Art workshops inspire city young people to visit museums


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Young people in art workshop While groups of extremely loud and over-excited teenage foreign students bounce off each other with their huge rucksacks outside the Royal Pavilion every day, it seems the people of Brighton and Hove can tend to take their cultural heritage for granted.

As we rush about our lives, it’s easy to use the Pavilion Gardens as a shortcut to that lovely vintage shop or ignore the Pavilion on the way to the beach. You may pass the Booth every day on the bus, promise you’re going to visit and then never do.  I was the same, living near Preston Manor for years but never visiting.

Much of the work behind the scenes at the Royal Pavilion and Museums is aimed at encouraging local people to come along and enjoy our museums and very own palace. After all, if you’re a Council Tax payer – they belong to you.Young person making a collage in art workshop in Brighton Museum

There are hosts of workshops, activities and special events designed to attract people like you and I to join in.  At the moment, a group of Whitehawk residents are getting involved in an archaeological project, there’s a creative writing course for marginalised writers dealing with mental health issues, disability, health or social issues who meet at the museum to write, and a lot of people have been involved in the setting up of the WW1 War Stories exhibition.

During the summer, I caught up with a group of young people who were spending some of their holidays visiting each museum and creating art as a response to what they had seen. They tried photography at the Booth, visited Hove Museum, the Wizard’s Attic and then tried out toy-hacking – recreating new toys from old ones. In later sessions they experimented with animation and urban art inspired by WW1 posters at Preston Manor. Quite a few of them had never been to some of the museums such as the Booth, despite living in the city.

Completed collage created at an art workshop at Brighton Museum

Completed collage created at an art workshop at Brighton Museum

Run by Sarah Pain and Lindsey Smith the group was open to any young person but with a particular aim at attracting those not in education, training or employment.

Sarah explains that some of the young people are working towards their Arts Awards, which enables young people to develop as artists and art leaders and work towards a national qualification. The awards look good on a CV as they take a lot of hard work and commitment.

“We get a broad range of people who come along, a good mix of young people. We advertise through the youth service and it is aimed at young people from 14 to 19 or up to 25 with additional needs.”

On the day I met them the group met at the Royal Pavilion and were given a guided tour. They then went to the art room at the museum to create some weird and wonderful collages inspired by the over-the-top beauty of the palace.

Painted plastic lizards There are five young people working at a table festooned with glitter, flowers, feathers, paint and glue getting down to work on their ‘kitsch’ creations. They chat happily as they work and the atmosphere is lively and fun.

Jason, from Hangleton says; ”I come along to have some fun. The thing I’ve most enjoyed so far is the toy-hacking which we did at the Booth.“

Sabrina, from Whitehawk said;”I’ve been to all the open days so far. We went to the Booth to look at the taxidermy and insects which was nice though I got a bit freaked out. I love art, it’s one of my favourite subjects and something I enjoy doing at home. I’m working towards my Gold Arts award which I hope to finish in 18 months.

“I’ve learnt lots of different things and I think more young people should come along.”

During the final workshop the young people got involved in Remix the Museum with animator David Packer as part of the Digital Festival and produced some fantastic animations.

Caroline Sutton, Blogger in Residence

Museum Tales: Pockets


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The following piece was produced during the Creative Future Museum Tales course in the summer of 2014. The course, run in partnership with Brighton Museum and Art Gallery and funded by the Arts Council, enables marginalised writers to be inspired to write by museum artefacts and its surroundings.

The People She Carries by Fee Jay 

Jess pushed her hand deep into her coat pocket, caressing the spoon that lay there between her fingers, cold stainless steel on skin.  Her thumb, connected to the curve in its oval head, rested in the dip, comforting her.

Many years ago Jess’s mother had sat stirring her tea, the click clack of the spoon ricketing round its china edge Morse-coded messages within its rim. She’d lift the warmed spoon to her mouth, suck on it absent mindedly, leaving a greasy half heart-shaped ruby lipstick stain on it, the tiny lines of her lips now imprinted upon it. She’d stare at it for a second then run her tongue through the centre of the smudged red heart, breaking it in two before plunging the spoon back into the cup. Tap tap.

Jess now held the spoon in her pocket a little tighter. Jess’s father always sat in the same chair across from her mother. He’d hold his Zippo lighter in his hand. It was solid and weighty, as was he. He’d feel the reassuring sturdiness of it in his palm then expertly twist and flip it over and around his fingers, clicking every time it passed over his wedding finger before flicking the flame on and up to the roll-up that constantly hung from his lips. Jess often wondered if he had been born with a roll-up hanging from his pursed lips and if the chunk of the lighter against his wedding ring was somehow trying to communicate to his wife’s tip-tapping spoon. Click clack tip tap, a constant misunderstood cry for help bouncing between the two of them.

