Renata Minoldo is a London-based artist and educator who has been delivering creative projects with Create since 2018. We spoke to Renata about her practice, working with different community groups and the importance of creativity.
“I’m a visual artist and educator. My practice is not about a specific technique, it’s more about exploring senses, feelings and emotions and gathering people together for them to connect with themselves first, then with others.”
renata minoldo, create artist
working with create
“I have been a Create artist since 2018, so that’s four years now. I met a lot of people online first. Now we have our own sharings and socials and that’s been amazing because I feel like part of a group. It’s really nice. As Create project managers get to know me better, I have more freedom which I really appreciate. I get to do more risky things or use very specific techniques that are out of the norm.
“I have learnt a lot from facilitating Create projects. For example, I have learnt how to read groups better. Recently we did an online project with adult carers in Enfield. After sensing a certain energy in the room, I decided to start every session doing some tapping, some self-massage, and a little bit of breathing and grounding into the space. After that, the participants kept asking for it in each session. They were so into it, so I think I’ve learnt to read the groups I work with better.
the benefits of creativity
“Creativity is everything. It is such a big part of my life. It is happiness. It’s in everyday life when you open your fridge and you decide what to cook with whatever you have. Creativity is innate to us. When we are children we don’t have so many boundaries regarding what’s creative and what isn’t. We can express ourselves freely. Over time we get a little more stuck in our own safety box, but creativity is such an important thing. It is absolutely related to our wellbeing. Being able to express ourselves creatively brings us joy.
“Creativity gives people a voice, but to get into that voice takes time, so I’m happy when I see someone can let go of their own judgements about themselves. I think that’s the first step. Everyone is an artist and we are all different, there is no right or wrong way to do things.”
Find out more about Create’s professional artists by clicking here.
Holly Khan: From Nurturing Talent to Board of Trustees
Holly Khan is a professional musician and facilitator. In October 2021, we appointed her a Trustee of Create.
Holly balances her time between music composition and running workshops with a wide range of people, including our Create participants. She first came into contact with us through our emerging artist development programme, Nurturing Talent. We invited Holly to take part in Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership training this year, along with eight other Create colleagues.
We spoke to Holly about her journey with Create, her work with other organisations – including her own social enterprise, Heartstrings – and her passion for championing climate action.
Your journey with us began with Nurturing Talent. How do you feel about the programme now, in hindsight?
I found it incredibly useful. I already had a lot of the skills and tools, but Nurturing Talent gave me the connections and confidence to establish myself as a facilitator. Working across the year with such a vast demographic of participants, from SEND young people to older people living with dementia, really empowers you to feel like you can walk into any room and lead a workshop. After just a few months on Nurturing Talent, I started to feel confident in applying for paid positions, and I’ve never looked back. Now, 50% of my income is facilitation and 50% is composition. That really wouldn’t have been the case if I hadn’t done Nurturing Talent.
Can you tell me about the social enterprise you’ve set up?
It started years ago in my brain; it started more tangibly about a-year-and-a-half ago. I applied for/was recruited by an organisation called Year Here. You get put on the front line of social injustice, you work in different areas, you research, you prototype, and you end up making your own social enterprise. On my cohort of people there was someone who has worked as a coder for NASA, there was a financial editor. I was there as a composer and I had massive imposter syndrome.
I am still working on it, but Heartstrings is running. It’s a creatively conscious childcare service. We provide workshops for six-month-olds to six-year-olds, and we focus on music, movement and mindfulness, to develop milestones and encourage empathy. We do this by employing refugees – refugee artists and care experts – to lead these workshops. There’s a unique cultural exchange in every workshop because we share songs and stories from around the globe. It’s a subsidised model so more affluent families pay more and lower income families pay less so there’s a social economic mix of people in the room. The vision is to expand all over London and regionally as well.
“I’m very lucky to do not only what I love but multiple things I love.”
How does composition fit into this mix?
