The Key Learning
The Othello Unbound project was a wide-ranging innovative programme of creative activity that was shaped by participants, key workers and Artists. There were individual breakthroughs – people were inspired to try new things, gain new insights and useful creative skills. The project left its mark on all participants. This is evidenced from the feedback data collected and from the work produced.
This report analyses the achievements of the Othello Unbound project by combining evidence-based action research with evidence of outcomes from good participatory arts practice. This gave us a good framework for assessing how successful the project was in meeting its aims.
A Summary of What We Found Out
Where possible, build on existing community resources. By looking at the environment and patterns of care, subtle changes can be made in order to support creative engagement and reduce the occurrence of challenging situations for both staff and residents i.e. specialist areas for particular creative activities, layout of the room/setting up the room in an interesting way to stimulate interest, Artists planning time with managers and staff.
Make practical acknowledgement of the fact that it takes time to develop relationships and trust, and to establish what kind of activities participants would want to engage in. It is important to devise activities that ensure residents voices are heard and that there is a mechanism for influencing activities and choices being made
Artists should begin by taking the lead from participants when exploring creative ideas. Providing a mix of creative opportunities through a team with varied skills. The tendency for this project to utilise a mix of creative opportunities contributed to an increased level of participant engagement and enjoyment.
Artist should make every effort to create good conditions for collaboration and joint working. Valuing the contributions made by residents and staff is crucial to support a sense of belonging, self-determination and confidence. Build in opportunities – particularly at the end of sessions – for participants to make positive comments about other participants and award them for their contribution. For example, each participant in the Sheffield Foyer group was presented with a framed version of their work to treasure and keep.
Artists could take opportunities to turn evaluation into a creative learning activity that has the potential to enhance their practice as well as the specific project. For adults and young people who may have low levels of self confidence and self efficacy, it is important to find opportunities in projects like these to celebrate the achievement of participants. This evaluation recommends the use of celebration events and reflection sessions at the end of sessions that enable the young people to showcase their achievements.
Artists Throughout the project, build on opportunities to pass on skills – Consider further training for Sheffield Foyer staff in the front line of contact to provide regular creative activity and services. Proliferation of such training would help to embed artistic activity as part of delivery of enhance their offer to vulnerable and disenfranchised young people in their care. This was particularly relevant with the use of digital technologies.
Artists should identify how initiatives can be embedded systematically Longer term investment would need to be made in the delivery of arts programmes in settings like Cambian Oaks in order to have a deeper impact and to be sustainable.
Artists should be clear about their own contribution to the collaborative work – including the nature of the energy they bring – and be explicit about their aspirations for joint working. Ensure that opportunities are taken throughout the project to give positive feedback and point out what participants are doing well.
Structure programmes in such a way that projects are allowed to set their own tempo and find their own sense of direction and purpose. Activities need to be devised to suit both individuals and group engagement, ensuring that residents within the whole of Sheffield Foyer are reached.
Our Key Achievements
Inspiring and empowering young people from Sheffield Foyer’s to produce new artwork and present it at a celebration evening at The Void Cinema, this was evidenced by interviews, questionnaires, feedback by audiences, monitoring during sessions and reflection journals of Arts workers.
Encouraging a resident of Sheffield Foyer to continue writing evidenced by additional writing done to create a graphic novel.
Completing and sharing Othello short film with professional actors used to inspire project participants, evidenced by short films shared on social media and participants feedback.
Working with new artists, helping to create additional employment opportunities.
Developing new relationships and partnerships as evidenced by collaborations with a diverse range of groups during the Othello Unbound Project.
Inspiring participants to go to University and changing perceptions of Shakespeare while working with young people in danger of exclusion from school. Evidenced buy teacher observation, student feedback and monitoring.
Helping deaf young people creating animations based on Othello animations produced, evidenced by completed animations, observations by key venue staff and feedback by participants.
Encouraging participants to help tell the story of the project, evidenced by online blogs and observation and feedback.
This is not the End!
Many of the community orgnisations and school groups expressed a willingness to continue the creative activities and we are now working closely with them in securign funding for creative work to continue. We have developed ways of working with students at all levels, and we can offer engaging activities that improve learning and engagement. You can see how we engaged students at Derby Univeristy in a creative discussion of Iago’s motives, here.
As a closing statements I would like to give a very special thanks to Maxine Greaves MBE for giving access to the University, Professor Matthew Steggle for his support, the staff at Sheffield Foyer for their tireless work, the session staff at Cambian Oaks for being so supportive during sessions, Christopher Macauley and Arts Council England for their advice and support and funding that made this project possible