout the weekend so the positivity kept on growing!
I have now been back in the UK for two months since my three month placement in Togo. As part of the ICS journey all returned volunteers must complete an 'Action at Home' phase where they engage their wider community with the aim to create positive social change.
With summer approaching and thinking on my love for the festival community, the idea for the Create -> Change space was made and what better place to host this creative tent than at the Laughter Festival. This intimate festival brought together a community of love, laughter, music, creativity, positivity and a spiritual spa experience magically entwined in the beautiful grounds of Cabourne Parva which is nestled in my homelands of North Lincolnshire.
Through training during and after my placement we were made aware of the Sustainable Development Goals, which are 17 goals for people and planet that have been agreed upon by 189 different countries in the summer of 2015 and have come into place in January this year. World leaders have recognised the connection between people and land and have set goals for the land, the oceans and the waterways and these new goals aim to end poverty and hunger by 2030. The United Nations Development Programme is the leading organisation promoting these goals and helping countries to track their progress but actions start with the individuals and within communities.
The Create -> Change space welcomed all to come in and share their ideas and stories of how they can and are making a positive impact in the world and find the goals that they feel passionate for. These pledges where then creatively crafted and decorated the space throughout the weekend, bringing together a co-creation of positive affirmations for positive change in the world.
Poet and musician Tom George asks for 'more trees please' to make cities and communities more sustainable.
Willow created a part cat, part dragon, part human with the gender 'he, she, he, she, he' which fits nicely next to Evas message 'Cherish our differences like a gift'!
I feel positively inspired and encouraged from the creativity and conversation that was brought to this space throughout the weekend at Laughter Festival, and this made the perfect start to my phase of 'Action at Home' projects!
In January this year I travelled to Togo, west Africa, for a three month volunteer placement leading a team of 10 volunteers, 5 UK and 5 Togolese.
The placement was through ICS (International Citizen Service) funded by the UK governments department for International Development. Our work was based at the local YMCA in Atakpame through the charity Y Care International, who believe in "giving young people the opportunity and support they need, so they can spark transformation in their communities and countries".
Our main development projects focussed on Education, teaching within schools, two Local Unions and classes within the Prison. Other activities included the issuing of Birth Certificates and Nationality certificates to young people in need, awareness raising within the community, installation of Tippy Taps and weekly activities with young people at the YMCA youth centre.
We taught 487 students within our English and Health Clubs/Classes between 4 different schools.
Through the three months I spent in Togo I have gained knowledge on how Education is a positive and powerful tool for change in this world!
Teaching in Prison - Throughout our placement we spent 49.5 hours teaching between both the male and female Prison in Atakpame. Topics we taught:
For me working within the prison was probably one of the most eye opening and rewarding parts of our work. It was especially amazing to get to know what a big role the YMCA Togo plays in improving standards and providing support and rehabilitation for the prisoners and the establishment of a Legal Club within the prison. The Legal Club is made up of detainees who have been trained by experienced human rights and legal professionals to understand their legal rights as well as the workings of the Togolese judicial systems. They are then able to make legal applications to have their case heard by a judge and aid their co-detainees to do the same along with on-going support from the YMCA to ensure that cases are effectively processed through the court system.
The Legal Club also worked closely with us to organise our classes providing us with names of those that would take part and we discussed with them our timetable.
In our first meeting with the Legal Club to discuss our classes I mentioned that I was an artist and discussed the possibility of running some art workshops with the detainees, this was unfortunately not possible due to the lack of space within the prison. One of the Legal Club members who is also an Artist very much liked this idea though and he showed his appreciation by passing on this piece to me a few weeks later that he made 'Welcome in Togo'!
Each team is given a Development Challenge budget as part of their placement to use to benefit their projects and the community. The team before us had gone over budget on their proposal to fund the building of a quarantine cell for the Prison which would be a temporary place for sick prisoners to go to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases. We agreed that this Quarantine Cell would be a huge health benefit in such an over crowded prison so we decided to use some of our budget to propose to pay for a carpenter and materials to finish of their planned work. The funds came through for this near the end of our placement so we were able to deliver some of the building materials to the prison ready for the building work to start!
Our work was not without challenge, we had to really pull together as a team to get our work done effectively, we had language barriers to overcome, adapting to the hot climate, many illnesses within the group and lots of bumpy, dusty motorbike taxi rides to get us where we needed to be. I will certainly be going back to visit this beautiful country though and the beautiful people that we worked, danced, laughed and learnt with that became our friends, family and community.
Team Atakpame at the end of our placement on our last night together in Togo!
My 'host family' in Hiheatro who welcomed me into their home and family for my time in Togo and gave me the best birthday party to remember!
I was commissioned by SHAKE! to come up with an artwork image for their big showcase event in January at Rich Mix London. This was an exciting opportunity for me to be able to produce some work for an amazing collective of people.
The theme was based on SHAKE!'s two previous training courses - 'States of violence' and 'Food fight'. I experimented digitally and with painting plant life, that I then scanned in, to combine these two concepts.
I wish I could have attended the showcase as I know it will have been an electric evening full of inspiring talent but I flew out to Africa mid-January to start my 3 month volunteer team leader placement in Togo! (more stories on this to follow!) I have just returned to the UK - hence the very late blog update!
I found some photos on the SHAKE! facebook page of the artwork as the backdrop for the evening at the Resistance is Fertile event.
On June 20th I travelled to the lovely little town of Ulverston armed with a bag full of Posca paint pens to help paint the town many shades of colour for Another Fine Fest. This festival is a celebration of the arts in all of its forms taken to the streets for one day of the year.
I had so much fun painting windows throughout the day as part of the festival. It felt very exciting to be painting in the streets with public passing by, this opened up lots of conversation with people and all the shop and cafe owners who I was assigned windows to paint were very welcoming and happy with their window art.
The Appleseeds Health store
As the winter draws close and festival season is nearing an end I look back and reflect on my summer of adventures. It is always a fantastic experience working for the Melodrome Stage, below are some photos of my times running an art space at the side of the stage at Eden festival in the beautiful Dumfries valley in Scotland.
The theme for the festival this year was inter-galactic, so we gathered lots of shiny glittery materials, neon paints and bleach sprayed some fabrics to create start studded capes with the young festival goers. Throughout the three days of morning workshops we also kept adding to our giant willow 'Melodrome Mascot' to bring on the Sunday afternoon children's parade along with our proud cape-wearers. What spectacularly colourful fun times we had!
On Marcch 21st me and my two sisters Carlie and Mari brought together our artistic styles in a 'Three Sisters Exhibition' at Cafe INDIEpendent in Scunthorpe.
Cafe Indie is a quirky cafe and creative hub for artists and musicians, it is mainly ran by volounteers and offers a free-flowing inspiring space for creativity to flow and skills to be shared.
Me and my art!
As part of the exhibition I painted a portrait as a tribute to my old college friend Nana. Nana was a good friend and an amazing inspiration at college, sharing his skills in Photoshop with myself and others on the course so freely. It was clear his talents shone and he was a dear friend to many.
Nana helped in creating the branding for Cafe Indie along with his team at LTBL Poductions. It was really nice to receive such positive feedback from people in the cafe who recognised Nana in the portrait.
At Ravenstonedale festival set in the beautiful lake district, I helped run the childrens area. We ran workshops using willow to make dream-catchers, crowns and shooting stars.
Another popular workshop I offered was henna workshops. I provided many tubes of henna, examples of designs to inspire, and created a chilled out space for festival goers of all ages to try out using the henna to give themselves or their friends a henna tattoo. This proved to be a very relaxing workshop and it was a nice thing for people to do while they listened to bands playing in the background.