I’m very lucky to do not only what I love but multiple things I love. My first love is connecting through music. That’s in composition and in facilitation. I never like music for the technical aspects. I learnt very early on, when I was about 18, that if you’re not practising for eight hours a day then you’re not going to get super far as a classical musician or a session musician, so I said: ‘That path isn’t for me.’
I try to compose for things that have a social mission. I’ve written music for plays that raise awareness about undiagnosed heart conditions (Ticker by Tom Machell is currently at the Turbine Theatre raising money for CRY charity); and I wrote a piece called Their Voices, which was part of the Global Health Film Festival in the Barbican, about children in Iceland seeing their landscapes disintegrate. It was about climate change. And this last week I composed for Amal Meets Alice, which was commissioned for The Story Museum. Amal is a refugee puppet, based on a real Syrian girl. Handspring Puppet Company – the people who made War Horse – and Good Chance – the people who made The Jungle – have created her and she’s walking through cities from Syria. She was just in Oxford, and I was composing for that performance. It was amazing. Seeing 20,000 people turn up and support this cause. Everywhere she goes is an arts festival. And then yesterday I just closed an audio installation commissioned by Let’s Do London, the GLA, Mayor of London and Battersea Arts Centre. My piece was a provocation, that more could and should be done about women’s safety in light of Sabina Nessa and Sarah Everard. That was really great to do.
How did you find the Climate Reality training, and how do you think it will affect your work?
It was very eye-opening. It was very disturbing. The most disturbing thing to me is not only that these things are happening, but they’re not being reported. Having said that though, it was very hopeful. I really enjoyed learning about the ways to be hopeful; and how hope is a practice, how you don’t have to be a scientist to be able to take steps in solving the climate crisis: you can be an artist, you can be a musician. That was really important to hear. Because you can feel helpless.
How can we make it easy for people to buy into this movement? I’m half-Guyanese and half-British, and Guyana is incredibly affected by the climate crisis. When I look at my landscape in London, when I look out of the window, nothing has changed because of the climate crisis. So it’s really hard for people to connect to the fact that human beings in other parts of the world are having their houses ripped apart by flooding or fires. Having that understanding and thinking of the world as a borderless place is something I want to take forward and use as a practice, to get people to think about where they’re from, not just where they wake up, but where their ancestors are from, where their friends and family are from.
You’re championing this issue on our Board of Trustees. How do you think Create can take this issue forward?
First and foremost, it’s really exciting. It’s very common with a board of Trustees that I’m not only the youngest, I’m also currently the only person of colour and I’m a woman. These things all intersect. So my ideas about the climate crisis, and how I want to present that, all intersect with this historically not being a place where people like me would be able to do that. I’m very pleased to be that voice.
At Create, we’ve spoken a lot about how over the next 5-10 years we’re going to reduce waste, not only practices of recycling, but how in travel and transportation, in deliveries, in materials, we can make a difference and an impact. But also what I think I’m most excited about is how we can raise awareness thematically. Create interacts with hundreds of participants. How can we use the climate crisis as a theme to inspire people to take action? The environment is something that older people, young people, anyone can relate to, so what if we use this as a theme for the workshops and use that as a trajectory of change?
How does it feel being part of the Create Board?
It sounds like such a simple thing, but actually feeling represented and being represented is so important. What I’m most proud of is that anyone coming through Nurturing Talent, or any participant, young girls who experience racism, can see that it’s possible to get into these rooms. And not only get into these rooms but have a voice and use it.
How do you feel about your journey with Create, now that you reflect on it?
I feel very lucky. There aren’t many times in a freelance, self-employed or creative person’s life where there are tangible stepping stones. A lot of the time it’s side to side, you finish a job and you’re back to square one. But with Create there has been this amazing trajectory for me where everything I’ve done has added up and has become a ladder for me to climb. That is amazing. I would never have anticipated when I started Nurturing Talent that it would open all these doors and bring me to where I am now. It is down to the organisation trusting me and believing in me, and I want this to be a lifelong relationship.