Jess squeezed her lighter that lay in her other pocket against her palm, the tight grip of pain reminding her she was still here.

Her father collected bottles, tiny doll’s house-like miniature whisky bottles that he stole dozens at a time from his job as a porter at a hotel. Jess often wondered how he got away with his constant petty theft. He had come home with them spilling out of his pockets, cascading across the sitting room floor trying to escape his grip, but there was no escape. He’d sit every night drinking them one after another till he’d fall into an angry slumber. Jess couldn’t remember a time his breath had not stunk of rollies and whisky, or maybe once when she was a baby he’d held her close, smiled down at her, but she thought that was probably a false memory that her brain had concocted to bear him.

Thousands of tiny whisky bottles now lined one wall of their house, arrayed in stripes of stacked patterns almost sculptural, almost beautiful when the light hit them. Almost but not quite. Jess dreamed of smashing them to the floor, watching them scatter and shatter, but she never dared do it. Instead she’d take refuge in her room so the bottles could not stare back at her, screaming loudly from their wall.

Jess held her tiny whisky bottle in her hand, clicking it against the lighter that was next to it in her pocket. They lay side by side. Click clack.

Her brother Sam was three years younger than her, but smart, so smart he would lie quietly on the floor, always quiet, always reading some book or other.  The only time he had made a noise was when he’d cough, hacking up his lung fluid, mother rushing for a bowl for him to spit it in. He had many health problems, many medicines all lined up. Her mother called them his little soldiers. And he had diabetes so a constant round of sugar checks and insulin needles, his little, sharp, shiny soldiers. He’d smirk at Jess, confront her: it’s OK, Sis, soldiers help me. Don’t be sad.

But it didn’t last. Jess woke up one morning to hear her mother screaming. Not your usual scream but a dark, guttural howl of pain that filled the hallway and shattered the home forever.

Then silence.

Jess wasn’t allowed to go into Sam’s room after that. They kept it as some weird shrine to her brother. Locked in time at eight years old, never to grow up, locked forever in that room. But sometimes when her parents were out she’d creep in and sit on Sam’s bed and cry big fat childish tears that filled her up and threatened to flood her face. She’d try to comfort herself, sit there with Sam’s favourite chocolate to share with him. A Kit Kat, she’d unwrap the crinkly silver foil and snap the bar into two sticks, one for her and one for Sam. She never ate Sam’s half but stored it in his bedside table. There were 50 rotting sticks of sweetness in the drawer by the time Jess left home.

Jess now crunched the Kit Kat wrapper in her pocket that lay huddling below the spoon in her pocket.

All those years ago the house had become still and stagnant, Mother and Father bitterer by the day, the whisky sculpture growing, Jess lost. Her mother became clumsy, oh so very clumsy she’d often walk into doors. Massive bruises covered her face, swollen panda blue black eyes, split, pale lips. She didn’t wear her ruby lipstick anymore.

And then it came. Jess’s last day at home forever, her father, spitting regrets, drunk and mean, walked into a door too that day: one black eye, one split lip, one broken nose, three broken fingers on her right hand, one on her left, her fingers still hurt in winter to this day. Jess clenched her fists together tightly in her pickets.

Jess stood now in front of the toilet cubicle, went in and clicked the lock shut, then rummaged through her pockets and precisely placed on top of the toilet cistern one spoon, a Zippo lighter, a miniature whisky bottle now filled with sterile water, a tiny Kit Kat foil wrapper and a crisp, clear syringe in a neat row. Her little soldiers.

Then she cooked up to go down.

Just another medical disaster in an overpopulated town.

Her pockets were now empty.



Museum Tales: My Museum Flower


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The following piece was produced during the Creative Future Museum Tales course in the summer of 2014. The course, run in partnership with Brighton Museum and Art Gallery and funded by the Arts Council, enables marginalised writers to be inspired to write by museum artefacts and its surroundings.

My Museum Flower by Amanda Geary

Stolen from a vase amongst several

central to each table in the museum café,

a white-petaled button-hole bloom.


Yellow middle radiating petticoat frills

and cut stalk moist from its dip in Brighton tap-water,

it’s now denim-crushed, pocket-hidden.


Later, I may pluck each gentle blade

for loves refused or given,

remove them like insect wings.


Or, between the pages of a book,

carefully place this one-of-a-crowd flower,

an artifact for preservation.



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