The Grosvenor Estate Residents’ Association (GERA) worked on an inter-generational arts project in 2001 with youths and elderly residents on the estate, involving local arts-based consultation to explore ideas for the refurbishment of Bank Top Play Area in Kearsley. The history of this project illustrates the long gestation period which some community projects need.
It began with Housing Percent for Art giving an introductory presentation to GERA in 1998, which raised initial interest. By 2001 GERA had focused on what were seen as inadequate local play and recreation facilities and in particular the limitations of the estate’s central recreational feature, Bank Top Park which partly borders on sheltered accommodation. Few elderly residents used it, and there were concerns about anti-social behaviour and a lack of communication between the different generations using or wanting to use the park.
There was tremendous enthusiasm and determination amongst the residents ‘to get something done’. In 2001 artists Carol Anne Scowcroft and Mary Rudkin led arts-based consultation with children and teenagers and with elderly residents. Most of this took place in the community centre normally used only by the elderly residents, which was in itself an intergenerational breakthrough. The shared aims were that the park would be a safe, secure and enjoyable place for all users.
It took until 2006 to secure funding, with £20,000 from the Coalfields Communities Fund, £20,000 from the Greenspace Team and a further £20,000 from Housing Percent for Art.
Teenagers were included on the selection panel that recruited artists Jan Yates and Bronwyn Morris, who led a series of creative workshops in 2006-07 to design appropriate art features for the park, and to promote a sense of local shared ownership of the park. These involved family sessions, regular sessions with elders in the community centre, parents and toddlers at a nursery, and workshops in the local primary and secondary schools. Amongst those who were targeted were some of the youths who had previously caused problems in the park.
Meanwhile landscape architects worked with GERA to agree the redesigning of the park with new paths and the removal of anti-social gathering points. Although a few local people disapproved of the plans most residents approved, and nearly 100 were involved in the workshops. By July 2007 the landscaping work was completed and all the artwork installed.
Participants reported that the best things about the project were:
- “Young and elderly working together, overcoming stereotyping of young/old, and seeing the pride of both young and elderly in the finished project”
- “Meeting the artists, the clean up involving the children, and seeing the park take shape”
“Learning to trace and paint, embroider and discover art form, being involved from the start, meeting new people and being able to make a difference”
- “Teamwork of residents and officers in ideas and planning”.