Create artist Rachel McGivern on supporting creativity and wellbeing in community settings
To mark Creativity and Wellbeing Week 2021, we spoke to our visual artist, Rachel McGivern, about her experience of delivering creative projects in community settings, particularly our creative:tandem project with patients at Snowsfields, an adolescent mental health unit in South London.
“I’ve always really enjoyed art. Even at school, it was the subject where I could just have a bit more freedom and explore creativity. When I was at university studying illustration, I realised I really enjoyed working with people and exploring creative activities. I feel like I get quite a lot from facilitating workshops, such as the conversations, meeting new people and seeing different points of view.
“My work falls within the umbrella of visual arts. I don’t work in one art form, I kind of spread out. That might be printmaking, weaving or sculpture. I work very much with groups, thinking about how we can share these skills, have an engaging experience with different participants and support their wellbeing. I took part in Create’s Nurturing Talent programme a couple of years ago. That was a really great experience. It taught me how to work with different community groups and helped me gain an understanding of the needs of each group and to bring that into my participatory practice.
Supporting creativity online via Create Live!
“I’ve enjoyed delivering online workshops with Create during the pandemic via Create Live!. It’s a whole new way of working. I’ve had to readapt some of the activities and think about how they can translate online. Since I’m quite materials driven, I’ve enjoyed the challenge of thinking about using everyday things and making things in new ways using items from the recycling bin. Adapting my approach to bring that to different groups has been a really positive experience.
“I think creativity is really valuable to everyone. It gives us the time and space to explore an idea without the pressure of it being anything other than an idea and enjoy just the free flow of it.”
“The creative:tandem project at Snowsfields Adolescent Unit was really interesting. Although we were working online, it almost felt like we were in a studio setup. Everyone was having a little bit of conversation, but very much getting on with their own personal project and exploration of the same activity, and being able to take it in any direction that they wanted to, facilitated by the staff on site. You could use the same equipment and the same materials in totally different ways. For the weaving session, for example, one of the participants preferred wrapping instead of weaving; another really liked the actual process of weaving as more of a structured thing. They created this massive loom and started weaving on that. We also had a session where they decorated their own bags with some fabric sprays and stencils, based on this idea of putting your own stamp on an item.
“The technology made it a bit difficult for me to have a direct conversation with the participants, but it felt like we were communicating through making. One of the young people was leaving the centre the day the bag decorating session took place so they were really happy to be able to take something away. Another described the sessions as ‘beautifully calm’, which was very nice.
“I think creativity is really valuable to everyone. It gives us the time and space to explore an idea without the pressure of it being anything other than an idea and enjoy just the free flow of it. I think some of the activities I do have an outcome, because it’s really nice to have that as a memory; but mostly, I’m really interested in the process, and the experience of making something. That’s why I love workshops. It’s more about the time and space to experiment and do something, try something new, challenge yourself and feel that pride of learning something new. It brings so much happiness.”
2020 has been an exceptionally difficult year for professional artists. Across the board, the UK’s cultural sector has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic. At Create we’re supporting artists during the pandemic.
Culture brings us together, whether that’s listening to a classical concert, wandering around a packed gallery or dancing the night away at a gig. But the pandemic has forced many cultural institutions to close and remain closed. Those that have been able to open have had to cope with dramatically reduced capacity and uncertain last-minute lockdowns.
For those of us whose lives are enhanced and expanded by the arts, this has been a profound loss. For many artists it has been a disaster, stripping them of their livelihoods, their entire income, their vocation and their wellbeing. Some have been able to diversify and take their practices online, but this has not been an option for every artform.
Thanks to the pandemic, the cultural industry, which contributes £11bn a year to the economy and supports 363,700 jobs*, has suffered potentially irreparable damage.
How Create supports Artists
At Create, we’ve always platformed and supported artists. We value the importance of the creative arts in our collective lives and are passionate about their transformative and long-lasting impact.
All our artists are freelance professional practitioners in their specialist field (eg: dance, filmmaking; music, sculpture), who combine a passion for their artform with a love of people. Through our carefully-tailored programmes, our artists are able to expand their own artistic horizons, exploring new ideas and developing ambitious projects that benefit both our participants and their own artistic practice.
