A year after the launch of My World, My City, My Neighbourhood, our first community-based project, we take a look back at the work artists and their communities did and how the project brought people together.
This article is based on findings from individual artist reports, the Arts Council England report and Leeds Community Foundation report. Key figures were visualised by Open Innovations and can be found here. A Summary report provided by The Audience Agency can be found here.
My World, My City, My Neighbourhood kicked off in October 2021 and saw over 20 artists work with their respective communities to research and develop project ideas that could inform the programme for 2023. Over 8 months, artists and their communities worked on varying project ideas that represented their culture. These projects ranged from the history of the textile industry in Guiseley to the untold stories of Bangladeshi women in Beeston, from creating a printing press in Headingley to making street skating more accessible across the city. All projects came to an end with an event to celebrate all the work done by these communities and their legacies.
The basis of the project was co-creation – a way for a lead artist to work collaboratively with their community to develop their ideas. Over the course of the My World, My City, My Neighbourhood, there was a total of 2105 participants involved across the 22 projects. Many of the commissioned artists were already embedded within their communities. They had existing relationships with these groups and so needed less time to build up trust which proved to be more effective especially in a short timeline. Other artists set up steering groups for the projects. For certain projects, setting up several more intimate groups made sense as it was more difficult or not appropriate to bring groups together which led to a weaving of thoughts and ideas that helped develop the project.
People engage in many ways and there were some participants who felt they didn’t have as much agency as the lead artist in their project. However, people generally felt their ideas were heard and reflected in projects. Each project worked well to incorporate the community they were working with and reflect the types of culture their specific community engages with.
'Sarees and Street Signs' led by visual artist Thamina Begum and the Bangladeshi community in Beeston. Photo credit: Sonder Studios.
The projects worked well in engaging young audiences. In total there were 1181 younger participants involved – over half of the total participants. There was a real emphasis on getting young people involved in culture and gaining the confidence and skills to express themselves creatively, particularly those from minority communities or groups facing barriers to access.
According to artist reports, there were 1045 young people involved in My World, My City, My Neighbourhood that have experienced barriers to accessing the arts. One young participant said: ‘This project gave me the opportunity to help with something I believe in and create designs that I am proud of for a community I want to help. I used this project as part of my final project for university, it was something I am really proud of.’
Artist Harry Meadley working with the skating community. Photo credit: Sonder Studios.
My World, My City, My Neighbourhood was a project that encouraged people to be creative and engage with their communities in a post-pandemic environment. A lot of communities across Leeds were hit hard by the coronavirus and many groups were left vulnerable and isolated. The project sought to bring people together in an uncertain time and allow creativity to flow. It resulted in 1425 volunteering people and/or supporting their community as well as host of unique project ideas where people found a sense of community and belonging.
One participant spoke on the impact their project had on community wellbeing: ‘Walking, talking, and having a shared cuppa was the perfect opener to the project, connecting people who had never met or seen each other from afar. It brought people who had been isolated out of their homes for the first time in over two years.’
My World, My City, My Neighbourhood may have finished but its legacy continues. The method of co-creation used in the project has inspired My LEEDS 2023, a major community-led project for 2023 and some of the projects developed will be a part of 2023’s programme. My World, My City, My Neighbourhood has shone a light on the incredible communities that make up this city. They tell beautiful stories about local life and local culture that is only worth platforming and celebrating.
'My World, My City, My Neighbourhood' was funded by Arts Council England and Leeds Community Foundation Mohn Westlake Fund. For more information on the project, check out the Artist Interviews on our YouTube channel here!