Solihull Reading Friends Programme: UNFOLDING STORIES
Funder: Reading Agency
Client: Solihull Library and The Core, (Solihull’s Theatre and Arts Complex)
Attendees: over 50 participants including families across 10 workshops, with many choosing to attend multiple times
Unfolding Stories, a series of origami workshops took place in February 2021 lockdown as part of the Solihull Reading Friends programme. In collaboration with Solihull Library and The Core, Unfolding Stories and Message in a Bottle were themes developed to connect people feeling lonely and isolated through reading and crafts. The workshops were fully-funded by The Reading Agency and free to attend for the community.
Aimed at a range of audiences to provide an inclusive service, workshops were delivered at different times of the day to ensure they were accessible to all. Thus providing a means of connecting to others during hours of minimal sunlight and restricted social contact.
Online workshops were developed in consultation with participants after the initial taster sessions and culminated in giant artworks across three libraries. With 100% positive feedback and remarkable origami results, the project was a huge success!
• Message in a Bottle – encouraged attendees to think about their experiences during lockdown and channel energy into message-oriented artwork that could be metaphorically thrown out in to the community (links to our Big as a Bus community project)
• Unfolding Stories – helped participants to decipher origami instructions as a group and placed the prime focus on the simple act of making something together. Free downloadable origami paper was offered to attendees in order to make vibrant creations
Participants were asked to think, reflect and add words to the origami paper describing their time in lockdown. Participants chose to develop their knowledge of different origami creations and focus on the paper-folding rather than writing. The art of paper-folding encouraged patience and mindfulness, with clear instructions that could be followed as a group. Rather than being a competition, or a time-pressured task, this was a chance to explore and learn new things while supporting wellbeing.
The origami sculptures were photographed and used to make unique artworks to decorate the windows of the Core, Olton Library and Balsall Common Library and promote Reading Friends. Participants felt that they were part of a wider initiative to engage the community during a bleak period.
Impact of Unfolding Stories
100% positive feedback from participants, many ‘thoroughly enjoyed’ and expressed gratitude. The majority of participants expressed the desire to return to future workshops, indicating a new-found commitment to creative practices. They were warmly invited to attend future AATH drawing workshops and community events
• Art at the Heart Director Kamaljit’s teaching style praised: ‘she ran the session at the perfect pace’; ‘engaged every participant’; was ‘very patient with us all’. One participant with arthritis found the teaching ‘very patient and encouraging’, allowing her to keep up with the group and feel that her contribution was valued
• Programme provided regular socialising during lockdown – a ‘lovely and friendly atmosphere’ that nurtured new friendships
• Origami encouraged relaxation and mindfulness, encouraging people to make time in the day for themselves
• Discussing feelings as a group developed empathy and acted as a vital outlet for difficult memories
• Workshops were inclusive – all ages and abilities developed origami skills and were accessible – taking place at convenient times after school, in line with the Family Arts Standards (part of our Fantastic for Families badge)