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.

Goodbye to Tim

We said Goodbye to our CEO Tim Hughes on the 8th November. We marked his transition into a life of unpaid work with a Tea Party.
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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. (more…)

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Hammersmith Reflections – Solutions for an Ageing Society

Guest blog by Geoff Hands, business mentor

“Solutions for an Ageing Society” is part of Hammersmith United Charities’ programme of Social Enterprise Grants. Under the direction of Melanie Nock, HUC’s Head of Community and Partnership, it provides funds to launch new business ideas created by budding local entrepreneurs to enhance the quality of life of older residents in the Borough.

As well as offering grants, Hammersmith United Charities also provides a Business Mentor to help each entrepreneur work up a business plan and to support the successful launch of each new business. Coming from a background of law and business, I have had the good fortune to be that Mentor since the programme started in the summer of 2017.

The entrepreneurs are inspiring people, sharing a common characteristic – a fervent and infectious passion for their cause. All except one of them have been women; some young, most of them of a mature age, all of them coming from a variety of ethnicities reflecting the great diversity of cultures to be found in the Borough.

Their business ideas have been just as diverse, but they have mostly shared the common themes of combatting loneliness and enhancing community cohesion. One entrprenuer’s aspiration was to be an Energy Specialist for the Indoor Environment, bringing her career skills in energy efficiency and sustainability to enhancing the indoor environment of residential homes and day centres for older people. Another woman has been working closely with her daughter to establish an elderly persons’ care-at-home business embodying the cultural mores of her community particularly the love of older people and respect for their wisdom and experience.

Cooking and creative arts are well known antidotes to loneliness and insecurity. One very talented young grantee’s solution for an ageing society was “to lift people out of loneliness using food to create a community that meets regularly to talk about health, diet and cooking”. It was her belief “that inspiring people to cook for friends and family is a way to regain self-confidence and that giving the lunch participants new recipes and ideas to try at home will hopefully be an incentive for them to host more social gatherings on their own”.

A Solutions for an Ageing Society grant has been supporting another extremely gifted award winner in successfully testing her business idea in the local community – in sheltered housing, churches and community halls. Her scheme is to run “hands-on professional fun and creative Art &Crafts workshops with a focus on Textile Art and Felt Making for the elderly, in a safe and supporting environment” expressly with a view to “to fighting isolation, improving health and well- being and making friends by stimulating the senses and challenging minds to learn new hands-on skills”. She and I are currently working together on ways to take her idea to a new level and to grow it into a fully-fledged sustainable social enterprise.

These grants also extend to seed-corn funding an award winner intent on breaking down the taboos that prevent men from certain cultures talking about – and doing something about – the incidence of prostate cancer.

A Social Enterprise Grant from the charity is supporting a new organisation whose mission is the relief of domestic violence in the Borough particularly against immigrant women not able to speak English in isolation imposed by their violent partners. It teaches these victims that domestic violence is not an accepted norm in society, finds them a sanctuary and embraces them in a community of women with shared experiences but now assertive and independent in their own chosen milieu.

And a final “hurrah” for the one man in the scheme – a Life Coach seeking to establish a sustainable business providing a programme of Personal Development Workshops for elderly people. He hopes to introduce a pioneering ingredient – “cross generational mentoring” to integrate different generations working together and supporting each other in motivational life skills.

It is a privilege to work with these compassionate and dedicated people. One of the entrepreneurs wrote recently: “I must tell you that the time I spent with you and Melanie really did restore my self-confidence which had been knocked after almost a year of unemployment. I will be forever grateful for the confidence and belief HUC gave to me during that dark time.” An unexpected accolade for Hammersmith United Charities from an unexpected, unintended but nonetheless very welcome beneficiary.

Hammersmith United Charities has funded this programme in partnership with Unltd and the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.

Geoffrey Hand
October 2018

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January Grants deadline

Apply for a grant by 7th January!

The next deadline to send your grant application will be the 7th January.

Find our application form and entry requirements here.

Contact Melanie Nock if you would like to talk to us about your idea or your application.

We look forward to receiving your application!

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