15 May 2016
by Cat Stobbs
On Tuesday 26th of April, I was lucky enough to be invited to the opening of Project Shed: an exhibition by The Lower Kersal Young People’s Group, brought about by artist Beth Barlow and Thomas Lever. The project aims to enlighten the participants through art and horticulture and also has a focus on the idea of giving altruistically; knowing that you may not receive a tangible return for your gift but instead understanding the value in the act of giving itself.
Stepping inside the shed gave me an instant uplift (and I was far from unhappy in the first place) and the effect was enhanced by the beautiful stained glass windows, designed by the young people, which captured the light in a warm and welcoming way. For a small space there is no shortage of things to investigate - and as the project focuses on the idea of reciprocal generosity and giving for the sake of giving – mementoes to take home with you. I came away with a card made and designed by one of the young people for a friends’ birthday and a delicious rose hip syrup drink. I also wish I’d picked up some of the homemade jam and seed bombs but at least that gives me another excuse to go back. Garden furniture has been improved and designed by the young people and if you take a walk around the shed you’ll find loads of ways to access the stories of the young people and community – in this way the shed is almost a comfortable store house, a collective hub, for tales of the allotment, the project and the people.
The allotment itself is a platform for the growth of one of the things that we all give and share many times in our lives, perhaps without even knowing it: food. I’m a big believer in this idea, it reminds me of that early rehearsal where Eileen brought in thai green curry for us all. There’s something very simple and wholesome in sharing a meal with friends and family and I can imagine this feeling is multiplied if you have grown and nurtured the food yourself.
When we returned back to St Aiden’s the tea party really got going and, sat happily with carrot cake, scones and a brew, I felt fortified for the following discussion. The two benches were brought in from the shed and placed either side of a display table full of resources and art from the project and (joy of joys) more cake. What followed was a discussion that was arranged so well I think it’s a structure that all people-focused groups should consider copying. To guard against too many voices crowding the topics or spiraling into tangents, four of the assembled community members put themselves forward to take a seat on the benches and engage with the discussion topics, which included questions of how negativity in the media impacts our lives, and what we, and the media, could do to combat this, and also questions about communities and their heartening ability to pull tighter together at the times when things look most bleak. As new questions were brought up or when it was time for a new voice or two, those sat on the benches would swap with the guests who had been listening. The discussions were also recorded and I’m sure will have thrown up as many interesting thoughts and questions for everyone else as they did for me.
If you want to check our Project Shed for yourself – and I really hope you do – you can contact Thomas Lever: firstname.lastname@example.orgReturn to blog