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Creative Civic Change Co-Creation Workshop

Visit to Birmingham by our network member Jessica Holmes and Neill Keywood to attend a Creative Civic Change Co-creation Workshop representing Creative West End - Saturday 29th January 2022

Blog by Jessica Holmes & Photography by Neill Keywood

On behalf of Creative West End, Neill and I navigated the Clean Air Zone streets of Birmingham ( a clear indication that we were no longer in small town territory) to discover, positioned in the shadow of Brum’s impressive Bullring centre, a slice of hipster heaven - The Custard Factory!

An impressive group of multi-storey factory buildings that have been

adopted by creative and digital small enterprises and converted into self-contained studios and offices, each with a funky little balcony overlooking the artisan bakery, micro-brewery pub, independent cinema and vegan cafe below. The colourful walls of the buildings were adorned with high concept murals and sculptures that had to vie for your attention against the numerous neighbourhood hoardings where individuals have tagged every spare centimetre with edgy and bold graffiti. We knew we were in the right place!

Ambling through the art gallery, where plaster cast bodies hung in rapture from the ceiling and up across futuristic walkways constructed of glass and criss-crossed white scaffold, we made our way to the Beatfreeks studio where we joined representatives from 13 other community groups from as far flung areas as Grimsby, Cornwall, Northampton and Stoke-on-Trent only to discover that it was the Birmingham contingent that were to arrive late! And very apologetic haha!

We were given tea & biscuits, a short time for a chit chat to get to know each other and then a short briefing. Our aim for the day was to separate into 4 groups and design a creative evaluation tool that could be used by each community group to evaluate the impact of the Creative Civic Change project now that it is coming to the end. At the end of the day we were to vote for our favourite design. There were several stipulations:

  1. The budget was £750 per group.

  2. It had to accommodate 4 questions and at least 4 possible answers.

  3. It had to be portable and storable.

  4. It had to be operable by 1 person.

  5. It had to be usable indoors and outdoors.

Our groups all set to work, or I should say play because the emphasis of the day was definitely on fun and playful creative design. We were given some useful craft materials so that we could also build an initial prototype model. We were also joined by professional London-based textile artist and designer Leah Das, who visited each group to provide additional insights and inspiration as the ideas developed.

Towards the end of the day each group took turns to present their best ideas and prototypes. These were:

Slot machine in a suitcase:

Community residents would be given tokens to play in a slot machine. They would select the slot that represented their answer to each question. After answering each question the machine would print a ticket which the player could collect and swap for a small reward, such as drinks or sweets. The slot machine would be constructed inside a suitcase for portability.

Interactive tree:

The tree concept was actually devised independently by two different groups, but the concepts were so similar that we melded together the best ideas from both during the presentation. The tree would be a flatpack-style slotted build, constructed either using a 3D printer or by laser cutting ply. It would hold a battery pack in the base and from this wires would run up the trunk and along each of the four branches. Each branch would represent a question. Alongside the tree would be a box, divided into 4 potential answer compartments each containing colourful leaves. The resident would select their answer and pull out a leaf (these would not be initially visible to prevent any colour bias in their answers) to hang upon the relevant tree branch. A small wire at the base of the leaf would complete the tree circuit and would cause an LED to light up the leaf and a short piece of music to sound.

Fabric flower:

A 30cm circular piece of ply would have 16 detachable wooden arms placed in a circular array around it. The circular ply would be divided into quarters with each segment representing a different question. There would be 4 arms protruding from each quarter. Each arm would represent a different possible answer to the question. Along the arms would be hooks and the resident would be able to pull a piece of stretched fabric or a piece of string onto the next hook of their chosen answer. Once completed the final piece would resemble a skewed flower or starburst pattern. The design would be hung on a wall or an A frame.

As the vote took place, with everybody placing a star next to their favourite concept, there was quickly a clear and decisive winner- the LED tree! Anousheh and her team at Beatfreeks will now take this concept forward for commissioning a more refined design and technical plan ahead of construction.

Neill and I both felt it was a fantastic day, with lovely creative people and in an amazing setting. Our thanks go to Anousheh Haghredi, Leah Das and the CCC team for organising the workshop, to Creative West End for our invitation to attend and particularly to Beki Melrose for all of her hard work helping us to prepare ahead of our big city adventure.

BLOG by Jessica Holmes

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