Creative Times 2015: Superact’s Collaboration with Guinness Care & Support

By October 27, 2015 Features No Comments

After a chance meeting at the Creative Dementia Arts Network conference earlier this year, Superact became involved in a project providing artistic activities for residents of the Guinness Partnerships‘ social housing and Extra Care initiatives. Superact’s storyteller Stu Packer ran story-sharing workshops and produced a digital story accompanied by beautiful portraits of participants by film-maker and photographer Kevin Redpath; and Sarah le Breton, our Willow Artist, worked with 3 groups to create sculptures on the theme of ‘time’ resulting in spectacular animals, sun dials and Christmas orbs. The Creative Times 2015 artworks were exhibited, along with many others on the theme, in the Guildhall in Bath in mid-October. Here each of the team sums up their experience of seeing that exhibition for the first time:

“To have been there on the day actively listening to, and recording, stories from our Elders was enough. Enough food for the soul. To have been there doing the rough edit for the Digital Stories with my creative partner, Kevin Redpath, was enough. Enough stories to lift our hearts. I really didn’t feel the need to be at the exhibition on Monday 12th October.

…until I got there that is. Kevin did his brilliant technological setting up and faffing about whilst I thought about checking my emails. He bought me a delicious coffee after which it happened. I found free wifi! Three cheers.

As my laptop was booting up, that’s when I saw them. Pam. Stella. Oh no! They were twenty minutes early. Then Sylvia, Arthur, Philomena and David. Our Elders were arriving. That’s when this incredible need arose in me. I needed to be with them; not out of duty, not out of respectfulness even, but from my heart I needed to be with our Elders.

I shut my laptop. I sighed, smiling.

When I saw the first four of our Elders sitting in the Stories of Time installation with their headphones on, looking at photos of themselves, I almost lost it. Surreal and extremely touching; up until that moment it had been my head saying, “I hope people like it. What if…..” THEN these lovely folks were looking at themselves – their photos. Listening to each others’ stories – their stories. Obviously stirred. Obviously lifted. I was with our Elders. I was lifted.

The exhibition itself? Perfectly curated and created, with love and attention from everyone involved. It shone. Brightly.

Kevin Redpath – thank you

Helen Webb and Guinness Care & Support – thank you

Our Elders – thank you

Stu Packer

“In July I met Helen Webb at the Guildhall in Bath to help plan the Creative Times exhibition.  The room itself was completely empty: classic mid 18th Century Georgian, high ceilings, ornate plaster work and a cluster of chairs.  I wouldn’t have been surprised if Jane Austen herself had bustled in.  How was the screening of our Creative Times storytelling session going to work in this vast space? We agreed to design a little pop-up cinema –  a large flat screen four chairs and four sets of headphones rather than speakers (Helen’s idea), which in hindsight was a brilliant solution.  The sheer level of buzz, chatter and excitement on the night of the launch was so great no one would have heard the stories. Exhibition panels would create a simple division from the main exhibition and Helen thought we should have portraits of the storytellers on the walls of our little cinema to draw people in. At this point we hadn’t done any photography or recording so we had no idea how it would work on the night.

The other creative decision we took was to output the film to BluRay rather than standard definition DVD, which took hours of post production but made each one of our storytellers look their finest.  To be in the Guildhall when they began to arrive to see the film for themselves made my heart melt.  Stu and I had recorded and photographed them earlier in September but we had no idea how they would react to seeing themselves on the big screen.  They listened intently, occasionally giggling with one another, or sat deep in quiet thought and reflection. It was then that I realised that this style of production, essentially radio with added pictures, could be such a powerful medium.  You have nothing else to do but focus intently on the person’s story.  As someone who has spent many years working with the moving image, it was a revelation.
The exhibition itself was stunning – the beautiful willow sculptures, the poems, the photographs and the memories. It was magnificently curated by Guinness Care and Support and truly celebrated the vibrancy of our Elders.”
Kevin Redpath

And here’s the digital story they created:

“What an evening! I’d already been lucky enough to have witnessed the workshops first hand and met the wonderful Guinness resident artists. I already felt as if I’d been let in to a secret. But to see them all in their Sunday bests, beaming proud smiles, away from their familiar backdrop, showcasing their work, was a true privilege.

Each artist had helped to deliver remarkable creative exhibitions that brought everyone close together in discussion and awe.  From photography, audio recordings, to willow, painting and pottery – the evening buzzed with excitement, oozed with pride, and was bursting with creativity!  What an evening to remember!”

Matilda Kay, Project Assistant

“For me the best part of the Creative Times exhibition opening was finding that all of my three willow weaving groups extraordinaire from Devizes, Trowbridge and Bath attended.  It was an absolute pleasure to see the joy and pride on the faces of everyone when they saw their wonderful sculptures on show!   Especially exciting was that, at the exhibition, Marion from my Bath willow weaving group (who helped to create the magnificent Peacock) won a Guinness award for her commitment and contribution to the Creative Times project.”

Sarah Le Breton

“The role of Project Manager can sometimes be a tough one. All of the organising, none of the fun. All of the worktime, none of the playtime – simply because there isn’t time. When I met Helen and she described her ideas for the Creative Times project to me I was enthused, enthralled and excited by the prospect of Superact being involved. I did everything I could to make it happen: set up workshops, engaged artists, created publicity… and listened happily as reports of engrossed participants, inspired artists and incredible creations came flooding back to me. But I wasn’t there – I didn’t meet the Elders, or help to create the artworks, or witness the conversation, laughter and sense of achievement first-hand and although I knew wholeheartedly that I believed in the project and all it stood for, I was hidden away behind the scenes glued to my computer.

So I was extra-specially moved to be able to attend the Creative Times exhibition preview and see for the first time the creations that I had heard so much about, and to meet the people that had made them. It was so heartwarming to see Stu and Kevin sitting with their story-sharing participants, catching up over cake and a cuppa; to see resident’s reactions to the video they had made of their stories and stunning portraits that had captured the moments on the day. To see Sarah’s willow work-shoppers buzzing about their peacocks and reindeer, or chatting with Sarah’s young children; and her pride in turn as one of her group members won a Guinness award for participation. The other pieces on display, including a ‘map of time’ and interactive time capsule, were diverse in form and medium and also provided much food for thought – and pleasure! – for all the visitors at the exhibition. The room was crowded and there was such a sense of celebration in what had been achieved…. I couldn’t stop grinning throughout!

I hope that people’s lives will continue to be enriched by Creative Times 2015 and that we can play a part in more creative times to come.”

Ursula Billington, Project Manager

Thanks to the Guinness Partnership for use of their photographs. See more on their facebook page here.