Hammersmith Reflections – Why we need art

Guest blog entry by Nora Laraki

 

Most of you know me as the Event and Project Coordinator of Hammersmith United Charities, the first point of contact when walking through our doors in Sycamore Gardens. But since 2017 I have also dedicated my time to do a PhD and dive with this research project deeper into the art world. A big part of my research is looking at the reason on why so many institutes, companies, hospitals and charities engage with art even though they are not connected to art in their day to day business and how they use art for the benefit of their residents, their staff and employees, their visitors and patients.

In this blog I will explain three good reasons why we need art at Hammersmith United Charities, how it benefits us and how we have been successfully implementing art into our celebrations of the 400th anniversary.

 

  1. Art brings people together! – The Enigma Lunches

Art has always been a medium to express ideas, to share information and to communicate to one another. As art exists in many forms in every community, every culture and every country it often offers a way to connect beyond the differences of age, culture, ethnicity and language. When hosting our Enigma lunches, we are trying to use art exactly as that; a medium to bring different communities together and create a mutual understanding. We invited musicians to play traditional music to the lunches and asked our guests to tell us about their favourite poetry. People who would otherwise never meet or may be shy to communicate had a common experience and easily got into conversations talking about something they are passionate about.The Enigma lunches originally emerged from fellow PhD student, Carolyn Defrin’s research.  She has been working with us for the last three years to better understand the value and impact of artistic activity and strategy and the lunches developed from focus groups she led around food, designed specifically to address community issues across a range of communities. Our community programs director, Melanie Nock was inspired by Alan Turing’s methods for cracking the WWII ‘enigma code’- through casual conversation with secretaries. So it is from these two landscapes that we wanted to test what regular, casual gatherings between different communities might provoke.
For the cover of the publication “The Irish in Exile – Stories of Emigration” we chose together with the Irish Centre a work of art by Irish artist Bernard Canavan. Canavan, who himself came to England in 1959 deals in his paintings with Irish emigration capturing the pain of Irish women and men leaving home for an unknown destination for the first time.

 

  1. Art is healthy! – The Residents arts exhibition

In the last decades studies on the subject of art and health have been growing an understanding of the significant impact art can have on health and wellbeing as well as preventing illness. Art in healthcare is proven to reduce levels of sickness, anxiety and stress which is why it is often hung in hospitals and health institutions.[1] Professor Semir Zeki, a neurobiologist at the University College London, discovered that simply the act of viewing art gives pleasure, much like falling in love. Being surrounded by art increases critical thinking, empathy and tolerance towards different people.[2] So not only being creative yourself but also surrounding yourself with art has a significant positive impact on wellbeing.

At John Betts House and Sycamore House we have a number of visual artists among our residents. This year, we decided to participate at the H&F Arts Fest with an exhibition of paintings entirely made by our residents. The works of art are as different as the artists and vary from detailed embroidery to big oil on canvas paintings. Bryan, one of our artists, explains to me: “I find painting very relaxing, it takes you away from everyday things. I have art class on Fridays and walking through the park on the way there you always see lovely things. Even a petal, a leaf or something like that, it can inspire you to create something – I quite enjoy that.”

Exhibiting the paintings and honouring the artists gave everyone a sense of pride and positivity towards the different abilities of our residents and also offered other residents and of course the public to visit the exhibition and surround themselves with art. Creating art engages both – the body and the mind and with that stimulates not only the artists but also the ones who get to see the art!

 

  1. Art tells our story! – John King’s Portrait and the Mosaics

Art is a reflection of our society, a history lesson and a preservation of culture all in one. The art that we create and that we display tells a story about who Hammersmith United Charities is now but also communicates the charities long history of 400 years. For the Christmas Card 2017 we wanted to honour one of our founders, Bishop John King, by commissioning a redrawing of his portrait. Together with the artist Matthew Cook we discussed that we wanted to step away from the very historical way of portraying John King and bring more live to him as a person and philanthropist in a contemporary picture. The finished illustration combines the charities long history with our world today and was after the initial Christmas card re-used to decorate our anniversary’s cake at the Grand Party.

Our residents, together with local primary school children and Design Education, engaged this year themselves in telling the stories of our two sheltered housing schemes in two beautifully crafted mosaics that show the gardens of Sycamore House and John Betts house. The mosaics were unveiled at the Grand Party and now found their permanent home in each of our housing schemes. The mosaics themselves express better than any mission statement, the shared story of our residents, our sheltered housing our gardens and our community.

 

For me, personally, it has been great to be involved in all these very creative and rewarding projects with so many artists involved. As the daughter of two artists I learned very early in life that art is a part of who we all are individually and at the same time the best medium to connect us to the people around us. I hope that with the anniversary year ending we have many more interesting art related projects to come!

