Merry Christmas from enJOY arts!

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… and so ends another busy year for enJOY arts. 2016 certainly hasn’t been without its challenges for many, making creative community projects more relevant than ever and we’re determined to look forward to 2017 with hope and positivity. Looking back over this year, however, we’ve also found plenty to enJOY (scroll down to see our photo slideshow)!

In our first year as resident artists at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, we’ve delivered a number of exciting projects in partnership with them; from creative storytelling with older people as part of Dementia Awareness Week in May, to family activities inspired by Beatrix Potter during the summer holidays. We’ve also been working with the House to develop their education programme, delivering interactive drama workshops to both school and university groups. For Heritage Open Days in September, we enjoyed working with members of the local community to develop an exhibition of Living Memories of the House and neighbourhood.

By far our biggest partnership project this year was ‘Gaskell: The Musical!’, working with local women to devise and perform an original musical which premiered as part of Manchester Histories Festival in June. We had tremendous fun working with such a warm and lively group, many of whom had never performed before and really grew in confidence throughout the project. The initial performances were such as smash hit (selling out 3 shows) that we were asked to reprise the run in September, which we were delighted to be able to do. Harnessing the enthusiasm of the talented cast, and with the support of Elizabeth Gaskell’s House and One Manchester, we’ve now been able to secure more funding to run a regular creative women’s group which we can’t wait to start in the New Year.

We’ve continued to develop other projects with women and girls throughout 2016. For International Women’s Day, we worked with young women from Wythenshawe and Salford to create a textiles exhibition celebrating women from Manchester’s history. This was displayed at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House and there were squeals of delight from some members of the group when they first saw their own handiwork on show in such a beautiful historic venue! Some of the young women who worked on this display had also taken part in our ‘Tales of Manchester Life’ project in 2015 and we were thrilled when this project was recognised with a Community Histories Award in March. The girls loved attending a fancy event at Manchester Town Hall to receive this award and we were even more pleased to officially become a multi-award-winning organisation!

Since the summer, we’ve continued to run drama workshops with young women in Wythenshawe, some of whom are now working towards their Silver Arts Award. This project will culminate in an interactive performance and drama workshop led by the young women for their local junior youth group early next year. We’ve also had a great time delivering drama workshops with young women’s groups for our friends, The Proud Trust, at their LesBiCon and summer camp events.

Over the summer, we were very pleased to be able to return to MASH – a fantastic organisation for women which we first worked with as students back in 2011 – to deliver a series of drama workshops in their weekly drop-in. The women here really enjoyed the opportunity to play creatively with props and costumes and devised all sorts of imaginative scenes, from a botched bank robbery to a zombie apocalypse!

Aside from solely female-focused projects, we’ve continued to work with hard to reach young people across Greater Manchester and Salford, delivering the Bronze Arts Award with groups from Eccles to Monsall. It was lovely to be shortlisted by Manchester Young Lives as their Partner Organisation of the Year and we hope to develop more projects with them in 2017.

We’d like to thank all our partners, funders and friends for their valuable support and enthusiasm this year: Arts Council England, One Manchester, Places for People, John Grant Davies Trust, Comic Relief Local Communities Fund, Wythenshawe Community Housing Group, Wythy Tree Youth Bank, Elizabeth Gaskell’s House (projects funded by Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic England), Claire Mooney, The Proud Trust, TLM Centre, MASH, Tandem Theatre, Art with Heart, Manchester Young Lives, Direct Access, Manchester Histories, Arc, Greater Manchester Police Museum, Museum of Transport Greater Manchester, Digital Women’s Archive North and Victoria Baths.

We’re very much looking forward to 2017, not least because we’ll then be able to announce our plans for an exciting new young women’s project we have in the pipeline…

But for now, may your days be merry and bright – and we hope your festive season is an enJOYable one!

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Our award winning young women’s heritage project!

We’re absolutely delighted to announce that Tales of Manchester Life, the young women’s creative heritage project we delivered last year, won a Manchester Community Histories Award on Friday!

It was fantastic to bring the young women who took part to a great event at the Town Hall, organised by Manchester Histories. Here, we got to find out about all sorts of wonderful projects and the incredible people who run them, including Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People, PANDA, RECLAIM and WOWzone.  Jorge, Tammin & Tyra from our project spoke confidently in front of a large audience and all the young women were thrilled to be presented their award by the lovely former Coronation Street actor Julie Hesmondhalgh!

We are so proud of all the young women involved and very grateful to Manchester Histories for this honour. We’d also like to thank our project partners, Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, Tandem Theatre, Wythenshawe Community Housing Group and Salford Youth Service and the project’s funders, Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England and Community First.

We’re looking forward to developing more creative heritage projects with these young women and others in future – watch this space!

Merry Christmas from enJOY arts!

The festive season is upon us!  As we hang up our costumes, put away our props, roll up our flipchart and stash our sharpies for the Christmas break, we thought we’d take the opportunity to look back on how much we have enJOYed 2015…

Our major project this year was ‘Tales of Manchester Life’, a young women’s creative heritage project which we began delivery on in January and have only just finished evaluating! This project saw young women from Wythenshawe and Salford work together to create a promenade performance based on the life and times of Elizabeth Gaskell. The young women went on a number of trips and visits in the spring and took part in a series of drama, music and creative writing workshops, taking what they had learnt as inspiration. The final performances of ‘Gaskell, Interrupted’ took place at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House at the end of May and were very well received.