When the first lockdown was announced and we could no longer meet in person, we knew that our work couldn’t stop – it had never been more vital – which is why we adapted at break-neck speed. For our participants and professional artists, Create’s workshops offer a lifeline.
Here are some of the ways that we have supported our artists:
Having worked with our artists to research, safeguard and pilot a new way of working via Zoom, we used emergency funding from Arts Council England to develop and deliver a series of programmes that offered creative work for our artists and workshops for our participants struggling with lockdown across the UK.
This summer – via Create Live! – we delivered more workshops than ever before, meaning more work for our artists and more inspirational projects that have empowered, upskilled and connected our participants, reducing isolation and enhancing wellbeing.
Here, our professional photographer Alejandra Carles-Tolra talks about delivering a project with Kingston Young Carers via Create Live!.
Nurturing Talent, our programme for emerging artists, offers an opportunity for early-career artists who wish to combine a professional artistic practice with creative workshop delivery in community settings.
We provide a £1,500 bursary and opportunities to develop their facilitation skills alongside our experienced professional artists with different community groups. The programme involves four tailored training days, two artist sharing days, and the opportunity to design and deliver a workshop collaboratively.
Launched in 2016, this programme has still been running during the pandemic, empowering and upskilling six passionate and talented artists across dance, drama, filmmaking, music, and visual art. Find out more.
“I will leave this year a more technical musician, a more experienced facilitator and, most importantly, with an absolute dedication to helping the vulnerable and disadvantaged members of society.”
holly khan, nurturing talent artist
Artist Sharing/training Days
When lockdown first happened, we provided free training in Zoom workshop delivery to upskill our artists to this new way of working. Each has then had the chance to trial a workshop with the Create team ahead of going “live” in the community.
We also provide our artists and project team with free six-monthly skill-building, training and networking opportunities at Artist Sharing events that take place annually in May and November. With external speakers and artist-led workshops, the days focus on topics such as working in prisons and safeguarding, helping to upskill, inform and inspire. The most recent workshop in 2020 focused on Wellbeing, both that of our participants and the artists themselves.
“It’s nice to have a relationship with an organisation. I started off on Nurturing Talent, learning from the lead facilitators. Now, I can look back at my initial learning at Create and see my growth and development to lead facilitator within the organisation.”
Create artist Jack Pryor
Our commitment to artists
2020 has been an incredibly challenging year for artists but it seems that there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel, with a vaccine on the horizon. There is now hope that the industry can recover, and artists can continue doing what they love. In the meantime, and into the future, we will continue to support our artists through our projects – both Create Live! and in-venue – and ongoing training, and to reach out to a new generation of creatives through our Nurturing Talent programme.
Beth Coleman is a professional choreographer, performer, acrobat, actress and Create artist. As our new project concept Create Live! came together we worked with Beth to develop an interactive, online dance project for young carers.
Create Live! is Create’s online, interactive project initiative developed to reach participants during the lockdown, offering a creative lifeline to the most vulnerable children and adults in isolation.
We spoke to Beth about the challenges and opportunities of dancing on Zoom.
“In my Create dance workshops, I’m giving people the tools to choreograph themselves. It’s not about developing perfect technique but exploring how movement can make you feel and help you express yourself.
“It was important to make the workshop dynamic: the brilliant thing about dance, and any kind of physical activity, is the atmosphere and magic that happens in the room. You get it in the theatre and you get it in Create workshops as well. Everyone feels that charge of energy. Just as there is a connection between performer and audience, there is a spark between fellow participants, relationships develop through a shared experience of moving, creating and performing.
“The nature of creating anything, and allowing others to witness this process requires vulnerability and courage.”
“I was really concerned that that connection you get from dancing together wouldn’t happen via Zoom, but by day three it fizzed into life. There was still that spark that makes being creative so addictive and makes me really believe in the arts.”
