As part of the core team that included Dr Cara Courage and led by Charlotte Kemp of Open Plan, we were commissioned by Ashfield District Council to facilitate the community consultation process to develop thinking and ideas to inform an artists’ brief for the commission of public art at two site – one at Papplewick Green, Hucknall, the other in Annesley.
Funding for each place commission was secured from the Section 106 schedule with the developers. A team of arts in the public realm and placemaking consultants were employed to work with the local community to discuss their commission opportunity and what form the public artwork could take. The outcome to deliver a report, for each place, that outlined the community consultation process to develop thinking and ideas to inform an artist’s brief for the commission of public art.
Our approach was developed to create an ongoing conversation with community stakeholders and to programme a series of community activities. These activities had an aim to firstly explore the ‘sense of place’ and, secondly, to co-devise a final artists’ brief with local residents who volunteered to be part of a Community Commissioning Group.
The activities were informed by three areas of questioning:
1. What themes of place should inform the artwork(s)?
2. What form(s)should the artwork take?
3. Where should the artwork(s) be?
The activities and emergence of the Community Commissioning Group, for each place, enabled the team to work with local residents to understand their place, place attachments and aspirations, which were used as a foundation to identify preferred artwork themes and forms.
The process involved a number of activities, duplicated and specific for each place and included:
• The Festival of Place – introduced the project to a wide selection of community members and began conversations with them through various creative activities. It also provided a strong opportunity to invite local people to join the Community Commissioning Group and those that attended learnt about the project, shared their ideas and insights and met their neighbours.
• School workshops – introduced concepts of place and emotional connections to our home. Each workshop began with a narrative exercise that asked questions along the lines of: If [place] was a colour, what colour would it be? Along with other word-play games, these exercises helped inform the students in developing their own heraldic banners – unique to them and unique to their place.
• Community workshops – following The Festival of Place, at each location, a number of residents volunteered their time to form a Public Art Community Commissioning Group for their own place. The early workshop sessions explored the concept of public art; its purpose and function; the different forms and styles, using real-life examples to inspire discussion and build understanding of tastes and preference; and interactions between art and place, including public realm and its built and natural elements.
• Celebration event – which was designed to open up the discussion around the public artworks to the wider community again, sharing the thinking developed with those who had volunteered to be part of the Community Commissioning Groups and asking for feedback and further inputs. Each was a social event, intended to go someway to supporting emerging core objectives and an agreement that each project should ‘build community’.
The resulting document reports for each place told of the consultation process, the resulting feedback and core objectives, along with recommendations on ways forward, a draft proposal for the artists’ brief and evaluation criteria.