It is blindingly obvious that we the public are invited to museums, galleries and projects through participation firstly in free art workshops. The futility of that exercise in improving footfall into hallowed halls is being considered at Leeds Uni by Dr Leila Jancovich et al.
Well I’m making my New Year Resolutions and first on my list is “No more crap workshops.”
To emphasise the value of Up Your Street seniors who are most times invisible to project planners and builders of creative landscapes for populations to use and from which to benefit, I pandered to the significant go-getters. I promoted those heads of social enterprises and budding community businesses and watched whether they had any inclination to reciprocate my goodwill by at least a nod to someone representing seniors; this older person who has at the ready an enthusiastic audience for them. Predictably there was silence. Go-getters size-up stealthily who can bump them up and be financially useful in the dog eat dog art and culture, science and survive world.
Up Your Street as an organisation attracting disadvantaged and financially strapped old people and occasionally a curious wealthier lone subscriber on the prowl for an audience, is neither threat nor of interest to government supported outfits with trustees and access to funding forms.
The thing is that founder members of Up Your Street, a cohort of tough immigrant women with herstories of candles burning at both ends know full well that they as individuals or as Up Your Streeters are just numbers at workshops filling up gaps around the tables, fodder for funding and forgotten about once the collage glue has dried.
Because of the insult delivered nonchalantly to those seniors whom I have brought together over the past twelve years, I am resolved not to “like” which means approve of anything I fancy on Facebook and Twitter which I deem relevant to Up Your Street subscribers. Many times I have come into a status update to let the author know that someone is out in cyberspace along with her peers wanting to join the party be it a community fair, an art project or a reminiscence workshop: Be it seniors participating in a seminar about what seniors want.
We just don’t fit the bill. All the Sarahs, Lilies, Rachaels and Amandas wish for the Dorises, Doreens, Patricias, Sues and Daphnes to be lonely isolates who have no words to share but do look good on a brochure advertising their own work in the multi-cultural communities the government imagined and on which the funders grant cash with restrictions.
I was warned by experience and folk who distanced themselves from Up Your Street that the bread and circuses piled on by ambitious younger people spurred on by something in the archives about a Cameron Big Society are ego trips by unemployed graduates and young exotic women allowed by their parents to do something outside the home and in the public arena for a while.
So my second resolution: Applaud no-one on Facebook purporting to share something in the community for the community.
My third resolution is to ignore the code “social engagement”. There is no social engagement unless there is recall.A one-off workshop is a flash in the pan on a rainy day whether it’s free or not. Momentarily some of the people some of the time feel good. The participants soon forget the experience and the facilitators sniff out a new community hub and catch the wind of the next recycled fad. They forget easily their clients but treasure the positive feedback notes with “good”and “full marks” on every response line.
To feel engaged the senior needs to be welcomed and seen. The facilitators move on but the participants who are the community are left standing looking on Eventbrite to find something satisfying, something deeper thsn a thirty minute demo in which the facilitator never engages mentally with any thing moving under her eye-line.
Up Your Street seniors are now confident to review their practical hands-on activities in community hubs and converted railway arches. Their reviews like online restsurant reviews hardly alter behaviour but bring it home that they, like me,
have something to report.