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In Focus: Co-creating an arts-based community offer

by <object object at 0x7f48d9167580> last modified 10/05/2024 08:39 AM
In Focus: Co-creating an arts-based community offer

Garden Party

Community event

Image Credit: Megan Ip

We caught up with Arts Engagement Manager, Jen Farmer, who is leading on the Community and Neighbourhoods programme to find out more about how she has been working with people living in the locality to co-create an arts-based community programme.

"It’s important for us to work in this way so that we’re not doing things ‘to’ people, or making assumptions about what people want or are interested in. Instead, we hope that this approach will enable us to build meaningful connections and understanding with our most local residents" - Jen Farmer, Arts Engagement Manager

You started in the role last year - what have you been up to since joining the Trinity team?

I started out by exploring the hyper-local neighbourhood (neighbourhoods within a 0.5 mile radius of Trinity), connecting with residents, community groups and grassroots organisations to understand the work that is already taking place and their current and historical relationships to Trinity.

I spent a lot of time listening as I wanted to make sure that what is created responds to need and builds upon the already brilliant work and activity that is happening around us.

Connecting with the Trinity team we hosted a series of workshops to help build an interactive online map that allowed us to see the connections between the people and organisations that offer community activities and support. From this, we have created a hyper-local network of people who are delivering and offering services in East Bristol.

I've been working closely with the team at Trinity to help support community-led groups to deliver regular affordable activity at the centre. This has included supporting All Ah Wi to host quarterly sessions for local women, including a takeover day for International Women’s Day.

What have you learned along the way?

I’m continually learning. Everybody has the potential to surprise you, with an interest, or a skill, something they’d like to explore or share. Listen, share, don’t make assumptions, and be respectful of people’s time. Building trust and relationships takes time, and connection with individuals is just that – individual!

‘Co-creation’ what does that actually mean, and why is it important to work in this way?

A: Co-creation describes a collaborative process: a way of approaching and exploring something where everyone involved is part of decision-making, rather than one person, or organisation taking the lead.

For us, this means sharing control and ensuring everyone is part of the conversation. It’s important for us to work in this way so that we’re not doing things ‘to’ people, or making assumptions about what people want or are interested in. Instead, we hope that this approach will enable us to build meaningful connections and understanding with our most local residents, and support activity that people feel real connection to, and ownership of. The aim is that, over time, we build trusted relationships where all our activities and programming is informed by our local connections.

What is next for the Community and Neighbourhood Programme?

We have secured funding to support three 'Community Connectors’ with target outreach that will focus on: Elders and intergenerational practice in Newtown, individuals experiencing food and housing insecurity in St Judes, and women who live and socialise around Stapleton Road, one of our most local high streets.

The connectors, who all live locally, will provide an important bridge between communities and Trinity. We’ll work together closely over the coming months. I will be support and follow their lead, offering guidance and expertise to help the connectors shape a programme that responds to needs and interest.

How can people get involved?

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