In July, we had great fun delivering a ‘Young People’s Creative Heritage Projects – Training & Networking Event’ based on our experience of delivering ‘Tales of Manchester Life’. It was great to meet a variety of culture, heritage and youth work professionals from across the region to discuss the challenges and benefits of this kind of work and to generate some exciting partnerships for the future.

We were able to extend the project into the autumn, giving the young women the opportunity to ‘take over’ Elizabeth Gaskell’s House for a day in November. They devised their own creative tour of the House and developed a number of activities for members of the public to take part in. This day was part of a national event for Kids in Museums Takeover Day and was a great success. We’re very grateful for the funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England which made the entirety of the ‘Tales of Manchester Life’ project possible. We also very much enjoyed working in partnership with both Tandem Theatre and Elizabeth Gaskell’s House on this project.

Alongside this year-long project, we were also lucky to work with some other incredible organisations on creative projects in 2015. As part of our schools programme, we delivered a series of workshops for World Book Day in March, including an action-packed day at Abraham Moss High School.

In May, we were honoured to be awarded the ‘Ally of the Year’ award by our friends at The Proud Trust (formerly LGBT Youth North West) and we returned to work with them on a performance project over the summer. Young people devised a performance on the theme of ‘Political Pride’ as part of an alternative programme of events over the Pride Weekend in August. This performance included dance, physical theatre and an original song written by the young people, with which the audience joined in enthusiastically!

In the autumn, we worked with a small group of young people at Just Drop In, a fantastic counselling and support service for young people in Macclesfield, helping them to develop their confidence and achieve the Bronze Arts Award.

Perhaps the most exciting development for enJOY arts as an organisation this year has been moving into our very own office space at the beautiful Elizabeth Gaskell’s House in October. This move was the result of striking up a great working relationship through the ‘Tales of Manchester Life’ project and we are looking forward to collaborating on more creative community projects in 2016 and beyond!

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Taking Over Elizabeth Gaskell’s House

Sunday 22nd November was an exciting day in Elizabeth Gaskell’s House as a group of young women took over the House as volunteers and tour guides!

Members of the group had been working together following the success of their ‘Tales of Manchester Life’ performance at the House back in May. This time they learned about the roles of the people who work at the House and used their heritage knowledge and creative skills to devise some fun activities for visitors to take part in. They even got back into full Victorian costume and took members of the public on their own unique and interactive tour!

The young women did a fantastic job sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm, interacting with visitors and thinking on their feet. Elizabeth Gaskell’s House was abuzz with excitement and laughter all day and there was some lovely feedback from members of the public:

‘Ladies, I so enjoyed your enthusiasm – it really made my visit special and I came all the way from Canada!’

‘Thanks for a very interesting Sunday afternoon. Well done, your research and acting was very good. Hooray for all the girls!’

‘You made my day! Do more like this!’

This event was organised as part of National Takeover Day, specifically as part of Kids in Museums Takeover Day, and made possible by funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

We are incredibly proud of all the young women who took part and we’re looking forward to working with them and others on more exciting projects in the new year… watch this space!

Takeover Day Sunday 22nd November

Following the success of our performance, ‘Tales of Manchester Life’ at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, we’ve been working on an exciting event for National Takeover Day specifically as part of Kids in Museums Takeover Day.

We’ve been working with the young women who were involved in our performance back in May, to devise and plan a creative takeover of Elizabeth Gaskell’s House in Manchester. The young women have been attending weekly sessions, finding out more about the house and the roles of volunteers. These sessions are working towards Sunday 22nd November, where the plan is for the group to takeover the house as young volunteers!

They won’t just be normal volunteers though… Using their heritage knowledge of the house and their creative skills, the group have devised their own creative activities for the general public to learn more about the house, both as audience members and by taking part in exciting activities. There will also be an opportunity to see footage from the performance project the group took part in earlier in the year.

We don’t want to give too much away so if you’re interested in finding out more please get in touch or just come along on the day. The House is open as normal with the group’s activities running 11:00am – 3:00pm, normal admission prices will apply and more information about this can be found on their website.

For a sneak preview of what the girls have been doing, here’s a little look at some of our sessions so far….

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Political Pride Performance with young people at LGBT Youth North West

On Saturday 29th August young people from LGBT Youth North West took part in a performance on the theme of ‘Political Pride‘ which they shared with other young people and members of the public. This performance was part of a programme of events designed to provide an alternative space over the Manchester Pride weekend, with an emphasis on bringing Pride back to its political roots.

We worked with young people in creative sessions to share their feelings and opinions on this topic and to devise the final performance. The resulting piece included poetry, song, abstract movement and political awareness raising, in addition to boundless energy and lots of laughter!

You can check out the original song which young people wrote and performed here:

A big well done to everyone involved – we always enjoy working with LGBT Youth North West and look forward to our next project together.

Making Creative Connections at our Training & Networking Event

We had a fantastic time delivering a training & networking event with our friends at Tandem Theatre last week. We were pleased to be back at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, sharing our learning from the Tales of Manchester Life project with professionals from the youth, arts and heritage sectors. It was great to be in a room filled with such creativity, positivity and a real spirit of teamwork as people made new connections and formed new ideas for future projects. We discussed the challenges and benefits of forming partnerships to deliver creative heritage projects with young people as well as getting stuck into some fun creative activities! Thanks again to everyone that attended and we look forward to hopefully working with you all in the future…

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