Tag Archive: creativity


IMG_7950Most of us, I suspect, do not think of ourselves necessarily as “community artists”. We work in our communities, yes, but we pursue our artistic endeavours and objectives in a somewhat separate sphere. We paint, we sculpt, we draw; we put things on show in local art galleries, take part in local art shows and post stuff online; we go to local art meetings and go with friends to exhibitions; we may offer paid-for workshops, or run courses – but too few of us go much further outside that well-defined circuit of professional practice.

This is a real shame. Artists and other creatively-minded people are an important and valuable resource for the wider community. Many of us say we are “too busy”, or “not experienced enough” to do “community art”. Yet, over the past few years, I have discovered that it takes very little either time or experience for professional artists make a huge difference to the creative life of a small community.

The Hillfort Creativity Group – which includes a number of long-term members of Inside Out – has recently started doing creative activity sessions at Oswestry Library. We spend three hours once a month at the Library, making and creating with kids and their parents – gluing, painting, drawing, colouring-in. The kids absolutely love it – as do the parents. For some of the kids, this is the first time they have ever done anything like this before – and you can see it sparking their imaginations and opening up a whole new world of possibilities for them.

All of us leading these activities are professional, practicing artists, exactly the sort of artists who usually say they are “too busy” or “not experienced enough” to do this kind of community art work. But you know what? It turns out we’re not too busy, and we are experienced enough. We all – every one of us who paints, draws, photographs or sculpts – have what it takes: every professional and practicing fine and applied artist has the creativity required to help out with sessions like these.

In a time when arts provision is rapidly vanishing from schools and from the landscape of childhood, the failure of professional artists to support community art by not getting involved is very close to being the final nail in the coffin of creativity in this country. As artists, as creatively-minded people, we have a responsibility to ensure that “art” and “creativity” are supported and valued in our communities at the most basic, grass-roots level. In fact, it’s more serious than that: if we don’t, then it’s clear no one else will.

I realise now that if I’m being an artist and not also giving back to the community, then I’m being selfish: I’m part of the problem, not part of the solution. This is why I’m now actively helping out with these Oswestry Library sessions, and it’s why I’m trying to convince as many other artists I know to do the same. So you’ve never done anything like this before? Don’t worry about it: it’s not difficult, the kids are lovely, and you’ll have an immensely rewarding time.

Lots of things are in danger of going extinct these days – let’s not sit back and let creativity be one of them.


You can volunteer at the Hillfort Creativity Group “Creative Saturdays” at Oswestry Library just by dropping-in and helping out. Check out the HCG Facebook page for dates and times, or contact us here via a comment.

Just a reminder to everyone that the Hillfort Creativity Group will be meeting this Wednesday, July 31st at 11am in the Oswestry Library Meeting Room. We’ll be focusing on the hillfort-related art activities we’re going to run for Heritage Open Days in September. We’ll be talking table-space, time slots and equipment, plus discussing any contribution we can make to related HOD activity ideas, such as the Designs in Mind “Mindfulness Walk” around the hillfort. Dzintra is also going to use us as guinea pigs for her historical weaving activity which she’ll be doing at the Library during the HOD weekend. I’m not sure of the details, but we’ll get to try various traditional and historical weaving techniques. I also think Dorothy may be bringing in some fired results from our flatback session last month. Plus, we may have an opportunity to hear some hillfort-related poetry while we work – or, if not, a reading from a recent Oswestry-related historical novel about Saint Oswald.

See you there!

Dragonflies at The Willow

Dragonfly poster

Dzintra’s next workshop at The Willow Gallery in Oswestry is coming up at the end of this month. It’s a creative, drop-in session between 11-2pm, so stay for as long as you want. Great for kids – but parents need to stay and supervise. And if you’re wondering how this connects to the Hillfort, check out the most recent BioBlitz report from Turnstone Ecology detailing the extraordinary range of species the hillfort supports. There are plans for English Heritage and Turnstone Ecology to work with the Hillfort community group to do another full-scale evaluation report in eighteen months’ time, but anyone interested in the ecology of the site should get in touch with the community team via Facebook and find out about art and creativity can contribute towards interim recording projects (like Graham Mitchell’s “Hillfort Watch“).

Hillfort Creativity Group Meeting

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The next meeting of the Hillfort Creativity Group will be on Wed. May 8th at 11am in the Meeting Room at Oswestry Library (not Hermon Chapel, as we thought). All creative-minded people are warmly invited: visual artists, musicians, writers, makers, crafters, etc.

We’ll start with some brief information about upcoming exhibitions and events, and then short updates from anyone who has been working on creative hillfort-related projects. We’ll then have our inaugural “creative talk” – not a lecture or a presentation! – from local historian, archaeologist and illustrator John Swogger about the hillfort’s long life-story. These talks are meant to be a spur to creativity, so you are invited (encouraged!) to write, sketch, knit, doodle, etc. during the talk, as well as press the speaker with creative questions.

Look forward to seeing you all there!

Street Art

Keep Clear – street art in Llanarmon D.C.

They’ve been putting new street markings on the road outside the school in Llanarmon D.C.

I watched for about half an hour as the two men used a tool like a tin-can on a stick, filled with melted bituminous paint. The tin-can like cup had a slit in the base, and as it was pulled across the tarmac surface, it left a thick line of the yellow paint. The team worked quickly and without hesitation –  a rough grid of chalk lines marked on the road their only guide; it was extremely impressive. But was I watching craftsmanship… or art?

I’ve just been reading The Case for Working With Your Hands, by Matthew Crawford [Viking, 2009]. One of the book’s main threads is the declining value of “craft” within industry, and the way in which this decline has undermined our collective sense of individual agency. Crawford identifies what he calls the “cognitive [ie: creative] richness of the skilled trades”. I suddenly started thinking about this with reference to Dorothy’s recent musing on her own blog about creativity.

In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, it was not an uncommon idea that trade and industry could be creative – artistic, even. Crawford makes the point that the sense of creativity within trade and industry hasn’t been so much lost but hidden – because we have chosen to describe the work of the road marking team sign as “skilled” rather than “creative”.

If we’re talking about exploring the creative links between the practice of art and the practice of business, perhaps we should start to look for creativity rather than assume it’s not there.

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