What is your project called?
York Road Project at The Lightbox.
When did it take place?
The Project has taken place annually since 2012.
How much did it cost?
Did you receive any external funding?
Yes, from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, our Museum and the ‘More and Better Fund’.
What key area of Diversity did your Project focus on?
Diversifying our public programmes/events, exhibitions or collections to be more representative of under-represented groups and
diversifying our audiences through targeted programming to be more representatives of under-represented groups.
Please describe the aims of the Project.
Since 2012 The Lightbox has worked with York Road Project annually to deliver a series of creative workshops for their clients culminating in an exhibition. The workshops provide the opportunity for individuals to experience art in various forms, and to develop artistic talents that perhaps otherwise would have gone undiscovered. The aim of the workshops is to boost self-esteem and for participants to achieve a sense of accomplishment, something that unfortunately many of York Road Project’s clients feel they lack.
Who did you work with?
York Road Project provides emergency and longer term accommodation for those experiencing homelessness. They work with clients from all walks of life, 18 years and older, regardless of disability, gender, race, religion, belief and sexual orientation. They are based in Woking and primarily focus on serving the local community. However, they do accept queries from people who live in the surrounding boroughs of Surrey. The Project was started many years ago by a number of passionate individuals from various churches in Woking offering sandwiches and soup to people ‘sleeping rough’. This developed into a ‘winter watch’ project supported by Shelter and provided emergency accommodation over the winter period (November-February) using various properties loaned to us by the Council. This was developed further by the ‘night watch’ programme which operated for a longer period of the year and also offered some supported ‘move-on’ accommodation.
What work did you do together?
The Clients from York Road Project are informed at an early stage of the project. This is difficult to do for all the participants as some of the participants involved will only be at the sessions and not part of the project up until then, due to the nature of the night shelter. We therefore encourage as many of the move on clients or clients that still use the day centre to be involved from the very beginning in the choice of theme for each year. We look at a theme that encapsulates what they want to portray to the visitors of the exhibition, past themes have included homelessness and identity. One of the parts of this involvement from an early stage is so that the clients learn to work to one common goal and know that although they may not have personally been involved in the decision making process, it was previous clients and so it gives them ownership. The sessions run over 4 Thursdays in the month of November and again with input from the clients, there is a choice of materials on offer, from sculpture, to drawing to paints etc. Some years we have looked at mainly sculptural responses, other years have meant graffiti projects and clay figures; it really does depend on what the clients enjoy and their own preferences.
What did you achieve?
The workshops are working towards producing work that can be displayed at The Lightbox in an exhibition. We put on a private view for them to be able to show friends or family what they have been up to and of course it enables them to be proud of what they have achieved, to have work displayed in an art gallery.
The project has enabled us to diversify our audience with our attendees to workshops we deliver aswell as our audience to the exhibitions we display. The audience who attends the York Road Exhibition may have never been inside the building before for whatever reason and so it is a chance to attract a new audience.
Each project we have delivered has been evaluated and although due to the nature of this client group we would not be not expected to see consistent and straight-forwardly positive outcomes. The evaluation suggested that participants do have a positive experience of the project and that it benefits them in the short and long term.
What are the long term impacts of your work?
The staff members who have been involved with the project over the years have boosted their personal development by working with the York Road Project through the activities devised and diversity of the group, which in turn improves the possibilities for The Lightbox.
We have been approached by other groups to work in this way, including Prisons and Veterans groups and so this project has enabled us to feel confident that we can deliver a varied and insightful programme for others.
We also give clients of the York Road Project (whether they have taken part in the project or not) free entry throughout the year so that they can come back again and again to explore and feel that this is a safe space for them.
The participants that are involved are often dealing with complex issues and the project is intended to provide support rather than expecting to in any way ‘solve’ these.
Have you embedded this work into your organisation’s practice?
Since 2012 we have been able to use the learning from each year to improve the following year. This has also meant that with staff changes we have been able to formalise the project and ensure that the legacy lives on longer than the staff who are involved from either organisation.
Over the years we have embedded our art and wellbeing programmes further into the core ethos of The Lightbox and the Learning & Engagement department, showing that our core values are reflecting our work with the local community beyond our studio space and outreach work.
What lessons have you learnt?
Working with participants who are dealing with complex issues means that we need to deliver flexible and innovative options every year, rather than feeling that the project runs to the same schedule. Ensuring that we approach each year and each client group as individuals who all have different needs and ideas is vital. We have been able to work very effectively with the staff at the York Road Project so that we both gain from the partnership.
What tips would you give other organisations interested in this kind of work?
1. Connect with the other project workers, the project will not work if you do not have the buy-in from your partnership organisation. As when staff members leave you want to be able to continue the project.
2. Be flexible and uninhibited with the groups you want to work with. You may want to work with a new group who you have less knowledge about, so go in with confidence and enthusiasm.
3. Make sure you really think about all the project costs, including staff time for development aswell as the project delivery.
4. Assist the whole organisation in learning more about the group you are working with, so as to give them confidence about the project and a new audience.
5. Tea/Coffee and biscuits are very important for any project!