READING THE ROOM
“Running a project over Zoom posed significant challenges and I had to work extra hard to make sure everyone was engaged and included. Because you’re looking at 15 different Zoom boxes at the same time, you can’t use your peripheral vision, and that’s challenging in terms of trying to read how everyone is feeling, and honing in on multiple pieces of choreography simultaneously. This was as crucial via zoom as it is in a live workshop. The nature of creating anything, and allowing others to witness this process requires vulnerability and courage. I need to see, and encourage, and help develop every participant’s creative input so that I can provide a safe and supportive environment within which participants can explore their creativity.
“One of the tasks that the young carers responded really well to was a writing task that they later used to inspire a piece of choreography. It’s important to give participants a break because dance workshops are really tiring! I encouraged the young people to write a monologue based on the senses during lockdown. New things they might have seen or heard, things they can’t touch etc.
“Writing is a useful tool because it gives the young people a structure for creating movement. Being asked to create a dance of eight counts based on how you’re feeling can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. But if you ask people to write about how they’re feeling and then turn the words in the monologue into a move … before you know it, they’ve got an entire piece of choreography.”
BRAVE AND CONFIDENT
“Every project I do for Create has culminated in a sharing of work. I treat that sharing as I would any other show, but all the creativity is coming from the young people and my job is to bring it all together into one piece. Over Zoom I did exactly the same thing. I changed how I did it, but I was aiming for the same outcome.
“I don’t think working online put up any new barriers in terms of the young people’s confidence. Because they were in their own homes, they were even more expressive when they were dancing because it was harder to see anyone else’s reaction on the tiny screens. So they really went for it, which was the beauty of it.
“Seeing the young people speak their text and dance in the final performance was an amazing moment. I was really struck by how brave and open they were with their writing. I think dance can be so good for both our mental and physical health. Just getting moving can change how we feel.
“I hope the workshop enabled the young people to use their creativity as a way to process how they’re feeling at this time. The performance at the end of the three days was aesthetically really beautiful and emotive to watch.
“I think everyone should be doing something creative.”
MEET SKY ARTS’ PORTRAIT ARTIST OF THE YEAR 2020, CHRISTABEL BLACKBURN
Christabel Blackburn has designed a pandemic-inspired T-shirt to benefit Create, with 50% of the proceeds going to support our work. Here she explains why she is supporting us – and the importance of creativity in her life.
“I think we’re all agreed that creativity has been the answer to getting us through this pandemic,” says Christabel Blackburn, the recent winner of Sky Arts’ ‘Portrait Artist of the Year’ competition. “No matter what is going on outside, if you are creative you can always go within to find ways to get inspired.”
Blackburn, who beat more than 70 competitors and thousands of applicants to win the competition, is a firm believer in the power of creativity and its ability to help us navigate our way through difficult times.
“I have always felt passionately that the arts have the ability to heal and inspire.”
“I have two kids,” she says, “and my husband and I have both been working from home, so coming up with fresh ways to keep them occupied was a challenge: music and arts activities always trump playing with toys. For me, being able to escape to my studio from time to time was the tonic I needed to be able to cope with those challenges.”
Blackburn has been busy since winning the ‘Portrait Artist of the Year’ competition back in March. As part of her prize, she travelled to Connecticut to paint a portrait of musician Nile Rodgers, which will go on display in the Royal Albert Hall. She has also been creating pieces inspired by the pandemic and our lives under lockdown.
A collection of ‘social distancing’ drawings, created for an initiative called the Artist Support Pledge, all sold out within two hours of going live on her website. Blackburn has now decided to turn her favourite of those images, entitled Social Distancing outside a Post Office, into a T-shirt (pictured). She is selling this via her website, with 50% of the proceeds going to support our work.
“While we’ve all found lockdown challenging, I wanted to find a charity that could help disadvantaged and vulnerable adults and children in isolation,” she says. “I read about your Create Live! Zoom workshops with professional artists and support for older people in isolation, and knew I wanted to be a part of it.
