Light Up Your Lanterns

Light Up Your Lanterns

a series of workshops to create lanterns for a family and young people focussed lantern parade in Stacksteads plus a community celebration event with live music.

Aims and objectives: To increase local engagement with the arts in this area and to use this approach as a pilot for the development of a larger similar activity across a wider area the following year.  

Funding sources: Grant from Arts Council England £4780.00.  Stacksteads Countryside Park Group £425.00.  Grant from Greenvale Homes £1000.00.  Plus volunteer support in kind.  

Timescale and delivery dates: 01/08/2015 – 27/11/2015.  The lantern parade was held on 24/11/2015.

Context:  In conjunction with local artists and Stacksteads Countryside Park Group (SCPG), Light Up Your Lanterns was devised to develop arts engagement in Stacksteads, aware of residents wish to have a lantern parade. Local people did not see this as an ‘arts project’ just something they wanted to do.

The project took place in Stacksteads in Rossendale, a relatively deprived area with low engagement in the arts.  in 2013 Stacksteads ranked 6756 on the IMD scale with 17% of year 6 children classed as obese and male life expectancy 74.  8% of people are long term sick / disabled and 13% describe themselves with a limiting long term disability.

Rossendale Council is a small district council, keen to work with partners to increase arts engagement despite 50% cuts in central government funding across the last 5 years, and more general cuts to voluntary sector grants.

Location and setting: Workshops took place in local community venues followed by a lantern parade through the local area.

Description of the arts activity

Artistic approach and medium: Series of lantern making inter-generational workshops for local people culminating in a lantern parade / lantern lit walk and celebration event with live local musicians.   People were able to participate in the workshops to design and make lanterns for the parade, come to the parade, attend the celebration, promote the activity, watch the film later and organise the exhibition afterwards.  

A local community artist led, organised and ran the workshops and managed the parade with another artist and local volunteers.  
The artist runs an arts night in Rossendale for teenagers and has a big community following.  Her work in the community is greatly valued, highly imaginative and engaging.  The artists approached the lantern parade in a highly creative way using a mixture of storytelling and making to spark imaginations and give confidence to participants whatever the age or technical ability.  They interweaved in local folklore to enable participants to take ownership and fly with their own ideas.

Participant engagement: 500 people from the local community took part, of all ages. SCPG, a local community group, have done a huge amount of work to increase community involvement in Stacksteads. The workshops and parade were filmed by a local community enterprise as part of the ongoing evaluation, thereby increasing project involvement.  

Details of the project participants

Target population:  The project targeted Stacksteads residents.  Through established links with local schools, nurseries, youth groups, community groups and a mental health support group the project attracted intergenerational and diverse participation.  

Method of recruitment and / referral: Three main approaches – predominantly word of mouth accompanied by flyers and posters, and also social media, with some coverage in local press.  

Project management

Roles and responsibilities: Project managed by SCPG who organised the non-arts side of the project and provided volunteers with the artist leading the workshops and parade.  Rossendale Borough Council facilitated by managing, where necessary, the admin and financial aspects of the project.

Quality assurance: Working with professional artists ensured a high quality artistic input.  Rossendale Council has successfully managed a number of similar projects with an art or community focus and is used to handling large amounts of funding.

Costs to participants: Free

Ethics and consent: Participants took part on a voluntary basis

Evaluation methods and findings

Learning and / or outcomes: Evaluation was ongoing through the project and used feedback from participants alongside qualitative comments gathered orally, on film, on mobile, and on paper to indicate feelings before and after, worries, likes, dislikes, barriers and surprises.  

7 workshops were held in various venues and the artists incorporated lantern making into their annual summer holiday arts / theatre week and their established sessions with young people.  201 people took part in the workshops, 180 of whom were new participants in an arts workshop.  180 lanterns were created. The project was the first experience of an arts project for most participants.  22 volunteers were involved in supporting the project.

Ultimately 500 people attended workshops, spent time in artists’ studios, realised the extent of local arts activity, made their own lanterns, and spectacularly created an arts event – the lantern parade along the banks of the Irwell – which utterly transformed how people saw their local neighbourhood.  There was an overwhelming sense of community achievement, joy and perhaps shock at seeing Stacksteads quite literally ‘in a new light’.  

A comments book was made available at each workshop and comments were posted on the SCPG Facebook page.  These were overwhelmingly positive.  Examples included:    

Thank you for a lovely and creative afternoon amongst fab people. See you at the parade

I liked the willow because they were bendy and all the owls were great. Thank you

Excellent workshop ! Amazing opportunity to spend time with my daughter without arguments !

I didn't think I'd be making a fish lantern today  - it was brilliant !

Lilly May has now made a friend for life!

Residents’ comments, the film, photographs and participation rates show that there was an overwhelming increase in local engagement with the arts and improved wellbeing outcomes.  Contracting local artists who are deeply embedded in the local community was a fundamental part of this engagement as was the enthusiasm and local connections of SCPG and residents’ respect for the Group.   
The project contributed to our knowledge of community based approaches to arts development and engagement, which we are building on with the 2016 project Light Up The Valley.

Part of our learning from the Lantern pilot was the positive impact on health and wellbeing and we are therefore developing our arts engagement programme for 2017/18 in coordination with other projects such as Living Well Living Better, a pilot project funded by DCLG to tackle social isolation and loneliness amongst adults in Rossendale using a community asset based approach.

Supported using public funding by the Arts Council England