In the Spring of 2017 The Change Collective collaborated with our friends at Walpole Park in Ealing to deliver a Heritage Lottery Funded project to help local people understand the history of their park better, and to make greater use of it.
The vision for the project was based on our belief that everybody should have access to, and have a sense of shared ownership over, green spaces in their community. We wanted to facilitate a creative, collaborative process that would allow participants to see themselves, their environment and each other in new ways. We wanted to better understand the community’s relationship to the park and explore what the park means to the people of Ealing. We wanted to ask:
Who is this park really for?
How could we make the park more accessible for all?
What happens next for Walpole Park?
The project was an emergent process, as facilitators and as an organisation we had a sense where we wanted to get to, but we also wanted to listen and respond to the needs of the people and the groups we met along the way. As a delivery team we met every couple of weeks, and as the project developed, we knew that we had our own set of individual tools and arts practice that we were bringing. It meant we could explore the park and what it meant to people through a diverse range of approaches, one week creative writing, another week meditation and Qi Gong. We used some of these more creative techniques to explore some of the barriers to people accessing the park and how as a community they might overcome them. The group loved being outdoors and exploring the plants and trees, it triggered powerful memories - of Malaysia, of a garden in Omagh, of their childhoods.
The initial project is nearing its conclusion but may grow from here. We've learnt that to hold an emergent process can be challenging at times. It requires bravery to sit with the uncertainty. As with a lot of TCC work, we tried to have enough structure and parameters whilst also having enough freedom to respond to what’s coming, that’s not an easy thing to get right. Again, like a lot of TCC work, we realised that the informal spaces are often as important as the ‘formal’ and to give the time at the start of a project to building and supporting the relationships within the group.
As is often the case, perhaps one of our greatest pieces of learning came directly from the participants…..“even though I work in the park the group carved out new pathways for me, and ways of seeing things which I can now pass on to other groups that visit. Instead of always being the leader it was important to let go at some points and let the group lead, as they saw things in a different way. This can be a lesson for us all. Others creative expression can change the way we experience a space”.