 

 

 

 

[1] Stuckey, H. L., & Nobel, J. (2010). The connection between art, healing, and public health: A review of current literature. American journal of public health, 100(2), 254-263.

[2] Zeki, S. (2001). Artistic creativity and the brain. Science, 293(5527), 51-52.

Hammersmith United Charities Response to Coronavirus (COVID-19)

In line with Government advice, Hammersmith United Charities has invoked our Business Continuity Plan and implemented a new operating model focussed on keeping the residents of our Almshouses, our team, contractors and partners safe and well during the Coronavirus pandemic. (more…)

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National Compost Week

15 - 21 March 2021

Composting is the recycling of plant and food waste material into decayed organic matter. This can then be used in various forms in the garden and when applied, enriches the soil and plant health.

This week a layer of garden compost has been added to the allotment plots at John Betts House garden, in preparation for the growing season ahead. This ties in with National Compost Week, a good opportunity to remind ourselves of the many benefits of using compost in our gardens. Please see some key tips below for reasons to compost in your garden:

  • The organic matter in compost is a source of food for the organisms in the soil.
  • The organic matter in compost opens up the soil, creating bigger gaps for air and water to move around – this is good for soil structure.
  • As the organic matter decomposes, it releases nutrients into the soil.
  • Adding a layer of mulch to beds, borders and allotments suppresses annual weeds and weakens perennial weeds.
  • Composting is an environmentally friendly process using organic materials.

Composting is recommended for most sized gardens, and can be done in a number of ways to accommodate the size of the garden. We highly recommend this gardening activity and have put together a list of websites that provide useful further information on how to compost:


Find out more about our sheltered housing

With award-winning communal gardens, our friendly and affordable sheltered housing helps residents live independently for as long as possible.

We have flats available now for older people from Hammersmith. Talk to us on 020 8600 0650 / 07733 842 574, email info@hamunitedcharities.com or read more here.

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Welcome to our latest newsletter

Welcome to the Spring edition of the Hammersmith United Charities newsletter - read on for some good stories from the heart of Hammersmith.

You’ll find out about the extraordinary work being done by the community organisations we’re funding; meet the people who live in our almshouses; and learn about the action we’re taking to create change in our community.

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Fundraising for our community

How you can support campaigns for local people in need, from our fundraising partner United in Hammersmith & Fulham

Tech4Kids in H&F: Finding laptops for 1,500 children

1,500 pupils in our borough have been identified as being in urgent need of computers or internet connectivity at home. United in Hammersmith & Fulham has partnered with Hammersmith & Fulham Council and local group Ready Tech Go to launch an ambitious appeal to get every one of them connected.

Whilst the coronavirus crisis has highlighted that many children and young people have been unable to participate in online schooling during periods of lockdown or isolation, they are also less likely to be able to catch up with missed lessons or to complete homework in ordinary times. It also means they are highly unlikely to develop the vital digital skills needed to prosper in later work and life.

We’re aiming to get 1,500 laptops and 500 data SIM card for internet access so all local children have a chance to thrive digitally. You or your organisation can give any amount today:

  • £1500 can ensure 10 of a school’s most disadvantaged pupils do not lose out on digital skills
  • £150 can get a quality laptop to a young person in need of catching up with classes and for homework
  • £20 can get an essential data sim card to a child struggling with internet access
Have any unused tech your organisation would like to donate?

We are also working with Ready Tech Go who collect, wipe, and share old laptops and tablet PCs to get them to Tech4Kids pupils that have been identified as in urgent need. If you are an individual or local company with spare quality digital devices, please contact team@unitedhf.org

Find out more about the laptop campaign

Pedal Back Cycling: Looking for referrals – free refurbished bikes available

The pandemic has made bikes more vital than ever. Many people can’t afford to reach places of employment or safely get to interviews. Or they might be finding it hard to motivate themselves to access outside spaces to boost their mental health and wellbeing. That is why we have partnered with Pedal Back Cycling, to offer professionally refurbished bikes to those in need.

If you are from a local community group working with those on low incomes, you can refer adults including but not limited to:

  • Key workers
  • Care staff
  • Refugees
  • Delivery cyclists
  • Those out of employment

We only accept referrals from non-profit groups working in the borough, and not from individuals.

Find out more about Pedal Back Cycling  

Winter Covid Appeal: Raising money to support the community

Many people still need support during the Covid-19 pandemic, including those going through mental health crises, suffering from loneliness and isolation, and at-risk children in need of educational support.

United in Hammersmith in Fulham has launched the H&F Winter Covid Appeal, in partnership with Hammersmith & Fulham Council, to continue to enable local individuals, businesses and foundations across the borough to support those most in need. 100% of funds raised will be donated to groups working with local people who face risk because of coronavirus this winter.

Donate to the Winter Covid Appeal

(more…)

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January 2021 grants

We gave £120,000 to 18 local organisations in January 2021.

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