From 14-16 June 2012, sixteen Dutch professionals from housing corporations, community art organisations, regional cultural councils, and cultural development organisations visited Multistory to explore community arts practice in the UK.
They were also joined by François Matarasso (writer and Multistory associate), Nabeel Hamdi (Professor and author of ‘Small Change’, Jenny Peevers (Arts Council England) and Valerie Hamilton (Midland Heart).
The event included presentations by François Matarasso giving an insight into community arts in the UK and Emma Chetcuti on Multistory’s Black Country Stories and Small Change programme.
This was followed by a presentation by Rob Bogaarts and Sikko Cleveringa about the Neighbourhood Cultural Fund in Holland and an introduction to the Creation Flowchart and Projectscan Model developed by CAL-XL. The scan describes the who, what, how and why of a project in terms of ambition and achievement. The scanning project is a form of self-evaluation. With the scan you describe the ambitions and achievements of the project from the perception of those directly involved.
Nabeel Hamdi then introduced the main principles behind ‘Small Change’ and helped set up the guide for the walks in the afternoon around the theme of ‘What Am I Looking At?
In the afternoon the groups used some of Nabeel’s principles about understanding the difference between what you are seeing (the symptoms) and what you are looking at (the causes) to prepare for a presentation the following day. The delegates were split into four groups and visited one of four locations to explore and gain a deeper understanding of some of the projects carried out by Multistory, as well as the social and environmental context in which Multistory works.
The four walks were:
West Bromwich Regeneration Tour by Jenna Wallis, Planning Support Officer, Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council) – a comprehensive tour of the large regeneration projects taking place in West Bromwich.
Stirchley Park, Stirchley by artist, Jayne Murray – looking at Stirchley and the forgotten park, which was the focus of the ‘Small Change:Stirchley’ project by Place Prospectors.
The New Art Gallery Walsall by Emma Chetcuti, Multistory – visiting a cultural centre to see a good example of how this building connects with the local community.
West Bromwich Walking Tour by artist, Elaine Speight and local resident, Sarah Duncombe) – Palimpsest is an audio walk around West Bromwich town which explores how the town has changed and how it continues to do so. The walk is inspired by facts, memories and stories. Elaine developed this project by working on an action research project managed by Multistory.
The following morning provided an opportunity for the groups to feedback on their insights and findings from the walks by giving 10 minute presentations.
The residential ended with discussions about people’s experiences of their 3 days in the UK and how this cross-cultural process has benefited the group. The time to actively reflect, think and engage with other practitioners was one of the main benefits identified by the group. The residential provided a new and neutral space to explore opportunities, to share ideas, analyse practice and consider how new partnerships and collaborations could work in the future.