York charity New Visuality has been focusing on the potted history of Acomb. Acomb resident Herve Ishimwe Ntwali and Acomb born and bred Arran Leith have led 20 young people from the area in uncovering half remembered stories and bringing to life via digital intervention old icons. Says charity director Greg McGee, "While Acomb is now a ward within the City of York, the former village was mentioned in the Domesday Book. Our learners, all from Acomb, created art works which drew upon archived materials and historic local photographs to explore the history of the area." New Visuality is a charity which prides itself on thriving in the intersection between traditional skills, and ‘Acomb: Time Traveller’ continued this, with especial onus on large scale communal sketches. "One of our learners, Sonny, had the idea of creating 4 distinct cinema style for a different era in Acomb. That was a great idea. We’ve had Roman Emperors buried here, national Tudor rebellions against Henry VIII - the ‘Pilgrimage of Grace’ - started here, we’ve had a thriving cultural scene for decades. A lot of that’s down to the independent businesses and events such as ADAM Festival, but much of it is down to the creativity and generosity of the area’s young people."
To harness the energy of Acomb’s young artists, New Visuality stuck to their tried and tested Art Camp formula. Pacy art sessions, building on the blocks of communal, collaborative initial sketches, leading to digital intervention, with careful guidance from previous Art Camp attendees, or ‘Art Ambassadors’ as Greg calls them. "We were hugely grateful for Acomb Ward funding to get the project off the ground, and allowing it to reach as many people as possible. Herve Ishimwe Ntwali led with the photography and research, Arran Leith worked with the young people in designing the characters and posters, and the young people themselves established themselves at English Martyrs Church Hall and didn’t stop until illustrated Acomb’s famous characters. It was a solid week of creativity, specifically targeting local narratives."
[Acomb] has had a thriving cultural scene for decades. A lot of that's down to the independent businesses and events such as ADAM Festival, but much of it is down to the creativity and generosity of the area's young people."
Originally from Acomb, teacher assistant Arran Leith enjoyed mixing it up with new apps and some expert Lightroom tips. "Acomb is a very historic place and is often unfairly derided by people on the sidelines who don’t see the effort and positive spirit put into it. I thought if we got the young artists to come up with traditional sketches and then learn how to filter them through apps such as Grafitti Me!, Sketch Me!, and even experiment with Development Filters on Lightroom, it was a good way to balance out the heritage and unfair stereotypes with some cutting edge, innovative creativity." Herve meanwhile was just happy to take back to the sessions his photos and stories from exploring Acomb, "I know Acomb very well, but I looked with new eyes at the surroundings when I took the SLR camera out with me. I explored Acomb Green, St Stephen’s Church, the ‘Chill in the Community Cafe’. I talked to the business owners and took some great photos. I learned a lot, and it was good to be able to go back to the sessions and help create an Acomb that goes back a long way in the past and looks forward to the future." Greg is pleased that the project has galvanised so much interest in the area. "You start scratching the surface and the place becomes not only more attractive, it becomes a weekly habit to go and buy your meat, your veg, or to sit and relax with a coffee. We talked to Neil at Acorn Meats, the staff at Chill in the Community Cafe, and the Gateway Centre team. They love what they do, and they’re obviously aware of the heritage of the place. their stories helped spark the imagination of our young artists. But what is obvious too is their forward thinking energy. Heritage is great until that’s all you’ve got. Acomb is in fine fettle, and we’re honoured to have helped provide modern portrayals of what can be found if you look hard enough."
Artwork created during ‘Acomb:Time Traveller’ has been on display at Tower street gallery According to McGee and will be exhibited in locations around Acomb during this year’s ADAM (Acomb Dance Art Music) event, July 14th, 10pm - 2pm.New Visuality