Addressing the wellbeing needs of the community through arts
No one can resist opening a handwritten envelope before opening any other mail. Handwritten letters inspire curiosity and evoke nostalgia. This intergenerational arts and wellbeing participatory project, funded by Arts Council England, addresses the wellbeing needs of the SE9 community through arts. We worked with young people and older citizens encouraging them to exchange letters. These letters soon became a springboard of ideas for young people to get inspired and create their own shadow puppetry stories. For Eltham Arts, this project was an experiment to understand the challenges of devising and delivering a complete digital participatory community arts project. We battled through the challenges and relentlessly revisited our creative offer to adopt the given circumstances of this pandemic. We made new collaborations, learnt new skills and found new ways to connect the community. We are thankful to our partners and to all those involved for being patient, resilient and making every possible effort to keep these connection alive. We are very proud to present the final outcome, a short film about the letter writing that inspired the shadow puppetry stories.
Listen to our PODCAST!
We’re excited about our latest venture to connect with people via monthly podcasts . These were created in collaboration with Community Bridges to reach the wider community. These podcasts gives an insight into the project journey and reflects on the challenges of delivering a complete digital participatory project.
In conversation – Geoffrey Valentine from Community Bridges with our project manager Pragya Kumar and lead artist Shermaine Slocombe
In conversation – Pragya Kumar with participant Dave Kenningham
In conversation – Pragya Kumar with teachers from Wyborne Primary School
In conversation – Filmmaker Marc and Vicky Jones from Haltwhistle Film Project
In conversation – Pragya Kumar with Eltham Library Manager Miriam Storey
Our journey started in October 2020 …
This well-being focused project will engage groups of primary school children, 50+ participants and senior citizens with life experience in SE9 to initiate a dialogue through letter writing to up-skill participants in communication, inspire interaction and promote positive relationships. Through workshops led by our professional artists and facilitators, letters exchanged between the two generations will inspire shadow puppetry and storytelling to visualize their understanding of the content of the letters & support their representation of ideas.
Participants will be encouraged to develop empathy and understanding through reading about other people’s experiences and feelings. Many people’s lives are busy and full of distractions from the internet. Handwriting a letter is a deliberate rejection of electronic messaging and requires our full attention and patience. Letters are tangible objects that can communicate more considered expressions of our thoughts and yet writing and receiving handwritten letters has become a rarity.
Creative practitioners will facilitate online letter writing sessions in primary schools to aid literacy, inspire interaction and to promote a sense of identity and locality. They will also engage with senior citizens online to discuss themes of letter writing and inspirations to create characters for shadow puppetry stories.
The project is inviting 50+ participants and young children (4-10 years) to be a part of this creative process. We would like to recruit participants with or without any digital access. The creative offer is open to all young children and 50+ participants in the SE9 and for those who may have links to the area.
Our practitioners will work together with teachers, children and 50+ participants to evoke, inspire, imagine and create stories through letter writing.
2nd Nov – 11th Dec 2020 – Digital workshops with primary schools
The letters received from our older members will inspire the children in primary schools to create their shadow puppetry stories. These will be edited by Haltwhistle Film Project and turned into an animation/film.
Given the current situation, we are only able to deliver online workshops in three classes in primary schools. However, we would like more schools in the SE9 area to participate in this project. Therefore, our creative practitioners have put together an extensive toolkit for teachers which will enable them to deliver the project with ease. So, if you are a primary school in the area who would like to participate, then download the letter writing kit below. If you need more help, please do get in touch with us at info.elthamrts.org
4th Nov 2020 – Support session for primary school teachers
We are offering one online support session for the teachers on 4th Nov 2020 where we will discuss our letter writing and shadow puppetry toolkits.
6th Nov 2020– Letter writing discussion for 50+ participants
A Zoom catch up with our creative practitioners to discuss letter writing themes and create content which will contribute to the shadow puppetry story writing in primary schools.
1th – 30th Nov 2020– Open invitation to SE9 community for letter writing
We are inviting all young people (5-10 years) and 50+ participants in the SE9 and those who have links with the area to take part in this project. Scroll down to find tips and ideas about what you can include in your letter . You can write and send us a letter through –
An email at firstname.lastname@example.org
By post at Eltham Library, Archery Rd, Eltham, London SE9 1HA
Post it physically into “Ted” – the hungry letterbox in the library!
Here are some letters that we have received from the older and younger members of the community. More letters will be added each week as we receive them.
Letter writing guidance
Tuesdays 1st Dec and 8th Dec & 15th Dec 2021 – Letter reading days for our 50+ participants
We have collaborated with our wonderful Eltham Library to ensure we can reach out to more people in our community. We are hosting three telephonic letter reading days for our 50+ participants. These sessions are for those who may not have any digital access. Our fantastic library staff will read a letter over the phone from the selection of letters for that day. Each week we will include new set of letters to read. All you have to do is call the library between 12 – 3pm on any of the above dates and a library staff member will read the letter to you over the phone! You can also request the letter to be sent to you by post. So, if you know someone who is over 50, do not have any digital access and might be interested in listening to a letter written by a young person, then please tell them about these workshops.
Eltham Library Reading day – List of letters for 8th Dec 2020
Letters from the older members
Click the letter to download
Letters from younger members
Click the letter to zoom
Responses from the older members
Our creative practitioners are now working on the final outcome. They are collating the content created in the online workshops. We aim to produce a short film which will be available to view on various Eltham Arts digital platforms. Here are few stills of the shadow puppetry created by children in response to the letters.
We are also working on creating a podcast about the letters and the stories. Watch out this space. More details to follow.
All the letters will be archived in Eltham library and will be available for all members of the community to read.
Meet our Creative team on this project
Pragya Kumar – Pragya is our Project Manager of this project. She will also co-facilitate workshops with our other practitioners. She is a visual artist with more than 10 years’ experience in participatory and community arts. She has been associated with Eltham Arts for the past six years and have successfully delivered projects to connect the community, increase social engagement and provide opportunities for self-expression. Read more …
Shermaine Slocombe – Shermaine is our Lead Practitioner on this project. She is a multi-disciplinary participatory artist and educator, experienced in engaging young people in ambitious creative learning projects. Read more …
Diana Jones – Diana is our Lead Artist on this project. After completing a degree in Fine Art in Sunderland, Di Jones moved to London and embarked on a freelance career in community and celebratory arts which took her the length and breadth of Britain. Read more ….
Vicky and Marc from Haltwhistle Film Project – Vicky and Marc will collate the final digital outcome for the project. Haltwhistle Film Project (HFP) has been established for over 20 years. Central to all their work is the voice of participants. They work in film and animation, and other art forms, across many sectors. They also established Film Able 12 years ago, a film production company, run by and for people with learning disabilities. Read More …