Community engagement & Planning
In the summer of 2021 I was asked to be part of THE DOWNLOW, which was a commissioned project and part of the Gallery 37 Arts Trail. The project consisted of ten community co-designed murals in Lozells. Collaborating with Punch Records, Bunny from Create Not Destroy and his team of artists including Jason Caballero, Simone Linton and also Remi Rough.
The project was funded by National Lottery, Saathi House and Punch Records and the Active Communities, who are part of The Active Wellbeing Society via Sport England.
One of my first tasks was to research who owned certain properties from a list complied by the artists after scoping the area for desired locations for murals, also the route for the proposed walk. It was essential to utilise my contacts within Birmingham City Council to find out further information on the desired walls and properties and also who could clean up land before any work could commence. Once this had been determined we were able to work towards a structured timeline and deadline which had been put in place.
Once the proposed images and ideas were compiled, they needed to be presented to and approved by local community groups and leaders. This was done to ensure they would not cause offence to anyone and that they truly symbolised the community. Some images came into play purely by chance or accident such as the image of the Muslim girl on a skateboard, Bunny saw her skate boarding in George's Park and he went up to her parents and explained to them about the project and asked if he could take photos of the young girl whilst she skated on the board. During the process of it being painted many women who walked past were glad to see an image that represented something positive about them, stating how inspiring it was to young women in the area. While Bunny was working on the image a nurse called Joanna who lives locally spoke to him and told Bunny her story about being a nurse in the NHS, after emigrating from Ghana in the late 50's. She said she would bring Bunny some photos and she did the next day luckily I was there to witness this, she then became one of the features of the last mural which Bunny would paint, the NHS wall.
As part of community engagement for the project I facilitated introductions with Bunny and the Punch team with local schools, community organisations and community leaders in Lozells to make the community aware of the project. From this Bunny was able to connect with organisations such as Aspire and Succeed, Friends of Georges Park and Cllr Waseem Zaffer.
It was very important to continue communication with the community groups and local businesses throughout the whole process, who would benefit from the journey and process, to gain their support for the arts trails and get the word out across the ward as to what was happening.