Art of making do

Make Do and Mend session at Guildford Grange in Sheffield'Places for People project
Make Do and Mend session at Guildford Grange in Sheffield'Places for People project

Two coachloads of participants will travel up from Sheffield to York on Friday for for the finale of Make! Do and Mend, a collaborative arts project involving vulnerable groups across the Yorkshire, Humber and North East regions.

The innovative pilot project has been led by Sheffield-based Griffin Theatre Arts in collaboration with support service Places for People. It has delivered arts workshops for more than 600 people in over 40 sheltered and support service schemes throughout October and November.

Places for People (Individual Support) work with local authorities providing care and support services for older people who need support, teenage parents, people with mental health problems, women escaping domestic violence, people with disabilities, refugees and homeless people. They run five sheltered schemes in Sheffield.

They commissioned Griffin Theatre Arts to bring creative arts opportunities to their centres as a way of helping to remove cultural and social barriers within these marginalised groups.

With a £10,000 grant from the Arts Council they set up drama, music, and arts based workshops to help build confidence, self esteem and improve skills.

They were all based on the theme of the Make Do and Mend ethos. “This could be interpreted in any way from darning socks to recycling,” explained Sarah Clough, artistic director of Griffin Theatre Arts.

In the Research and Development phase in September art and drama workshops inspired discussion around the theme of Make Do and Mend. Ideas and memories were generated and what that meant in a historical and contemporary context. A number of groups reflected on how they ‘made do’ using their ingenuity to make old into new, such as toys out of other materials, how the elderly remember their parents rationing food during the war and creating new clothes out of old.

“We heard about how during the War wedding dresses were made out of parachutes and gravy browning was painted on bare legs to look like the seams of stockings,” said Clough.

All these ideas of make do and mend were collected together and visual artist William Buckman incorporated them in a large scale picture. This image was divided into 40 A3-sized sections and distributed to each Places for People scheme.

A variety of techniques such as sewing, printmaking, collage, and knitting were used to decorate the individual sections which then formed a giant mural which will be unveiled at the celebration event on Friday at the Hospitium venue in York. Each scheme will have a small framed copy.

Musician Will Mace used the same source material to compose a song which has been worked on by the groups, developing and enhancing it ready to be heard on the big day.

Colin Bamber from Places for People in Sheffield said the company operated a variety of schemes across a wide area and this had been a great way of connecting them and bringing together different generations.