Creative Communities

MADE brought together residents and artists in three areas in the West Midlands: north Solihull, Sandwell and Tamworth. Collectively these made up Creative Communities, a two-year project to show how resident-artist partnerships can influence the regneration of their areas. In 2009, Creative Communities was shortlisted for an HCA Academy Award for Investing in Young People.

Supported by Wolverhampton-based artists Laundry, Kingshurst CTC students compiled a film on the regeneration plans for north Solihull. They interviewed residents and officials, took still photographs, put together a storyboard and carried out the filming and editing. Such was their enthusiasm, they set up an open day for residents during their Easter holiday. The students attended regional and national conferences to meet other young people involved in regeneration schemes and were supported by Solihull MBC to visit projects in The Netherlands. Despite a major set-back when their equipment and footage was lost in a burglary, the students completed a 15-minute film, now being shown at neighbourhood events in the regeneration zone.

In Tamworth, Amington Heath Estate residents had expressed concerns about the lack of facilities for young people and the estate’s poor environmental appearance. An outdoor games area had been removed 12 years previously and the local youth centre building had closed due to structural problems. At the same time, some residents were wary about encouraging groups of young people to congregate in new areas.Tamworth Borough Council wanted to explore new ways to engage with both the adult residents and the young people on the estate. Working with creative professionals, young people have designed a new community meeting place based on the design of a maple leaf. ‘The Maple’ is an iconic metal structure and a focal point on the estate.

Creative Communities supported Sandwell’s community engagement approach in Tibbington, which has been awarded a Public Service Award and shortlisted for a Homes and Communities Agency award. We commissioned Digital Native Academy to train residents in computer gaming software to re-design an area of derelict land in the centre of the estate. People living on the estate grabbed this opportunity with such enthusiasm that Sandwell MBC plans to incorporate the technique into the masterplanning of the whole estate. The innovative nature of this approach meant it was shortlisted for two awards (including LGC/HSJ Sustainable Communities Award) and was recognised by Ordnance Survey for the Most Innovative Use of Geographic Information.

'Involving artists and other creative professionals raised aspirations, gave us all new ideas, and led to a higher quality environment' feedback from Creative Communities partner organisation