Artist residency reveals culture and food as powerful ingredients for engagement
Katie Musgrove shares how basing internationally renowned Filipino artist Alwin Reamillo at Canalside Community Centre in Burnley helped engage local communities.
The project: Harkat - a journey of discovery and art
Super Slow Way supported arts organisation Action Factory to base internationally renowned Filipino artist Alwin Reamillo at Canalside Community Centre in Burnley for 8 weeks.
The residency and associated activities brought the community together and attracted over 300 participants.
With their support, Action Factory hoped Alwin would engage with local residents and open a creative dialogue about 'community', 'migration' and 'a sense of place'. The dialogue would result in a piece of work, which reflected the area and its communities.
Alwin came to the project with the idea of creating a floating structure that could be processed along the canal. He was inspired by the idea of a South East Asian Spirit House, which could be decorated with improvised wind chimes, fishing floats and upcycled materials. The title for the project came from the Urdu word 'harkat' meaning motion or journey.
Action Factory hoped that the residency would lead to increased usage of Canalside Community Centre. They wanted to develop a stronger sense of community and ownership of arts and cultural activity in the local area.
- Local residents of Canalside Community Centre
- Regular users of the canal
- St Peters Primary School, Burnley
- The local Filipino community in Burnley
- Canalside Residents' Association
- The wider Burnley community
Action Factory and Alwin met and engaged many local people throughout the residency.
To ensure he understood the local communities, Action Factory arranged for Alwin to visit key areas and people:
- community leaders
- Canal & River Trust colleagues
- Queens Street Mill
- Local artists Angie Da Silva and Urmila Chowdry
Alwin held regular open drop-in workshops within the community centre. Action Factory also approached specific groups to organise workshops for them in their own venues.
Numerous workshops and mini-events led up to a final celebration event and small procession of the floating structure. Each participant brought their own story and input, which steered the course of the project.
Alwin talked to everyone and anyone he met. He connected with the Filipino community almost immediately. He identified a marketplace where they bought food and soon discovered that there were a large number of nurses within the community. They were really excited, and surprised, to welcome a Filipino artist to Burnley.
With every person Alwin spoke to, word spread a little further. The community were keen to celebrate Alwin's arrival so Action Factory held a welcome feast. Local residents brought samozas, byriani, pakora and sweet rice.
Action Factory found that food, and the sharing of homemade dishes, was a great way to attract larger groups and stimulate engagement. The act of sharing food brought the community together and chatting over a meal put people at ease.
Download the case study for top tips and more:
Harkat: a journey of discovery and art
Image courtesy of Super Slow Way © Matt Savage