“I have always felt passionately that the arts have the ability to heal and inspire. I hope that people will see this as a way to raise money for Create and an opportunity to buy a screen-printed artwork more affordably. While we’ve all found lockdown challenging, I wanted to find a charity that could help disadvantaged and vulnerable adults and children in isolation. I feel so lucky to have discovered this inspirational charity and hope I’ll be able to do more to support you in the future.”
Only 500 T-shirts have been produced in the initial run, priced at £25 each, so you’ll have to act fast to get your hands on one. The T-shirts are available on Blackburn’s website.
Nicky Goulder, our CEO said: “We are delighted and excited to have this support from Christabel. The money that she raises through sales of her impactful, topical T-shirt will enable us to empower the lives of some of society’s most isolated children and adults at a time when they deserve our support more than ever. Christabel’s work captures the loneliness so many of us have felt during the pandemic, and her support of our participant groups in this way is a perfect synergy. The Portrait Artist of the Year competition had me on the edge of my seat. That the incredible winner approached us to offer her support will inspire and delight our participants.”
Mike Poyser is a professional musician and Create artist. As our new project concept Create Live! came together we worked with Mike to develop a creative online project for young carers.
Create Live! is Create’s online, interactive project initiative developed to reach participants during the lockdown, offering a creative lifeline to the most vulnerable children and adults in isolation.
“It was an intense process adapting a Create music project for online delivery. Mild panic was my initial reaction! Nicky [Create’s Founding CEO] and I spoke on a Friday night, right at the start of lockdown, about the possibilities of workshops continuing online, how some aspects could work while others would be more of a challenge. We talked about safeguarding challenges and tech challenges and how we could innovate the work to keep reaching participants.
“The following week we decided to put together a couple of sample workshops – firstly with the Create staff team as participants and then with a small group of young carers who Create has worked with a lot. How to get around the latency issue was the biggest challenge musically. In an in-venue session it is simple to play as a group, but over the Internet differing connection speeds mean that each participant hears the music at slightly different times. The solution for this was a combination of live performance and recorded performance. Recording sections of audio from the Zoom session meant we could take rhythmic ideas and combine them between sessions to create a band, then the live performance element was added on top of this.
“From these sample workshops, we learned a lot about the tech and what could work musically and how to create something quite effective and interesting. This led to a very long weekend of preparing and planning for nine consecutive music sessions with a group from Action for Young Carers in Nottingham.
“During the workshops the first thing we discovered is the young people are totally chilled about the idea of working online – one participant even had their gamer headset on! We also realised that even though we were still in our own houses the combination of Zoom and some music instantly removed the isolation we probably all feel.
“We played musical games, we hunted our houses for instruments to play (pasta to shake, combs as a guiro, pots and pans to bash, books to slap together) and we started to play around with rhythms on these repurposed instruments. Once we had some cool patterns, we took recordings of these samples.
“On another session, we worked on writing lyrics for a blues piece. We learnt the structure of the blues and then put our spin on it. We even managed to perform this live, with keyboard and tuba in London and vocals coming from Nottingham!
“I was able to put together a track of the repurposed drum rhythms and the blues vocals. Once the participants had heard this and just how good it sounded, we were in business for writing more material, and we ended up creating quite an epic sounding dance track as well!
“For me, the first time we all met in the Zoom Room was really special. We are all stuck in our houses at the moment, and to see everyone meet and have fun through music was lovely! I was also amazed at how great the recordings through Zoom were and seeing everyone’s reactions when our first piece had been created was fantastic.”
TIPS FOR BEING CREATIVE AT HOME
Listen to your body and your mind. If you are feeling inspired, find some time and space to explore that. Also, be aware that some days you may just fancy watching TV.
The scariest part of creating something new is to stare at a blank piece of paper, so once you are in the zone just write ideas down as they come to you. The more ideas you have the better. Once you have some ideas you like then think about how to develop them. And then develop them!
Don’t put pressure on yourself. A song about cleaning the bathroom can be a really fun thing to write about. It doesn’t need to be turned into a hit, it can be a song that you enjoy. The process of writing it is the great part of it anyway.
