One of my favourite projects, which demonstrates the contribution of creative play in community development, was the Freespirits of Penryn project. A collaboration between Arts for Health Cornwall, artist Lizzie Stevens and film makers Pseudo Haiku, the project aimed to lift the spirits of individuals and communities in Penryn through engagement and participation in a public arts project.
Sparked by Lizzie’s creation of the character Eliza Freespirit we invited individuals and community groups to make their own characters to begin the installation ‘Freespirits of Penryn’. Over 150 figures were created in this way – by older people in local care homes, memory cafe and day centre, Penryn College pupils, people using the Community Cafe, students from overseas and people working at in the town.
During the week of the festival everyone was invited to make their contribution to the artwork which will grew during the week, building further connections between all the makers. Over 100 people of all ages came into the Arts for Health Cornwall office to join in.
This installation represented the diverse communities who live and work in and around Penryn and their positive views about the town. It was about celebrating and enhancing connections, linking people and spaces and promoting social well-being for individuals and the community as a whole.
The process was documented through film to provide a lasting reminder of what people can make together and to demonstrate the role of participatory community arts practice in strengthening and sustaining communities.