Hammersmith Reflections – Why we need art

Guest blog entry by Nora Laraki

 

Most of you know me as the Administrator 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 Reflections – Our retiring Chairman, Mike Smith, reflects on 12 years as a trustee

It’s become a tradition at Hammersmith United Charities that retiring trustees are invited to share their reflections on their time at the charity at their final board meeting. (more…)

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Hammersmith Reflections – photojournalist Cinzia D’Ambrosi and her work for the local community

I am an independent award winning photojournalist, local resident, founder of the Photojournalism Hub. My passion and drive is to expose social justice issues through photo stories for these to be of leverage and/or of a conduit for action and change. Some of the projects I have been working on, have been exposing the plight of miners in illegal coal mines in China, the hidden homelessness in the UK with a particular focus on women and their children, police violence against refugees and asylum seekers in Europe. Through my career, I developed many collaborations with NGO’s and charities, including international campaigns with Amnesty International and Protection Approaches, Shelter in the UK. These have shaped the Photojournalism Hub’ aims. The value of connecting photojournalism to effective change and to promote photojournalism work is very important to me. Photojournalism exposes issues, raises awareness and importantly can bring about changes and recommendations in legislations, public opinion and indeed calls for action. The Photojournalism Hub is born out of these aspirations: it presents photo stories needed to be told and it has a programme that focuses on working together with communities and charities to find solutions, advocacy and exposure. Since its launch last November, the Photojournalism Hub has received an amazing support, interest and engagement from the wide public and local communities in our Talk Events, Photojournalism Nights, Open Forums and Workshops and from local organisations such as Imperial College, Hammersmith United Charities, White City Place, Petit Miracles, Stanhope, Elephant West, HFArts Fest, Re:Centre, Lido Foundation and London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham.

THE OPEN FORUMS – WORKING TOGETHER FOR SOLUTION MAKING

The Open Forums are open conversations with different communities. The idea is born from wanting to change the way we engage on social justice issues. Often, we assume that ‘we’ know what is happening to a community, instead of getting to know what is really happening. Conversations are just the first steps; a valuable way to share knowledge and in future deliver what is really needed. From the Open Forums, Photojournalism Hub creates a shareable resource content and further develops a photography based programme that addresses the issues being raised. Sometimes ideas, however beautiful, can just remain as such unless tried and tested. That the Open Forums are being well received is very important to me and I am grateful to Hammersmith United Charities for supporting them and trusting in their value in our communities.

PHOTOJOURNALISM NIGHTS, TALK EVENTS AND EXHIBITIONS

I am sharing below some keystone moments in photographs. The opening was marked by a meaningful talk by Andy Slaughter on the power of photojournalism. Since the launch, the Photojournalism Hub has presented talks on picturing community engagement with participatory photography and collaborative practices, on photojournalism today, and on domestic violence and masculinities. We have organised and presented the first Photojournalism Nights at the Elephant west gallery and we have been invited to be a partner of this year’s HF-Arts festival in which we presented a curated photography exhibition Marginal at Re:centre gallery. We deliver photography workshops at low costs and we are about to begin free photography workshops for Somali young people in collaboration with Lido Foundation and Petit Miracles.

Rob Pinney presenting his project ‘Calais, ma ville’
Ingrid Guyon discussing participatory photography at Picturing Community Engagement talk @ White City Place
Discussing photojournalism aims at Imperial College Talk event
A moment during a Photography Workshop @ Petit Miracles

It has been a milestone to present some of today’s courageous, committed photojournalism work in White City. Photojournalism deserves ample space as a form that engages, exposes and initiates actions for change. If you wish to get to know more about the Photojournalism Hub work, I would like to encourage you to sign up to our newsletter on www.photojournalismhub.org or follow us on social media: @PJ_Hub; #photojournalism_hub; Fb: Photojournalismhub

June 2019
Cinzia D’Ambrosi

 

 

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Grants Awarded May 2019

We are delighted to announce our new grantees for May 2019. We give grants to local organisations supporting local people and this year we have increased the total value of grants available to £400,000 to mark 400 years of supporting the people of Hammersmith. The next deadline for grant applications is 2 October 2019. If you’ve got a great idea then we’d love to hear from you at grants@hamunitedcharities.com

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We are looking for a Interim Head of Housing and Property!

Interim Head of Housing and Property

Salary: £40,000 – £45,000 (pro rata) depending on experience

Appointment Type: Fixed Term for 6 months

Hours: Part time, 30 hours per week

Start date: ASAP

About the role
We’re looking for an experienced Interim Head of Housing and Property to lead our Housing and Property Team. Responsibilities include overseeing the management of two sheltered housing schemes (Almshouses) containing 91 flats and a small investment property portfolio.  The team has an interesting and varied workload including promoting wellbeing, health and safety, welfare checks, emergency response, void management, safeguarding and property maintenance.

Please see job description here.

About you  
You will be managing our fantastic Housing and Property team and supporting them to deliver an excellent service to our residents.

The successful candidate for this role will be able to demonstrate a successful track record in a similar resident-focused role within a supported/sheltered housing environment for older people. You will have a good working knowledge of promoting independence and developing a lively and vibrant community, experience of ensuring regulatory requirements are met, and the skills to manage our properties. You will have excellent leadership skills with previous experience of managing teams and developing and delivering services to meet resident needs.

All candidates will be required to undertake a DBS Check.

How to Apply

Please complete the Application Form and send along with your CV to clerk@hamunitedcharities.com by noon of Monday 10th June. We anticipate that first interviews will be held during week commencing 17th June.

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