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One Northern Devon Social Prescribing Project E181BBC8-E19B-462D-8454-F4328D2FA2A7_4_5005_c Full view

One Northern Devon Social Prescribing Project

The One Northern Devon project used creative interventions to support the health and wellbeing of 120 people across four priority groups in Braunton, South Molton, Torrington and Bideford. The project has now released a report, Growing health, connection and meaning in Northern Devon, on its work and impacts.

Significant Seams is pleased to have been part of the study via the commissioned work of Catherine West with a group in Bideford.  The report features quotes from participants we worked with, as well as photographs from our sessions. 

In the lead commission, Catherine West of Significant Seams worked with a group of participants from Bideford North Devon, cultural producer Claire Gulliver as well as photographer Jim Wileman and videographer Gillian Taylor. Going with the Flow is a co-created artwork that emerged from the collaborations.  The artwork is an installation featuring a photo essay, video, and wall-hanging.  The wallhanging was co-created by Catherine West,  Lucy Barnes, Jean Chandler, Amy Cookson, Claire Gulliver, Gillie Jackson, Anne Kendall, Hazel Millard, & Maureen. It is currently on exhibition at TTVS in Bideford.

The wallhanging  includes a specifically selected large ‘wibbly wobbly’ branch.  Participants actively decided a) they wanted the textile piece to hang from something collected from nature at least 6 foot long and b) when presented with a choice of 5, collected by the lead artist from her garden, had a conversation and unanimously selected the one featured in the artwork. Further, they found inspiration from it. Discussions, filled with impassioned moments and laughter, led to the naming of the pole: “the wibbly wobbly branch.’

These discussions also led to the final shape of the textile work. Participants had already been ‘auditioning’ ways of laying out the patches. Initial thoughts had been to create a dark to light spectrum with the patches, both top to bottom and left top right. However, participants were agreed that the blue patches had a hopeful and mesmorising quality, evocative to them of water amidst the wood of the pole and the flowers represented in flower pounded patches. 

Participants also named a concern about ‘false hope,’ and potential sense of failure in the realm of mental health recovery. In reality, they shared, that happiness and dark days ebb and flow when one has experience of mental ill health or loneliness. The trick is remembering the better days in the dark ones. It also includes knowing what you perceive in others is not the full picture – just as they may feel darkness at the edges of their moments of happiness, they may also feel colour and beauty shining through the blacker moments. Allowing for dimension, and dark and light interplaying, would be important to the final design.

Patchwork was never in question by participants, though it was by the lead artist. Participants responded well to the sense of solidarity patchwork embodied. It gave space for a bit more bravery in the sharing. It gave grace for an element they weren’t sufficiently enthralled with to consider an artwork for their walls at home. In fact, in the final production stage, participants drove a decision to unpick a number of pieces that had been made into their own wallhangings, in order for them to instead be added to ‘Going with the Flow.’ 

Nonetheless, participants revealed both doubts and elation as the pieces were stitched together. They loved the oneness and connectedness patching created. Though their commentaries also revealed their uncertainties. There was nervousness about whether the idea they had settled on would be apparent to the eventual audiences.

The group agreed they wanted a river of blue running through the piece. The overall shape should echo the arch of the wibbly-wobbly branch. The edges should end where they ended. Life is not neat and tidy, it was right that their artwork had uncertain edges. The banks of the waterway would be dark. The water, nature, is a powerful force to cut a path through the darkness, enabling a  brightening, an ability to see the flowers, filigree and broader details of the world around. A patchwork of connections help one to Go with the Flow.

The piece is installed on brackets enabling it to hang free of the wall. The co-creators discussed Tibetan prayer flags and prayer wheels when they were designing it. They wanted air behind it. They did not want it flat against a wall. They wanted it to ‘flow’ if it is rustled by a breeze, or people walking past.


Written by significantseams

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