More than the sum of its parts: reflections on working for Ignite Imaginations, by Rosie Carnall, CEO (Maternity Cover)
Everything about my time working with Ignite Imaginations has been more than a job – it’s been 13 months of creative adventures, new experiences and lots and lots of learning. And as I couldn’t find the right title for a blog post about how I got to grips with the organisation’s HR policies and finance systems, instead I’m reflecting on some of the unique experiences I’ve had as CEO (maternity cover).
One of the first things I was involved in was our project in partnership with Adullam Housing. This offered workshops for adults with mental health issues and culminated with an exhibition in the Sheffield Winter Gardens, where participants showed their artwork, exploring what it means to have a home. Witnessing how much the experience meant to those taking part was a powerful introduction to what creativity can offer to individuals and the skill of the artist facilitator in enabling this process.
Later in the year we geared up to the Christmas event that is just one part of our work with Age Better in Sheffield. Through working in partnership with this programme, I’ve learned a lot about all the things we can do to reduce social isolation for older people. And then on the 20th of December I learned how long it takes a team of 6 youngish to middling ones to wrap nearly 100 Christmas presents! (Answer: longer than expected..)
Following on from Christmas was the creative consultation in Darnall. Working with a steering group including Sheffield Culture Consortium and Darnall Well-Being, we designed and delivered fun and creative ways to find out how people experience culture in the local area, and what they would like more of in the future. My favourite quote from the notes left on the wishing tree: Be helpful and kind, listen to your parents, share.
Then, at the beginning of March I took a week’s annual leave, during the course of which “coronavirus” became A Thing. Very soon after I got back, we were in a lot of extremely rapid change. Since then, we’ve moved to remote working, used up our lifetime allocation of saying unprecedented and found new ways to make a creative offer to local communities. We’ve delivered 300 Creativity Packs to children and families in Sheffield with another 300 in progress (and some more on the way for adults too). I am so grateful our AMAZING partners and funders who have supported us through this time.
Working for Ignite Imaginations means working in partnership with funders, schools, organisations and all kinds of community groups. One which has meant a lot to me, because I love reading and writing, is with Sheffield City Libraries. It was great to coincide with their Year of Reading. We often work with libraries to deliver workshops and events but when Covid-19 struck we had to change how we did this, working together to offer half-term online workshops instead.
One of the things I do in my spare time is facilitate a Philosophy in Pubs group, encouraging people to ask questions about things like the purpose of beauty or the meaning of art. It has been great to work practically to provide art and creativity as a profoundly accessible way in to all sorts of big life questions. Right at the end of my jam-packed year I was privileged to be part of commissioning Through My Window for Migration Matters Festival. What does it make you think?
One special team – many colleagues
I couldn’t finish without saying just how many kind, committed, ambitious and fun people I have met this year. The staff team, trustees, artists, volunteers, partners and supporters. Blimey. It’s hard to say goodbye. In some ways I’m looking forward to being freelance again, but I’m going to miss having these glorious colleagues.
Sheffield – home for creativity
Although I’ve lived in Sheffield over 30 years, it’s been more than 15 since I had a job based here and it’s been great to get connected in again. The wealth of creativity and culture in the city is hugely inspiring even – or especially – in these difficult times. I’ll be looking for ways to stay involved as we emerge into our new normal. Much can change but essential creativity won’t – it’s a core part of our collective humanity.