Guest Blog: Community artist Kathryn Gray talks about an arts project to light up the streets in winter

I’m a community artist based in North Wiltshire. I run workshops in the community providing creative opportunities for people of all ages and abilities and try to seek out inclusive creative opportunities to engage with the local community.

The family living in this house made a silhouette of each of their pets for their window

Collaborating with Ashton Keynes C of E Primary School in North Wiltshire, we applied successfully for a grant from the now closed Celebrate programme (Big Lottery Fund) to create a magical outdoor gallery in the village in late February, using the resources supplied by the organisation Window Wanderland. The School invited all the residents in the village to create an illuminated window display that was about them in some way in order to create a possible talking point with neighbours and then to wander the village with a map looking at the amazing displays over two evenings. There were over 70 displays in windows, cars, greenhouses, and even a motorhome. One house had whale sounds to accompany their colourful marine display. To see a gallery of our event, go to this page on our website and select “View Gallery”.

 

Member of Ashton Keynes Golden Years Group making the display for the Village Shop

Window Wanderland was set up in Bristol in 2015 by set designer Lucy Reeves Khan with the idea of brightening up the streets in winter, providing an opportunity for everyone to take part in a really fun activity which aims to reduce isolation and increase pride in the community. To date, over 20 Window Wanderlands have been held and the concept is spreading abroad with one planned in Canada next year.

 

The Youth Club made self portraits for the White Hart Inn

Window Wanderland in Ashton Keynes, the first ever held in a village, was a great success, despite the torrential rain on the second night. The toolkit provided by Window Wanderland for a fee meant that it was easy to organise as we could concentrate on engaging with the community rather than working out the minutiae of the organisation of the event.

Getting the idea across was difficult at first and in all the information provided (flyers to each home, a school assembly, workshops with different groups and at the school, articles in the local parish newsletter, emails from the school to parents) the words “art” and “creativity” were not mentioned as that would have put a lot of people off taking part. We provided a photo album of display ideas, drop-in workshops with simple ideas for displays, and encouraged children to offer to make displays for neighbours and relatives. Thanks to Lottery funding, we could provide free materials.

 

The feedback on Window Wanderland was overwhelmingly positive, though there were some complaints about the weather!

It’s been incredibly positive. I’ve met and got to know a few people locally that I would not have met otherwise. By running workshops and meeting and chatting with people helped spread the word and get the ball rolling. Thanks for your help and for having the brilliant idea in the first place!”

“It was great to see how inventive people had been, giving a small insight into their lives.”

“Good opportunity to mix young and old in the community.”

“Let’s do it again!”

Window Wanderland is a fantastic community event that does encourage creativity. It does take time to organise and get off the ground, but the end result is well worth the effort and we plan to run another in 2019.

Kathryn Gray, Community Artist

www.facebook.com/KathrynGrayArt/

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