We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us. Jo Cox MP

Introduction

People United were approached by Newington Big Local, a resident-led group, to develop a large-scale participatory arts project. The Best of Us uncovered stories (both past and present) that reflect the best human characteristics and strengths of the people in Newington, Ramsgate and beyond. Unearthed and explored through a whole host of arts and creativity including film, photography, dance, visual installations, sound, song, and urban art, people shared their capacity for kindness and creativity.

The themes of the project drew 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).

Together, local residents, artists, schools and community groups gathered stories of bravery, citizenship, hope, zest and persistence and in doing so revealed the commonalities between people regardless of difference. In addition they have used the arts as a way to make a difference in their community through positive social action.

Best Fest- Photo Manu Palomeque

Residents, Creative Champions and volunteers. Best Fest 2015.

“The Best of Us is making more people socialise, it’s bringing people’s inner sides out and putting us together and it’s making something big for our community”
Samantha, Creative Champion

Over two years, the project took place across Newington. In the community centre, local churches, the green roof shelter, schools, parks and recreational spaces but also outside of Newington – e.g. Turner Contemporary, Tate Modern and Postman’s Park, London.

Creative Champions and artist in residence Nova Marshall

Working with artist-in-residence, Nova Marshall, an intergenerational group residents of Newington co-created and collaborated to develop a project that spoke to their community. These Creative Champions made work, curated exhibitions and events, and programmed an annual high quality arts festival called Best Fest.

Guided by Nova, the Creative Champions

  • made creative, small gestures and messages of kindness to their fellow community members
  • went on trips to art and heritage venues
  • co-commissioned with People United and Newington Big Local an artwork around kindness,
  • programmed 3 arts festivals.
  • Young creative champions fundraised and developed an urban art board project that highlight community spaces

They have had fun, and have discovered their creative potential.

The Wider Community

A whole range of people who live in Newington and the wider community took part in activities as part of the project. These included:

  • An intergenerational singing group called Sing Your Heart Out
  • Music and sound workshops
  • Big History project where residents researched and recorded Newington histories and honoured local unsung heroes through four permanent plaques.
  • made zines that focus on friendship in Newington
  • social action projects including brightening a church garden with mosaics made by the community and creating Christmas decorations for residents of a care home.

Local school children have:

  • taken part in an Arts & Kindness Week with performance artist Bob Karper and Nova Marshall
  • helped to write a song saying thank you to their kindness heroes
  • produced a playful installation exploring courage
  • created a memory book of stories
  • made artboards exhibited at Best Fest

 “It feels very nice to be a Creative Champion so I can show everyone around me my art skills and how much I like to create things.”
Tyla, Young Creative Champion

Artist Commission

Co-commissioned with the community, internationally acclaimed artists Thor McIntyre-Burnie, Chloe Osborne and Kati Francis explored the sensory experience of kindness through sound, sight, touch and smell and built an interactive installation with and for the community. Read more here.

Best Fest

In October 2015 and July 2016 the Creative Champions programmed two community arts festivals to bring people together. Best Fest is now an annual free community arts festival full of art, music and fun activities for the whole community to take part in. Highlights from the two events include:

Read out blog to find out more about Best Fest 2015 and Best Fest 2016.

“What a wonderful, life affirming afternoon! We came for an hour, stayed for 3 and didn’t do everything. Our hearts are happier and the much needed focus on kindness & the community will linger. Thank-you!”
Visitor, Best Fest 2016

The Future

With support from People United, Nova Marshall successfully applied to Arts Council England to extend her work in Newington. As a result the Creative Champions continue to meet and create artwork. She has also supported Newington Big Local to start a new youth club curated by young people in Newington. Find out more here.

Programmed and organised by the Best Fest Steering group with the support of People United. The community aims to make Best Fest an annual event organised by Newington Big Local with local residents. Find out more here.

Funded & supported by:

Filmmaker Tim Knights followed the project The Best of Us over two years. This film tells the story of the project and the brilliant people who participated such as Creative Champions Chanese and Simone.

Michaela Clayton People United's Fundraising Fellow talks about her impressions of Best Fest.

Best Fest 2016
KISS at Best Fest 2016
Sing Your Heart Out at Best Fest 2016
Giant Kindness Tapestry at Best Fest 2016
Best Fest 2016
Brighten Up Newington, 2016
Celebration Event 2017
Chanese with her Arts Award Bronze, 2017
Arts & Kindness Week at Dame Janet Primary Academy, 2017
The Art Shelter
Best Fest 2015
Memory Teas at Best Fest 2015
The Whispering Forest at Best Fest 2015
The Imagination Lab at Best Fest 2015
Plaques celebrating everyday heroes
4th Ramsgate West Rainbows with their Kindness Challenge Badges
A Newington Story at Turner Contemporary, 2015