Walsall Creative Factory (WCF) is a group of community arts professionals, who opened a venue in an unused hairdresser in The Butts. They have been funded by Walsall for All’s Innovation Grant to deliver sessions in the community, as well as “Let’s Talk About It” (funded by Controlling Migration Fund) to help local people improve their English skills. They knew that local ladies who craft, and local artists may use the cosy and creative space, but the real challenge was to make the space truly inclusive.
As a result of recruiting volunteers and through links with schools and a local mosque, the weekly sessions aimed at a variety of audiences, including non-English speaking residents, women and elders have been successful.
Walsall Creative Factory has also organised a Geeks Youth Arts Club, aimed at young people on the autism spectrum and vulnerable sessions for adults with disabilities and mental health concerns. This required outreach work to hostels, services and networks in the neighbourhood.
There have been over 400 attendances per month in the WCF programme.
Henry, a young adult with autism who has participated in the sessions said:
“It’s a great place to try art when you haven’t done anything since school, it’s a cool place to meet others in the community, it’s become a community hub, gets you out of the house and doing something positive”.
In between these sessions, they opened their doors to local creatives and developed some classes and community events. In turn, the creatives became befrienders by being around and having conversations with whoever came through the door.
Seven months down the line, they could not have anticipated how integrated and inclusive the space has become. The community events and trips have enabled people to meet together and develop new partnerships with Autism Sings and The Bridge Project. This has extended their inclusive network.
As Walsall Creative Factory are open six days a week, they have found that people have come to more sessions throughout the week. They have experienced the most amazing connections, while supporting each other to be creative.
Their next challenge is to keep the workshop open by expanding their fundraising activities. Through the hard work of staff and volunteers, Walsall Creative Factory will continue changing lives and improving community cohesion and integration outcomes for the people of Walsall.