This project brought together an exciting team of artists, public engagement practitioners, researchers and community partners. Together we used visual art techniques to facilitate public engagement with Better Start Bradford
Better Start Bradford is a 10 year project which will implement 22 services in 3 Bradford wards (Bowling and Barkerend, Bradford Moor and Little Horton). The aim is to improve young children’s health; social and emotional well-being; communication; and diet. Community engagement is central to the programme.
We were awarded funds from the University of Leeds ‘Inspiring the Public about Biomedical Research’ small grant scheme. I also used funds from my Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellowship. The funding has allowed us to establish a cross-disciplinary team and pilot arts based activities with our target age group. This includes making hand and foot casts; collecting children’s’ drawings and handwriting; and creating a large hand-print mural.
Ultimately we would like to design a permanent, outdoor sculpture situated in Bradford. The sculpture would provide a focus for future community and public engagement activities. Artist Deborah Gardner has created small scale, pilot sculptures, which integrate art created by community members.
We used the arts activities as a starting point for conversations about health. I was particularly struck by how well this worked with some of the very young children involved. The tactile nature of the activities seemed to engage them well. Also I think that creating something visual together can really helped to foster a sense of achievement.
I’m working closely with Bradford Trident, Maria Bryant and Deborah Gardner. It’s the first time I’ve ever been involved in a sculpture project and I’m learning lots from working in a new area. It’s also great to be able to share my experience of community theatre work with an artist from a different field.
Through this work, we have gained really valuable feedback regarding the location and design of the proposed sculpture, and community perceptions of public art more broadly. We are currently looking at funding options for stage 2 of the project – making and sighting the permanent sculpture!