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  • Claire Hilton

Novels That Shaped The World - Libraries and Learning with the JOY Project (Worcester) Aug 2021.

Artists around the UK were commissioned to make creative responses and artwork around the title 'Novels that shaped our world' and I was asked to facilitate some creative sessions and making around this theme with the Joy Project as an identified group of women meeting in Worcester city.

Like all good things our project started with a coffee, or coffee morning to be exact. We talked together about our starting point, reading and our own stories and what brought us together.

About the JOY project: JOY is a women only community project which provides support to enable women gain a variety of skills, enhance their confidence and empower them to make their own informed decisions.

  • JOY is an inclusive service, open to all women at any stage of their journey.

  • JOY supports women across a broad spectrum, with wide ranging abilities, support needs, background and goals.

  • JOY seeks to support women to assess their own current skills, build their confidence, raise their aspirations, and support them in creating a future plan

  • Each woman will access a journey tailored to their own specific abilities, needs and goals

They run an active programme on group sessions and individual support encouraging learning, peer support, access to training and other support if needed and advocating informed decision making.

The discussions began at two of their coffee mornings, meeting with the members who were meeting to share each others company and I asked - What are the stories that we remember use and cherish in our lives? Around the circle we talked about culture, how reading meant different things to many and how stories were often historical and taught us about other places or times. We discussed gender, how Mums reading stories to their kids is commonplace and something many remembered fondly. Some of the vibrant graphics and pictures/images were mentioned too from the BFG and the beautiful illustrations or Roald Dahl to the Hungry Caterpillar. Dystopian futures were mentioned - Handmaids tale and 1985, thinking about fiction and escapism. We had 2 different days where I met with the JOY project in two different locations and discussed what reading meant to them and went away to digest these themes and ideas to create a vibrant and engaging artistic display for The Hive in Worcester city centre.

Throughout the discussions some of the themes that kept coming up were: meeting people, cups of tea, communicating. We talked about how, as women, the way we show we care can be making tea. We talk over a cup of tea and also maybe even celebrate. If you had a tea party what would you bring? and we talked about cultures and their uses of tea and settled on a tea party! A celebration of all things woman. A discussion, a warm invite and a comforting display of sitting down and sharing. We talked about the most famous tea party of all, The Mad Hatters Tea Party from Alice in Wonderland (and also a very firmly rooted female lead role in the story) - the elements within this were exciting, tea cups and picnic and cake! As well as words and riddles to be shared and enjoyed, and to include elements of our child nurturing side with caterpillars (from the hungry caterpillar) and Tiger food (in-case the tiger who came to tea showed up and ate everything)! So there we had our theme - time to get to work making our very own tea party.

What we made - through the medium of paper Mache (using old book pages, doily's and papers/tissue paper) we made our own teacups, saucers, and picnic foods such as cake, cheese and sandwiches. We also made some book page roses and collaged some fruits and leaves for the display as well as making our own small but hungry caterpillars. The participants came together and shared stories over their crafting and tried new things along the way. Sharing with friends and family between sessions the new things they had tried and learnt. Using some of the book sections, some members did some collage/painted reflections and some poems with the pages. We met 5 times over a number of weeks in different community hub locations. JOY project worker Jo Rae even hand felted a beautiful white rabbit for the display.

This display is currently open to the public on the ground floor at the Hive cafe (spoilers below) and will be up until November so please go and take a look and see what you think and what you would bring and share at your own tea party.

You can read the document accompanying the display by downloading below :)

NTSTW Hive print final
Download PDF • 574KB

The FINAL part of our project is still to come, when the ladies from JOY visit the library space and see their display accompanied by tea, cake and strengthening the library connection by issuing library cards and finding new reads for their next literary adventure.

This project was a 'joy' to be a part of and I hope to work with JOY and Libraries and learning again soon - If you have a community group or project in mind, you can get in touch

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