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About The Best of Us project
People United were approached by Newington Big Local, a group of resident volunteers in Newington, Ramsgate who strive to make their neighbourhood a better place in which to live. Having heard about our project in Herne Bay, We All Do Good Things, the group were interested to hear about how People United could develop, alongside the residents, a large-scale participatory arts project and so The Best of Us was born. The Best of Us collects and celebrates good news stories from Newington through a whole range of arts activities that will take place across the community in all sorts of locations. Local people are uncovering stories (both past and present) that reflect the best human characteristics and strengths of people and will share them in fun, creative and artistic ways.
We have been finding narratives locally and from further afield that demonstrate our capacity for courage, humanity, justice, wisdom and knowledge. We have gathered stories about bravery, citizenship, creativity, forgiveness, hope, kindness, zest, and persistence (amongst others).
Our themes draw upon the work of Christopher Peterson & Martin E.P. Seligman in their 2004 book Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification (Oxford University Press).
Working with our artist-in-residence, Nova Marshall, residents of Newington have already co-created and collaborated to develop a project that speaks to their community. These Creative Champions have made work, curated exhibitions and events, and programmed a high quality arts festival that the whole community could take part in called Best Fest.
As the project continues into 2016-17 there are still many ways to get involved in The Best of Us. Through making, collecting stories, organising events and activities, people can develop skills and help to make this project a success. If you live in Newington and would like to get involved, please contact Sarah – firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01227 811800.
Nova is an experienced artist educator devising and delivering a number of workshops, projects and events in collaboration with schools, galleries, arts organisations and community groups. She enjoys and believes in the ‘artist-as-facilitator’ process of empowering others, allowing people to use their own imaginations, giving them the confidence and the motivation to make a positive contribution. An important element of her practice as an artist working with others is around authentic voice, participation, ownership and collaboration. Nova graduated with a BA (Hons) in Fine Art from the University for the Creative Arts in Canterbury and is Co-Director of a community interest company, aim4. Read Nova’s blog about the project.
Best Fest 2016
Chosen by the community at the first festival, kindness was the theme for Best Fest 2016 held on Sunday 31 July 2016. There were lots of free activities for the whole family, from adding to the Giant Kindness Tapestry, originally started by the Creative Champions of Newington to interacting with People United’s 10 year anniversary commission; The Kindness Investigation Sensory System (KISS). Highlights included stalls from local groups and organisations, the Imagination Lab, performances and workshops from U’Zambezi and Sing Your Heart Out.
Best Fest 2015
On Wednesday 28 October families took part in an art trail at six locations around Newington. After completing all the activities they were rewarded with a gift made by members of the local community. Participants told stories of kindness, courage, creativity, humour, hope and spirituality. Highlights included a Whispering Forest, the Imagination Lab, Memory Teas, Home Grown Heroes, music from Crocodile Style and Nova’s Art Shelter.
Newington Big History Ambassadors
We were awarded a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to research and record local histories. This aspect of the project trained and supported a group of residents who uncovered and bought to life the rich and varied histories, past and present, of the people and communities who live or have lived in Newington. The Big History Ambassadors organised two Memory Teas events, inviting people to share their stories and photographs of Newington’s past.
Young people from Newington have co-created artwork with local artists to voice their positive feelings about the place in which they live. The group designed and made hoodies for all of the residents working on the project and chose activities such as dance workshops and badge-making for local children and young people to explore themes of kindness and connection. They made zines with artist Sam Giles which focussed on the strong sense of community in Newington. Working with Nova , Newington Community Primary Academy pupils explored the word courage and created Captain Courage and his encouragers- an installation of decorated capes in The Copse. Dame Janet Primary Academy researched Dame Janet Stancomb-Wills and investigated themes such as generosity, gratitude and justice. Both projects were exhibited at Best Fest.
A Newington Story
Artist Leandro Stafford worked with young people in Newington to challenge negative perceptions of the area. A Newington Story looked to create a new narrative, seeking to challenge perceptions and create new realities. Stories were uploaded on the website anewingtonstory.co.uk or by using #ANewingtonStory. By uploading responses participants changed the main narrative on the website, contributing to making a new story for Newington. Young people from Newington supporting Leandro to run family workshops at Turner Contemporary on Wednesday 12 August 2015 as part of International Youth Day, alongside Leandro’s installation on the terrace. (In collaboration with Turner Contemporary and Engage as part of Generation ART).