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Benwell in Felt Launch

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:

Riverside Roma Group

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.

Hadrian School – Zoo

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.

Hadrian School – Play Bus

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.

Riverside Women’s Group

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.

Bridgewater School

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.

Bond Guild

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.


Participating organisations:

Action for Children Families First
Bond Guild
Bridgwater School
Cornerstone Craft Group
Excelsior Academy
Ferguson Lodge Care Home
Hadrian School
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

Felting Tutors:
Omi Pharncote
Sally Southern

Project Coordinators:
Judith Green
Ruth Taylor

Make Your Mark