Adamsdown and the arts

30 May 2013

If you judged Adamsdown, Cardiff, on its health and crime stats, you might not think much. But although numbers and statistics are important, they are also partial and do not paint the whole picture of what a place or the people in it are like.

Communities which are economically deprived and suffer the associated misfortunes can too soon become known as ‘failing’ or ‘non’ places, where nobody would want to visit, let alone live.

In places like Adamsdown, being perceived negatively by others because of where you live is simply another way in which people can feel bad about themselves and about their community.

Whilst the focus is so often on what is lacking or failing, PARADE! has explicitly focused on the assets and talents of people in our community, and on what they can do.

The arts are an amazing vehicle for expression and representation and we have been consistently blown away by the impact our project has had on people at both an individual and community level.

Our final event on 27th April brought all of our work together in one space in a celebration of our community and its talents. The day was nothing short of amazing and despite being nervous that nobody would come, we had almost 200 people walk through the door.

In a hall transformed into an artistic wonderland, with hanging installations, participatory workshops and a film projection onto the wall, our community came together. Artists, councillors, community development workers, PCSOs, and local residents aged one to eighty-five came along, taking part in monster-making, clay modelling, collage and salt pictures, as well as bopping to community band Wonderbrass and witnessing our drama group blossom into performers before our eyes.

Even our oldest participants, Neville and Muriel, came along and took great pride in their multi-sensory creations, including Neville’s memory bus which he delighted in telling people about. For these two individuals, PARADE! has inspired them to re-connect with friends and family and to re-ignite old hobbies.

For others, taking part in PARADE! has meant they have been able to present themselves in a way that they have control over. Unfortunately, many people in our area suffer from stigma and stereotyping.

PARADE! has provided a platform for groups to represent themselves through their creative skills and talents, rather than through their race, religion or age, which can often be a source of stigma.

Showcasing the talents and achievements of all of these groups under one roof was really important, because it was a celebration of diversity and of inclusion. Oasis Cardiff, the centre for refugees which hosted our event, showed the community how genuinely welcoming, warm and helpful they are. We saw members of the refugee drama group having a go on some of the Wonderbrass instruments, interacting with people they would never normally cross paths with.

People walking past the venue stopped and came in, finding out for the first time that Oasis Cardiff was on their doorstep.

The feedback we received on the day and immediately afterwards was phenomenal; we have been promised support for future projects from local councillors, the police want us to be involved in a Christmas event they are organising, and we are very excited to be bidding for another project with our local theatre, Sherman Cymru.

A freelance theatre director also offered to extend our drama group by several weeks, after seeing what the group had achieved. In terms of sustainability, this is all good news.

Our next task is to reflect on the past year and identify how we want to keep the momentum going. We have so many ideas and have now established lasting connections with artists, schools and community groups, so where next?

don’t take it from me – here are some comments from local people who attended:

“I would just like to say a big well done to everyone for making the Parade a magnificent day for all involved. It was really a blessing to be part of such a fantastic community event. The Oasis drama group have been amazing and as I said I feel that I have learnt just as much from each one of them as they have from participating in the Drama workshops. I have felt like a part of a community … it is very rare to feel such a sense of belonging in this world we live in.” Angharad Evans, drama tutor

“It’s so nice to go to something different for the family. It was such a change from the usual bouncy castles and face painting!” Local resident

“I’ve really enjoyed coming and meeting new people in the community. I just wish I could get up and take part in the dancing.” Muriel, workshop participant

“Today has been worth getting up for.” Local resident

“I was really impressed. I know how many people have been touched by the experience of being involved. You must be very proud of everyone - and I am very proud of you. This is what is important to people's lives.” Eva Elliott, trustee of the People’s Health Trust

“Love all the Roman arts and crafts by local primary school kids at Parade! Great cake too!” Tweet from local resident

“Big thanks @eleanox Helen, Lydia, @a3_arts & Cllr Manzoor Ahmed for the warm welcome at the PARADE! Festival this afternoon” Tweet from Cllr Phil Bale, Leader of the City of Cardiff.

“@AngharadEvans1 @A3_Arts had an email that the drama move them to tears! Thank you for all the work hope we can find a way to continue” Tweet from Oasis Cardiff

“I think the project itself has been brilliant and it was clear at Parade just how many people have been involved with it. The day itself was a fantastic opportunity for the community to get together and share with each other what they have been doing and to celebrate the different cultures and perspectives within the local community. The wide variety of art both on display and the performances that were put on also highlight the incredible talent the area has and how by nurturing it the community can produce amazing achievements.” Community development worker

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