On the Ground: Arts for Islington

Blythe Terrell

Scheme: Working Wonders, Arts for Islington

Funding: Islington Council Strategic Partnership

Objectives: To promote the idea that art for art's sake is valuable and can achieve objectives such as community cohesion, health, citizenship and education in the north London borough.

Working Wonders is the first community arts project from Arts for Islington, which was formed about two years ago. The project features six free arts events, or 'parties', each of which features an individual community volunteer.

Each event is inspired by the volunteers, but performed or produced by artists, and includes theatre, dance, film, and a sound installation.

Arts for Islington identified volunteers willing to share their experiences and is showcasing them through their preferred artistic medium at various locations in London.

Arts for Islington spokeswoman Lucy Granville said: "We're having six intimate parties to celebrate six intimate volunteers. But we're publicising it so that the public can discover the work of volunteers, and we'll have exposure and recognition of volunteering in Islington."

Events include a theatre performance from a Turkish and Kurdish Women's Support Group, and Creative Swing, a range of stage crafts such as trapeze and dance, and comedy and story-telling, in which some of the volunteers take part. In addition to volunteers' events, the season includes a satirical play entitled Who Wants to be a Volunteer?, which was written by an Arts for Islington member.

"Each project is different because it reflects the individual's motivation, personal challenges and what he or she enjoys", explained Granville.

"The volunteers are basically using everything they hold close to their hearts. These are things that are very personal that don't have anything to do with their voluntary work."

Also, Arts for Islington helped the volunteers set up a permanent project to use their art in their voluntary work. "For example, one volunteer at a children's centre used drama, and Working Wonders helped fund her to develop a drama group, which she requested because she enjoyed doing it so much," Granville said.

Part of the challenge of the project was drawing the public into personal celebrations of individuals, said Granville, because only six people were chosen out of thousands in Islington.

"Participants were selected because they represent the diversity of community volunteers", she said.

Events end with a grand finale party on 19 November, at which opportunities to learn more about volunteering will be offered.

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