Garforth community artist looking to engage town in green projects as part of Leeds 2023 involvement

Community artist Penny Rowe has lived most of her life in Garforth, working in schools and supporting people doing creative things with the long-term goal of establishing a Garforth Arts Network.

By Alex Grant
Sunday, 3rd July 2022, 11:45 am

Her chance to engage with her wider community came when she saw adverts to be involved in LEEDS 2023.

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Penny was with the LEEDS 2023 team on Saturday afternoon (July 3) as their Roadshows programme, which is touring across all 33 wards of Leeds, reached Garforth Miners Welfare Hall where they spoke to local people about how they can get involved in the year of culture.

A Community Art Club enabled us to connect in a relaxed environment where we could share ideas and be creative. Picture: Leeds 2023.

When I first started to work on a project for LEEDS 2023, creating one of the ‘My World My City My Neighbourhood’ community projects earlier this year, my first thought was how I could involve a wide group of people from across Garforth.

I reached out to local groups and organisations as well as schools, inviting them to participate in something cultural that is all about their community, their Leeds.

The idea was simple… to ask, “who are you and why are you in Garforth?” By sharing our many and varied answers, we all get a better understanding of our community, so we can learn from each other; working together to promote and participate in a broader sense of community.

If we can share all our stories of Garforth, we can nurture a creative awareness across the community. I’ve also been looking at ways to integrate creativity with other projects already in the area, working with them to identify ways that we can creatively raise social awareness to support, for example, the local environment.

Penny was with the LEEDS 2023 team on Saturday afternoon (July 3) as their Roadshows programme, which is touring across all 33 wards of Leeds. Picture: Leeds 2023.

Through the ‘My World My City My Neighbourhood’ project I was able to host Garforth Community Art Club and it proved a great way of connecting ideas and community together through artistic means.

From our time together at Community Art Club we made pictures that could contribute to the design of a Green Space postcard.

We also used in the design, information from the Garforth Plan written by the Garforth Neighbourhood Planning Forum to promote the preservation and access to public green areas.

A Community Art Club enabled us to connect in a relaxed environment where we could share ideas and be creative.

This project enabled me to have conversations about co-creation with people from different community groups and organisations. Once we had talked and found common ground, we worked together to create something physical that communicated stories of living in Garforth.

We wanted to bring everything together and decided that we would unite everyone at a big sharing event where they can showcase their creations.

The result was a celebration of reasons for being in Garforth, of the people, ranging from photos showing the development of the landscape, train enthusiasts sharing their historic images, amateur artists sharing their artwork about their love for Stephen King Novels, ceramic pots made from local soil, and figurines of music icons to share one groups love of music.

In the evening we also had a music concert with performances by Garforth Ukulele Players and Garforth Community Choir.

In just offering this invitation to work together and create something, we started conversations about people and Garforth and how we could share this connection through artistic ways, with the hope of igniting a real creative spark which I hope will continue long into 2023 and beyond.