We’re downstairs at The Cocoa Lounge in Dewsbury between a tinned-up pub and a hair and beauty salon.
It’s the first time all the SceneMakers have been brought together and, for most, the first time they have met the Creative Scene team.
“A huge thank you to you all for coming out on this dark and windy evening,” begins project director Nancy as soon as everyone is settled.
“As you know Creative Scene is part of the Arts Council’s Creative People and Places programme and the idea is to get more people from this area involved in the arts, either as participants or as audiences.
“We’re doing things a bit differently here by talking to you – and people like you – to find out what you like to see; to get you involved in the programming decision-making and to support you to make different things happen.”
People shift forward in their seats as we hear about the investment that’s being made in North Kirklees and how the Scenemakers will be influential in how that money will be spent.
Nancy introduces Katy and Rebecca from the Creative Scene team and invites me to say something about my blog-writing role, which I do.
“And tonight, as a way of getting to know each other,” she continues, “we’re going to ask you what the arts mean to you: in your life, in your community, in society.”
Ayisha is here to get the conversations going and she starts things off with a couple of warm-up games which involve walking around the room pointing at things. This does the trick and the room is soon full of laughter. She then pairs people together suggesting they make up their own ‘pointing rule’. More laughter.
Afterwards, as finger food is served, I ask Phil what ‘rule’ he and his partner made up. “Our rule was about trying to find a rule,” he says, quizzically.
“Ah, a protest rule. Love it. Very creative,” I say.
As people are eating, small packs of cards are scattered about: coloured on one side with symbols and words on the other. “With the person next to you,” explains Nancy, “have a look at the cards and see if you’d like to set them out in some particular order. You might want to cluster them together, or put them in a line in order of importance. There are no right or wrong answers, just a way of starting a discussion about your feelings.”
Next Ayisha splits the SceneMakers between two tables, each covered in a paper tablecloth with a question written in the middle. Rebecca’s group is tackling, ‘What would you like this place to feel like?’ and Katy’s is invited to comment on ‘What do the arts mean to you?’
“You’ll have 15 minutes for each question,” Ayisha explains, “and when it’s time to swap I’ll tap on my gong.” And, sure enough, she produces an ornate oriental gong with mallet, to set things going.
My tape recorder finds itself on Rebecca’s table. “So, any first thoughts? What would you like this place to feel like?” No one has to think for too long, and suggestions come thick and fast.
“And what about feelings?” prompts Rebecca. “What do we want people to feel?”
“It’s about being enlivened by art experiences and feeling changed by them in some way,” says Sonja.
“It’s about inspiring people to make changes for themselves,” says someone else.
“There has to be a movement, a shared movement, not just something that’s been imposed.”
Now they’re all talking at once. “That’s what being engaged and being involved should be about. It’s got to come from the community: a ‘roots-up’ movement.”
There are nods of agreement from around the table.
Continued in… Colour in a black and white world