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Curious Cumbria

Mon 18 Jan 2016

by Sarah Blaszczok

Tricia, AND’s Festival & Touring Producer, gives us an update on how our project, Workshops in People’s Homes, is shaping up….

“After a busy few months we are almost ready to begin working with our workshop participants as part of Workshops in People’s Homes. This project sees artist Joshua Sofaer work with a group of Cumbrian residents to each develop a unique and interesting activity or experience – or ‘workshop’ – in a home setting.

This can be in anything – from unusual crafts and secret recipes to ambitious inventions and industrial techniques.  Joshua has developed a methodology he has used before on a project called Tours of People’s Homes, which involves recruiting participants, working with them to develop a creative experience and then offering that to the public.  The project aims to celebrate a side of Cumbria which doesn’t get profiled so often – we’ve only just scratched the surface and found an incredibly creative, resourceful and progressive region.

We are currently in the recruitment phase (so please get in touch if you’re based in Cumbria and curious!), which involves us visiting potential participants in their own homes. Here, Joshua employs gentle coaching techniques to identify underlying passions, frustrations and authentic inspiration which we can build on in an exciting collaboration that will result in a workshop that our participants can share with others.  It’s our ambition that the workshops will be about so much more than skill acquisition; they will be self-portraits painted in a domestic space, an intimate storytelling experience and the forming of a new community, if just for an afternoon.

chairGreasyPoleJasper    (left to right: Chair by Jesus Gonzalez, Fab Lab Cockermouth Design Manager / Greasy Pole, climbing competition featured in the Crab & Sport Fair / Jasper the alpaca!)

So far we’ve been to a shed by the Barrow coast, a barn just off the A6, a basement in Keswick, sat round a kitchen table in Egremont and toured round a castle.  In Penrith, we’ve met young people at a high school and older people at a residential care home.  At the Winter Droving we offered cake in exchange for conversation where we also met an alpaca called Jasper.  We’ve seen Egremont’s greasy pole and visited the Florence Paintmakers, where pigment is extracted from the disused Florence Mine for art materials.  In Ulverston we’ve visited an engineer, an acrobat and taken in the Laurel & Hardy statue.  We’ve had numerous cups of tea.  We’ve hired five different cars and been lost twice.

The floods that hit Cumbria in December have undoubtedly affected the region and, though we don’t live in Cumbria, we feel a sense of investment in seeing it getting back on its feet.  A Penrith business owner told me last week that the non-stop images of flood devastation has put off would-be visitors to the region: tourism being Cumbria’s largest industry.  Picture-postcard towns such as Keswick have been deserted over Christmas which is having an ongoing negative economic impact on the region.  Last week, Penrith was in good spirits and road and rail access has been good, almost back to normal.  So if you are curious about visiting Cumbria and spending your money locally, please do, it’s a great way to support the region after a difficult time.

We will be announcing our participants in February – we hope that you are as excited as we are!”

FloodsLaurelandHardyPaintmakers(left to right: driving through the floods on the A591 / Laurel & Hardy Statue featuring Gravy the Dog / beautifully crafted products using natural pigment at Florence Paintmakers)