How Holme Valley's Sharing Memories Group is Bringing the Community Together With Art
Sharing Memories Group is an intergenerational project relying on the arts to bring the local community together
Sharing Memories Group was set up in the mid-90s and is made up of older people living in the Holme Valley on the outskirts of Huddersfield. The aim is to bring older people together to share their memories with each other and with the wider community and to use these to create powerful artwork. ‘It’s an arts and wellbeing group,’ Viv explains. ‘Our members meet every Thursday and work with trained, professional artists to create their work. Most of the members are in their 80s (some of whom may have lost a partner or simply want to be more socially active). We have projects that run for six weeks, but our last project ran for over a year. Members don’t have to be particularly arty or creative to join. The artists come up with the overall theme and they’ll guide the members through what they need to do and share their ideas. The key thing is that they’re not working in isolation and we often work with other community groups to bring different people together.’
Their most recent project was titled In Deep, focusing on the vast beauty of the oceans and the trouble we’re facing as a planet, largely due to plastic pollution. ‘On this particular project we worked with eight schools across the Holme Valley, the Bridgewood Trust, Enfield Down Honley, and Ponderosa Adult Day Centre,’ says Viv. ‘We often working with others in the community like this so it’s very much intergenerational. We’ve had children in early primary school right up to a 98-year-old. Everything we made has been created either from recycled material or material that is recyclable.’ When the exhibition ended, the group then created craft paper out of the paper which was used for In Deep.
‘This exhibition was very much about visual art but the next one (Sing Your Soul Sunny) is going to be musical and we’ll be working with various choirs,’ Viv says. ‘That’ll be around 20 weeks long and at the end of it we’ll have a community concert. The work we do varies hugely from project to project but everyone’s working to a common goal. It’s fantastic to see the interaction between children and the elderly. I witnessed a conversation with a lady who is, I think, 93 and one of the children asked her how old she was. She said “guess” and the little girl started from 80 counting up ’til she got to 90 and she couldn’t believe it. I think it’s the respect they have for elderly people and what they can learn from them which is so amazing. When we work with other groups, we often have an outing (maybe to the beach, an exhibition or a concert) and it’s all about working together and the social aspect of that. These intergenerational interactions are definitely encouraged within schools because when I contacted them for our last project we had a huge response. It’s something we should continue to push.’
Sharing Memories Group are now keen to get more members before they relaunch their sessions in September (the group runs in term time). ‘The more we have, the easier it is to get more funding for projects,’ Viv explains. ‘A lot of members come through via referrals (often friends telling others) but social prescribing is also becoming more common with GPs. You can form strong bonds and friendships with us because you come week in, week out over a long period of time. Some members have been in our group for over 15 years. If you don’t have transport access, we’re happy to arrange a taxi. I’ll call every member every Wednesday to check in on them and arrange whatever it is they need. We also sometimes hold open days where you can come along and meet other members to get to know them.’