York based charity New Visuality is retelling the hidden stories of the city through the medium of comics and illuminations.
Since February 2017, charity director Greg McGee has staged art workshops in York’s Acomb, Westfield and Holgate areas in part, says Greg, to "challenge the stereotype of the areas as much as the young people who live there." ‘Our Story: Comics & Gaming’, funded by York’s Youth Development Team, engaged with 40 young people from primarily the West of York to shake up preconceptions. “We love Acomb”, says Greg, “and there’s a real energy to be found in those parts to address other people’s opinions of the area. There may be economic difficulties, but there’s a buzz there, and a warm creativity that starts in the schools – we collaborated very successfully with Westfield Primary School and Our Lady Queen of Martyrs School who both do such wonderful work – and then it’s a case of riding the cultural waves caused by communal events such as ADAM.”
ADAM (Acomb Dance Art Music) provided a platform for New Visuality for their young participants to showcase their artwork and organise into enterprise to sell their work, such as posters, iPhone covers and 3D printed figures. ADAM founder and organiser Keith Myers was delighted with the involvement of Acomb’s budding artists who took over Lidgett Church for a weekend last June: “The energy brought by the young people helped make ADAM 2017 the success it was. ‘Our Story’ was a well thought out project, and we’re looking forward to working with kits legacy this year.”
As the project evolved there emerged amongst the artists new assistants who became confident enough to not only share their skills in the sessions themselves but who could visit Acomb and Westfield schools. Passing on the baton of skills is a crucial component of New Visuality’s remit. “The best way to consolidate a learning curve is to go out and teach it,” says Greg. "We were humbled by the generosity of a lot of our learners. The names read like a list of ones to watch in the creative industries! Jessie Meyer, Ella Young, Sonny Maughan, all of them took their roles of teaching other students really seriously.
Sonny even went on to win a ‘Rising Star’ at last year’s Lord Mayor of York Awards. He did his family proud, and he did his school, Our Lady Queen on Martyrs, proud.” Says Sonny’s mum Zoe, “The project gave a real boost to Sonny. Not only did he learn new creative skills, but he enjoyed getting stuck into teaching other, younger children, and taking the responsibility of tidying up afterwards." Michele Wall, head teacher of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, the school which Sonny attends, is equally supportive of the provided by the project, “The project was an opportunity for a number of our pupils to go to creative sessions that, due to certain realities, they would otherwise not attend. On every level, it is fabulous opportunity. The children talk about it, and bring their artwork into school. They had a great time.”
‘Our Story’ has, then, been a success for creativity, confidence and CVs. Chair of New Visuality Alaa Jasim points to the sustainability of the project: “Funding for this kind of project has to go further than harnessing a finite amount of outcomes, and then we all simply move on. These young artists have become living vindication of how influential carefully calibrated creative sessions can be. That’s why we’re so grateful for the funding to get the project up and running, and giving it the self-sufficient strength for it to run of its own accord.”New Visuality on Twitter