12 May 2021
Online art exhibition features work created by Anchor Hanover residents
Residents from Anchor Hanover retirement and Extra Care estates across Hackney who participated in a collaborative project called Creating Communities with the Mental Health Foundation are enjoying an exhibition of their own artwork.
You can see the fantastic display which is shown in a COVID-safe window exhibition as you take a walk by Walrond House in Matthias Road, a new mixed tenure building that has been shortlisted for an Inside Housing Award under the category of Best Urban Development in London.
Creating Communities started in August 2019 focusing on creativity, with the aim of giving residents the opportunity to meet neighbours they may have not met before and to get to know others they already knew, a bit better. Activities included planting pots with bulbs and flowers to put in the housing scheme gardens as well as drawing, painting, and movement. The drawing, and painting in particular, was often done in pairs or as a group.
While the pandemic interrupted the face-to-face sessions, during lockdown project participants received creative packs as well as phone calls from MHF and Anchor Hanover co-facilitators. In August 2020, organisers had the opportunity to trial the group on SparkoTV, an accessible digital platform which enables users to take part in virtual sessions via their televisions. Sparko was a roaring success as shielding residents were able to ‘see’ each other again on their TVs! More people joined the group and the weekly sessions continued until March 2021.
There had been plans to host an exhibition to celebrate the project but with social distancing restrictions, it seemed as if this wouldn’t be possible. Luckily, Hackney Council kindly offered the shop front space situated on the ground floor of Anchor Hanover’s Walrond House to make a street facing display. There is also a film of the whole project that can be found here.
Ben Plimpton, Project Manager at the Mental Health Foundation, said:
At MHF we have delivered a lot of peer groups, and know how effective they can be for addressing loneliness and isolation, and improving mental health. And the creative aspect of this project has given people a sense of individual and collective accomplishment, because of the really impressive artwork they have made. In the groups we aim to give people an opportunity to express different aspects of their identity using creativity, and through this build relatedness with their neighbours.
Ann Brolan, Wellbeing Development Manager for Anchor Hanover in East London, said:
Even though the project has now come to an end, the group wanted to carry on and they continue to meet via the Sparko platform. They have created their own weekly session and called it Guys n Dolls and they lead on it with support from Anchor Hanover wellbeing staff and the Sparko team. The project did what it said it would, it created a community. The group has opted to invite other Sparko users from communities around the country who use Sparko to come along to Guys n Dolls. They had their own (early!) Ascot Day this week, got dressed up and had a lot of fun. As restrictions ease everyone is looking forward to meeting up outside. Some of them will be meeting their new friends in person for the first time because even though they are Hackney neighbours, living on different estates means they don’t always have the chance to get to know each other and through Creating Communities they have done this, it’s fantastic. You can see the progress in a short film created by Witty Gordon Projects Creating Communities.
Wendy Grazett, 66 who is leading Guys n Dolls said:
My participation in the group project Creating Communities has given me thought that in these uncertain times where there is little positivity around us, we definitely needed to bring fun at the simplest level. To take us all out of the uncertainty, bringing colour, fun and laughter into our homes even though we are 'apart in miles' we are not in spirit! Hence Guys n Dolls!
Anchor Hanover’s East London Wellbeing Team also thanks Mercers for funds received for the film by Whitty Gordon Projects.
The art work in the exhibition was selected by project facilitator Susie Miller- Oduniyi (also Artistic Director of Humourisk Ltd1) and the exhibit co-designed and installed by Ron Croon, Artist/Curator at the Canning Gallery. The community exhibition is located at shop front windows at Walrond House, Matthias Road, London N16 8BF and will be on view until mid-June.
For information about the project and to view the online exhibition, get in contact with Ben Plimpton via [email protected].