James Baldwin is a professional theatre maker/writer and Create artist. As our new project concept Create Live! came together we worked with James to develop a creative online radio drama project for young carers in Ealing/Hounslow.
Create Live! is Create’s online, interactive project initiative developed to reach participants during the lockdown, offering a creative lifeline to the most vulnerable children and adults in isolation.
“Keeping the work rooted in the principles of face-to-face workshop is central to developing a workshop for Create Live! delivery. The key is flexibility and being able to think on the spot. You need to have more than enough material, which is a potential difficulty when you’re working online. You can generate 100 hours’ worth of games and activities but how many of those games will work when all you have is a small screen? Drama games are often about improvisation and being able to read people’s body language, so adapting drama games to work online took some ingenuity.
“It’s about being able to embrace the technology to achieve your aim: to have fun and make the participants feel valued.”
“When technology becomes a faff you have to prioritise the workshop goals and keeping it all fun. Throughout the planning of the workshop I was asking myself “why are we doing that game?” and “what are we trying to achieve?”. Making a group connection is tricky when you’re disconnected physically. So, it’s important to prioritise things that might seem small but make the participants feel comfortable. For example, letting them know that their name is on the screen and making sure they have it displayed how they want it. It’s about being able to embrace the technology to achieve your aim: to have fun and make the participants feel valued.
“What does translate really well from face-to-face to online, is making yourself the example. If you want people to be a bit daft you have to demonstrate that by being super daft. And if you want people to be serious, you demonstrate that by being more serious.
“The young people were interested in so many things: COVID-19, power dynamics, global warming, magic. Being able to harness all these ideas as a facilitator and enabling the young people to write a script about the things that matter to them, but also offers an element of escapism, is important.
“So this script took the idea of global warming and it took the idea of COVID-19 but it used the idea of wizardry and sorcery to take these ideas into a magic realm. The young people are able to express what they want about the pandemic and all the things that are important to their lives, but with an element of escapism because you’ve changed the rules of that world to incorporate magic and wizardry and witchcraft.”
ALEJANDRA CARLES-TOLRA ON RUNNING A CREATE LIVE! PROJECT
Alejandra Carles-Tolra is a professional photographer and Create artist. As our new project concept Create Live! came together we worked with Alejandra to develop a creative online photography project for young carers.
Create Live! is Create’s online, interactive project initiative developed to reach participants during the lockdown, offering a creative lifeline to the most vulnerable adults and children in isolation.
Below, Alejandra reflects on the experience of developing and facilitating a Create Live! project with young carers from Kingston.
“I asked the young carers to work with the personal things that were around them, to look at their homes with new eyes and find inspiration in these everyday things.”
“Developing and running a Create Live! project was a very interesting challenge. At first, I worried it was going to feel very impersonal, that I wouldn’t be able to adapt to each person’s needs in a virtual room, but that wasn’t the case at all. The way the work translated over video call was surprising in a really positive way. It felt much closer to an in-person Create project than I was expecting.
“In normal circumstances, when I am in the same room as participants, the first day of my workshops is always focused on building trust between the participants and me and ensuring that everyone feels comfortable, encouraged and not overwhelmed by the creative exercises. The worst thing would be if someone felt, ‘oh this is not for me, I’m terrible at photography’ and felt discouraged. I wanted to create the same atmosphere over Zoom.
“I begin all my workshops by asking people to be aware of the surroundings, to notice the space we’re in and to try to find light and inspiration there. The way I managed the transition online was to think of the current situation and the spaces the participants were in. I asked the young carers to work with the personal things that were around them, to look at their homes with new eyes and find inspiration in these everyday things. It doesn’t matter what tools you have, it’s a way of looking at the world. This approach can be adapted to any space and participants can take these skills and this mindset anywhere.
“Sharing our work online, after three days creating together, was very special. Everyone seemed very happy and very proud of the work and the time that we had spent together. It was wonderful that family members and loved ones were able to join them on the screen. In the past not everyone has the time to come and look so that was really special.
