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Safe Space: art for vulnerable adults in lockdown

Safe Space, a new art workshop programme for older or vulnerable adults and carers designed “for lockdown and beyond” is launching in the community around Finsbury Park in North London on 26 May and will continue into July.

Originally intended as a series of weekly sessions in the Art Hut, a park building that also hosts African drumming lessons and other community activities, it has been redesigned as a virtual tour of the park that, according to the organisers, works equally well during lockdown and after ‘normality’ returns.

The project is the brainchild of 2NQ, a community arts and culture organisation, as part of its ‘People and Heritage’ programme, with funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Haringey Council. The participants – up to 16 per workshop – each receive a pack through the post containing a large spiral-bound workbook packed with activities and local histories, colouring pencils, paints and brushes along with other goodies such as a disposable camera, blank postcards and stamps, potting seeds – even teabags and biscuits!

All is then set for the workshops, which will now take the form of 1½-hour weekly Zoom sessions over seven weeks hosted by 2NQ’s Katy Hawkins, with art lessons by curator Simon Poulter and guest visits by people who look after or create local heritage, such as Bruce Castle Museum archivist Julie Melrose, and, from the Islington Faces project, Nicola Baird and Kimi Gill.

Many older and vulnerable people feel uncomfortable with digital and online technology, and the Coronavirus emergency has exposed and aggravated the isolation this can cause. So for people who do not have internet access 2NQ provide telephone support and other ways of giving participants tips and feedback on their progress. The programme is ‘dementia-friendly’ and participants can also work through the activities with carers or family.

2NQ has worked with local councillors in each of the three boroughs bordering the park – Haringey, Hackney and Islington – and with charities and mutual aid groups, to attract people who will enjoy and benefit from the workshops.

“I am looking forward to us all coming together,” says Katy, “whether by phone, zoom or through writing letters and sending postcards. The people in Safe Space are all united by their park, but now a bit disconnected. It will be nice to feel that distance close a little.”

2NQ’s Curator Simon Poulter says: “Many people say they can’t do art, but actually it is something you can learn at any age. This project is all about being with people in the moment, and exploring their local park from home.”

The Chrysanthemum House that once stood in Finsbury Park continues to inspire

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