Held in Autumn 2016, Elements was a brand-new inclusive pilot arts festival for a mature population. The festival commissioned and supported high-quality arts productions and programmes across Cumbria, involving local artists, organisations and communities as well as attracting visitors from around the UK.
The centre piece of the festival, working with partners in Copeland – including Age UK West Cumbria, Rosehill Theatre and Florence Arts Centre – was a “writer in residence” project.
The lead writer, Pascale Petit, spent a minimum of 40 days in Copeland during the residency working with a number of Cumbria-based writers and artists, delivering:
– A series of writing workshops for 1 or 2 groups of 60+ local residents in September: participants recruited via Age UK and other local community organisations
– Four trips to locations relevant to writers including Norman Nicholson and Wordsworth with local residents in September;
– Opportunities for anyone in Copeland to contribute anonymously by sending in their writing and communicating with the writer via Age UK;
– Meet the Writers sessions open to everyone happening in different community and cultural venues – where people and drop in to meet the writer and some of the participants;
– Readings of the writer’s and participants’ work during the festival in locations around the region;
– A publication featuring work produced during the residency, which was launched during the festival; Copies of the publication were distributed to local community hubs and libraries.
With Millom poet Norman Nicholson as part of the inspiration, the project hoped to engage the communities in South Copeland and rural areas as much as the communities in the larger settlements in North Copeland. Partners played a key role in facilitating and promoting the activities.
After seven weeks of workshops and day trips with Pascale, as well as writers and experts on William & Dorothy Wordsworth, Norman Nicholson, Percy Kelly, Sir Hugh Walpole and Alfred Wainwright, the work created by the participants was presented at a series of five reading events in Whitehaven, Egremont, Millom, Grasmere and Keswick during the festival.
Tonia Lu, Cumbria Outreach Project Lead said, “‘Being a brand new project, Elements and its writer’s project received support from organisations across Copeland and we were very pleased when Copeland Community Fund saw the potential in this project. It has made a difference in the lives of many of its participants – the group continue to socialise with others using their newly gained writing skills and confidence.”
She added, “The final publication became a great outcome of the project, the publication is available in Copeland libraries and from Florence Arts Centre – making it accessible to a wide range of people, and it has been read by writing/poetry groups across Cumbria via the Wordsworth Trust.”
Other funding for the project was provided by Arts Council England (£11,000).