Community. Define

Soon Up Your Street seniors will go along to represent seniors from around the once poorer London boroughs at an event in Shoreditch organised by Dr Leila Jancovich et al from Leeds University. The aim of the event is to find a positive amongst the structured but failing community and cultural offerings given out to the masses by the traditional cultural centres such as museums and art galleries and recently popped-up community hubs. Coincidentally in Waltham Forest the drive is on to enhance people’s cultural outlooks through art and the arts by the borough showing off as the Borough Of Culture: The first ever Borough Of Culture.

Those seniors twelve years old in the Up Your Street organisation say it like it is and it isn’t grand. They have attended tens of workshops from collage art to 3D printing to interactive theatre to drawing and movement. Often the workshops precede an art exhibition or a museum treat. For years those older participants have known that community engagement is a fluff and that their names settle on a tick-sheet to please funders. Better for the money drip is if the photos taken by the white middle-class trustafarian interns can show people of colour. Any last-minute evaluation sheets are loaded towards no rocking of the boat too. The only way participants can show displeasure is by not returning the next time. Next times are rare but anyway the facilitators at workshops don’t clock the names or faces of their public. Seniors do not matter.

Museum staff have since last year and beyond abandoned their brown wooden wall image to open out their welcoming arms particularly to the disinterested youth and the older more working class generation. Hackney Museum was well ahead over ten years ago and is a wonderful place to learn about the local people and their cultures. People from every background feel represented and own the venue.
The William Morris Gallery morphed into a shop and the café is neither magnet nor affordable to those folk who bring by habit their own flasks.

Art Galleries link with artists outside their perspex walls and intellectualise everything from living spaces to the shirt on your back to entice a population of people who never put art on their daily agenda. This is when art needs a definition. Schools are ready-made bait for culture and it is assumed that working class parents never take their children along the tunnels in Kensington during the half-terms. In all that, community artists spring up in every centre, exhibit and try to belong to an elite in an art world which is business always.

Exhibitions are still expensive. Up Your Street organises community group visits to those ten pound plus exhibitions. The Victoria and Albert Museum staff are ace; nothing is too much trouble. The staff at other places have much to learn about welcoming seniors on freebies.

Trouble is much is advertised on Twitter and at Facebook.
Trouble is the engaged never get called back. Tick-sheets are posted away. Job done.

Why do they at Up Your Street keep on keeping on pushing their way into worlds they never knew existed because they worked for years and transport was expensive and that thing culture was “nothing to do with us”. Was it curiosity, being egged-on, loving that expected cuppa, getting some skills learning and it can all be done before they get the tea on? Those people are ENGAGED for a couple of hours in a day. On Friday the mosque engages them. On Sunday the church engages them. So much is forgettable.
Nuff said.