“By the end of the project it felt as though we had forgotten that we were not in a real space together; it didn’t feel strange that we had spent five hours in this virtual room. I think that was possible because the project combined the participants’ physical spaces and the virtual world: we were constantly reminding ourselves of the real world around us by taking photographs. Collaboration is always at the centre of my work and during this period of increased isolation it felt essential that the young carers could collaborate and share their creative work and ideas with each other. This was made possible by using break-out rooms, virtual ‘rooms’ where smaller groups of participants could meet and discuss inspiration and ideas. Although there were some technological challenges, on the whole the project was a great success. I will definitely be taking some of the ideas generated from the virtual project into my work going forward.”
HOLLY REVELL ON QUEER IDENTITY PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOPS AT METRO CHARITY
Holly Revell is a Create artist and professional photographer specialising in queer performance, portraits and documentation of transforming identities. Holly’s work is archived at Bishopsgate Institute.
Below, we hear from Holly about the experience of facilitating our queer identity photography workshops:
“In January and February 2020, I ran a series of workshops with METRO Charity’s LGBTQ youth group Zest, made up of young queer people aged 12-16. As soon as I met the group, I could SEE their queerness. It was wonderful to step into the future where gender felt fluid and visible. I hadn’t worked with such young queer people before and I was excited to find out about their stories. Queer culture is so fast-moving, I was curious about how relevant my work would be to these young people.
“I started the project by showing participants some work from my archive of queer performance photography, introducing them to some of the icons and trailblazers such as David Hoyle, Scottee, Jonny Woo and co, Ginger Johnson, Travis Alabanza and Chiyo Gomes.
“I was impressed by how engaged and interested the young participants were in the performers and the photographs I was showing them. They had a thirst for learning about their history. Is this because queer history is harder to find, lesser-known and untaught I wonder?
“What was intended as a short introduction became a more central part of the workshops: each week we would take inspiration from queer icons. I soon realised that they know their history and are extremely passionate about it! There were some great moments, from a 14-year-old trans person talking about Alan Turing and a discussion about Philip Schofield’s coming out that day, to a 12-year-old boy pulling out a book titled ‘queer icons’ from his school bag.
“I expected them to know Rupaul’s Drag Race as that has become so mainstream, and they did, but I was heartened to find that they were also interested in more avant-garde examples of drag performers. I was able to broaden their horizons by showing them performers who were resisting Rupaul, performers who were ‘not allowed into the club’ and who criticised its lack of inclusivity.
“In the practical photography sessions, we had participants emulating some of my most iconic images such as ‘Ginger Johnson – Breakfast’ replacing the milk with sugar, which they poured over themselves – getting messy like true queer artists do and acting out scenarios about homophobia in the office.
“We had a queer wedding with all its drama and affairs being performed for the camera, a David Hoyle- inspired self-portrait made by a 12-year-old boy and a gay soldier’s funeral where the union jack flag was replaced with the rainbow flag.
“I helped set up a series of beautiful images inspired by a participant’s relationship to their safe space in the cupboard and how they’d grown both physically and in confidence. I showed them images of Claude Cahun who they put me in mind of. This person seemed so shy at first but really opened up and embraced the workshops.
“Some participants also created a hilarious video made in the style of a YouTube make-up tutorial. This was loosely inspired by a Divine David video I’d shown them previously and by current trends such as Rupaul – it was both amusing and interesting to hear afab (assigned female at birth) non-binary young people paraphrase ‘the snatch game’ and its misogynistic undertones.
“Overall, this series of workshops was a huge success with many laughs and some beautiful images made during the process. There were different personalities in the group, some of the young people natural performers and very confident with their gender and sexuality. Others were very shy and self-conscious, preferring to be behind the camera taking more natural candid photographs.
“When I was planning the workshops, I had a good idea of what I wanted the young people to do. I wanted them to create a powerful series of portraits. However, I soon realised that the participants would dictate the results and they were a lot more playful and candid than I had anticipated. I had to let go of my ambitions and remember how powerful and queer these fleeting moments captured with blur and colour were.”