A Cumbrian arts charity has launched a new project set to reimagine ways of working with communities during the coronavirus pandemic.
Through Art Fund’s Respond and Reimagine programme of grants to help museums innovate following the pandemic, Lakeland Arts has responded to the long-term challenges of COVID-19 by creating MEND, a project that uses creativity to support people in Cumbria and bring like-minded communities together.
With its cultural venues closed, the participation and learning team at Lakeland Arts has forged new, and strengthened existing, partnerships across the county.
From food banks and children and young people groups to mental health and domestic abuse charities, the MEND project team are now able to work with, and learn from, communities in a way they have never done before.
One of the first initiatives to launch from MEND is a new weekly craft club called Mending at Home – a fun and creative online group with free live workshops for anyone who has self-isolated for an extended period of time due to COVID-19.
The MEND project is looking for people in Cumbria who have shielded throughout lockdown to take part.
Over eight weeks, people who are shielding from COVID-19 will work together from the comfort of their own home.
Participants will receive a MEND kit, full of materials and resources that will bring to life the reality of their shielding experience.
These engaging and imaginative workshops will give makers the chance to get to know fellow shielders and be a platform to share crafting skills and stories of their experiences.
MEND Maker Tash Scullion created Mending at Home in response to her own shielding experience in 2020.
During each lockdown, Tash relied on online groups for enrichment and connections to support her mental wellbeing and is eager to apply her skills as learning officer at Lakeland Arts to lead creative workshops that will help fellow shielders mend and create at home.
She said: “With our museums and galleries closed, people are unable to meet and share conversation and skills.
“We know that lockdown has been challenging on many levels – particularly for those shielding, and that creativity can be used to bring togetherness and be a positive influence on mental health.
“By sharing stories and working together, the live workshops will help shielders to mend by translating their experiences through craft and re-connecting with like-minded people who they have sorely missed over the past year.
“Each maker will receive a free MEND Kit packed with crafting supplies and be invited to join a private group on Facebook to take part in and watch our live workshops. I can’t wait to get started and encourage the shielding community to get in touch to take part”.
Other MEND projects are underway through connections made through Kendal’s Integrated Care Communities (ICC) who support essential services in South Lakeland.
MEND maker Ella Luo will work with Springfield Domestic Abuse Support in South Lakeland and The Lighthouse Community Mental Health Hub, to help people connect and talk about their experiences during this particularly challenging time.
With Ella’s support, Springfield MEND makers will work together to produce an interactive digital platform of storytelling to reflect on their experiences.
In turn, MEND Makers from The Lighthouse will use collage techniques to share the effect the pandemic has had on their mental health.
Projects are also underway with The Mud Wood Club, Ulverston Food Waste Project and the South Lakeland Home Education Network as well as Young Carers in South Lakeland.
Over the coming weeks, MEND maker Amy Stretch-Parker will lead engaging nature-inspired workshops and provide practical resources to support their mission to mend.
Lakeland Arts is one of 67 organisations who have received emergency funding from Art Fund.
The charity has only been able to help 15 per cent of applicants, and with six in 10 museums worried about their survival, Art Fund is urging the public to support the Together for Museums fundraising appeal which aims to raise £1 million to help more museums.