The Imagining Benwell Report – is downloadable as a pdf by following this link: Imagining Benwell Workshop Report 21.1.16 final version
It was the Imagine North East Exhibition Launch on Saturday 27 June 2015. Held at St James’ Church, Benwell the event was attended by about 80 people and more than half were local residents or from community organisations. There were also former Benwell and North Shields Community Development Project workers; local councillors, a local MP, and local authority workers. The exhibition showcased a range of work undertaken by 12 community organisations from Benwell and North Shields and researchers from Durham University. The opening speeches were at 11.00am. Professor Sarah Banks (Durham University) welcomed everyone and introduced the Imagine North East project. She was followed by Lord Jeremy Beecham (Councillor for Benwell and Scotswood); Margaret Reynolds (Councillor for Chirton, North Shields); Ian Harford (former Director of Benwell Community Development Project); Penny Remfry (former North Shields Community Development Project worker) and Professor Alan Townsend (Imagine North East statistics). Finally, Sarah spoke again for a few minutes to introduce the Imagine North East Durham University team members (Andrea Armstrong, Fred Robinson and Vincent Chu) and to launch two booklets on Benwell and North Shields – hot off the press and available for the first time.
The speeches were followed by an excellent lunch. Steve Pool from of the wider Imagine project was there to take photos and film.
After lunch, as well as looking at the exhibits there were plenty of opportunities to take part in numerous activities:
The Imagine North East exhibition showcased community projects by Patchwork Youth Project, Search, Riverside Community Health Project, West Newcastle Picture History Collection, Pendower Good Neighbour Project, Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, St James’ Heritage and Environment and St James’ Heritage and Culture, Phoenix Detached Youth Project, Cedarwood Trust, Meadow Well Connected and Remembering the Past, Resourcing the Future. We thank them all. Here are a few photos taken by Andrea and Vincent.
On the 5th June 2015, a group from Patchwork Youth Project in Benwell visited the exhibition of Imagine North East North Shields projects at the Old Low Lights Heritage Centre on the Fish Quay. They cycled there and Judith Green (Imagine North East community coordinator) met them and it looks like they had an enjoyable time – really getting into the spirit!
Three of us (Sarah Banks, Andrea Armstrong and Gary Craig) were invited to do a plenary at the History of Youth and Community Work Conference on Saturday 14 March 2015. The conference was held at Hinsley Hall in Leeds and our title was ‘Lessons and Legacies of the Community Development Projects of the 1970s: Revisiting Benwell, 1972 to 2015’. We drew on recent interviews with residents, community activists, community workers, former CDP workers, politicians and other policymakers to identify and discuss a range of perspectives on the tangible and intangible legacies of Benwell CDP. We showed some short films made in the 1970s, and Gary Craig (who was a former community worker with the Benwell CDP) offered his reflections 40 years on.
In discussions afterwards, many remarked how influential the CDP publications have been in training and education. Indeed, in his latest book, Analysing Community Work: Theory and Practice, Keith Popple (who introduced the plenary) said,
‘[The NCDP] was one of the most important and defining initiatives in the evolution of British community development.’ (Popple, 2015, p. 34)
The launch of the Benwell in Felt project at St. James Church happened on Saturday 13 September. The project was coordinated by St James’ Centre for Heritage and Culture Partnership as part of Imagine North East. This project provided a specialist felting tutor to facilitate the local community to explore and imagine the past, present and future. Groups of from different neighbourhoods and age groups came together to create artworks to show what they think is important about their local area – its past, present and future. The Benwell and Scotswood area has a long and interesting history. It has recently undergone major changes, and more changes are expected. The felting pictures build on residents’ knowledge, experiences and hopes to depict this story.
The exhibition will be open to the public on Tuesdays 12-4 at St. James’ Church until Christmas and will then move to a different community location. Please visit St. James’ Heritage and Environment Group for more information on heritage open days and events here and here.
The event was opened by Councillor Hazel Stephenson and involved a range of creative activities for the public alongside lunch, refreshments and the exhibition. I managed to speak to a few people at the exhibition launch about the felting pictures. Things that emerged from these conversations included the use of bright colours, sunshine and rainbows that reflected hope and optimism, a curiosity about the particular places that were chosen as significant places in Benwell, and a fascination with the vivid imaginations of children and young people in depicting what they would like to see in their community. Below are some of my favourites from the exhibition:
This felt picture was made by local teenagers in the Riverside Projects Roma Girls Group. The girls identified friendship as the most important thing in their lives. The pictures depict imaginary places where they would like to hang out with their friends. Their vision for the future is for a park where they can meet and be happy together.
The two pictures created by children from Hadrian School. The school is located at the top of the Pendower Estate and caters for children up to the age of 11 with additional physical and learning needs. Four younger children worked on this felting picture which shows what they would like to see in the area in the future – a zoo with animals and a pond.
This felting picture was created by the second group and shows what they would like to see in the area in the future – a playbus that goes down to the river.
This picture shows the drinking fountain at the top of Atkinson Road, set in the boundary wall of St. James’ Church. This commemorates the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902 marking the end of the Victorian era. Largely unnoticed by most people, this fountain catches the attention of young children walking past with their parents.
This picture shows the Pink Palace – the name given locally to the former Co-op building on Armstrong Road run as a youth and community facility by Scotswood Area Strategy before being demolished in 2011. It was created by children from Bridgewater Primary School in Delaval Road, on the boundary of the neighbourhoods of Scotswood and Benwell. This area has experienced huge changes in recent years. and the pictures reflect the children’s views about what has been lost and gained and what they would like to see in the future.
This picture depicts the Bond Church building. The Bond Guild began 50 years ago as the Bond Young Wives at the Bond Memorial Methodist Church on Adelaide Terrace. When it was opened in 1899 it was one of the finest churches in the Newcastle area, seating 800 people. After the church closed, the group continued to meet at the Carnegie Building in Atkinson Road. They chose the church for their felting picture because it was the focal point of the area for them and they were sad when they had to leave.
Action for Children Families First
Cornerstone Craft Group
Ferguson Lodge Care Home
Patchwork Youth Project
Pendower Good Neighbourhood Project
Riverside Women’s Group
Riverside Toddle Group
Roma Girls Group
Scotswood Natural Community Garden
St James’ Church
St Joseph School
St Margaret’s Toddler Group
West End Library
West Newcastle Picture History Collection
Make Your Mark