Before my internship, I was studying English Literature at The University of Sheffield, graduating this summer and it was there where I first learned about Ignite. The Students’ Union offered internships in the third sector and I was (and still am) thrilled to be offered a place here. Ignite is a community arts charity than aims to bring creativity to all participants, from 3 years old to 103! Being a student in Sheffield, I hadn’t had much opportunity to explore the community and give something back to this wonderful city and everyone that makes it so great, and this is something I have definitely been able to do at Ignite.
Working with local artists is something new that I hadn’t previously experienced before starting at Ignite. All artists are local to the Sheffield area and are free to deliver each session as they wish. For me, even if I am attending the same theme of workshops multiple times, there is always a slightly new twist on the activities but I can guarantee all participants enjoy the session and have the chance to meet new people. Despite all the new faces and names I’ve learned during my internship, every person has made me feel welcome and taken the time to explain how Ignite runs and answer any queries I have had during my time, something that hasn’t always happened in my previous jobs.
My time at Ignite has seen how community arts projects impact peoples’ lives. My very first event outside of the office took place at Grange Crescent Care Home, who welcomed 10 pre-school children to get arty with 10 of the care home’s residents. The main task of the day was for the children to create a portrait of one of the residents and vice versa. One of the carers at the home commented that one of the residents had never smiled so much as she was during the session. She also said that some of the older people don’t wish to take part, but are more than happy to sit and watch what is going on around them. This goes to show that simply being around creative arts can lead to an increase in mood and happiness.
Most of the sessions I attended were aimed at primary school children and happened in local libraries across the city. The sessions, devised by local artists, also introduced children to new materials. In a space globe workshop at Woodseats library the children were introduced to ‘Shrinkles’: plastic sheets that when heated, shrink into the perfect size for fitting into space globes. While the children enjoyed creating their own aliens and even a transformer for the globes, the parents expressed interest in purchasing their own shrinkle kits to carry on crafting at home.
At another space themed workshop, in partnership with the libraries’ reading challenge, one of the parents told me and the artist that if the session had a participation cost, she would not have been able to book a place for her daughter to attend. For her, as a single parent, the session meant that, whilst her child was occupied and having fun for a couple of hours, she had a little bit of time for herself. The thought that the workshops aimed at children can also benefit parents is something that I hadn’t previously considered before attending the sessions. Looking back, I can see that it is an opportunity for parents to meet and relax whilst their child is able to learn and meet other children in a stimulating environment outside school.
I learnt that the sessions in the libraries were not the only events that children could get involved in as both the Children’s University and Ignite Imaginations run events throughout the year. The Children’s University offers credits for each hour spent in approved extra-curricular activities, such as the Festival of Fun events that Ignite were part of. Ignite Imaginations also carry on their work in libraries in recurring events like Everyday Stories, which encourages children to celebrate their individuality through creativity. Everyday Stories includes events such as scrapbook journaling and creating tote bags which feature the children’s superhero alter egos.
The variety of events offered by Ignite Imaginations over the summer makes a huge impact to the lives of those who attend. During the long school holidays the events maintain a child’s stimulation whilst allowing parents a bit of a breather, easing the burden of expensive childcare. The recurring theme in all of the sessions is that despite them being creative, there is no requirement to have a high creative ability. The most important part of the events is that everyone gives it a go and enjoys the process of learning new skills and expressing themselves through art.
Ignite has taught me how much an arts charity can contribute to a bustling city like Sheffield. In the face of ever increasing government cuts, their work is fundamental to ensuring that every person who attends their events increases in confidence, has the opportunity to meet new people and take a break from day to day life. Ignite has grown my skills as a confident communicator, something I am incredibly thankful for. As from September I will be studying for a PGCE in secondary English, so the communication and negotiation side of this role will set me in good stead for that, I hope!
I’d like to end by saying a huge thank you to everyone at Ignite, in the office and out in the city, for making me feel so welcome and giving me this unique opportunity to explore the third sector and the creative arts, something I would not have had the chance to do otherwise.