My time at Ignite Imaginations has been one of people, places, community and connections, where curiosity, kindness and collaboration have been the main threads that have run through all my work. It can sometimes be a little startling to start a role where wellbeing, support and kindness are such a central hub of everything that an organisation stands for, and this was certainly my experience of starting work at Ignite.
My role at Ignite Imaginations has been coordinating Sparks, one of 9 Age Better in Sheffield projects that help tackle loneliness and social isolation for people aged 50 and over in local area. Sparks does this by bringing people together through events rooted in creativity, art and culture - music, film, theatre, visual arts, spoken word, creative writing, knitting, poetry, podcasting and local her
itage mapping - anything goes!
My highlights are in line with my experience, all wrapped up in partners, people and places. From first meeting the Ignite team back in November 2018; connecting with all the other partner organisations in the Age Better in Sheffield team; hatching exciting plans with Janet and the wonderful team at Sheffield Mind, Sofeena at the fantastic SOAR and Lewis and John at the brilliant Reach South Sheffield in Gleadless Valley. Through these connections, we’ve been able to work with Sheffield Theatres to attend the first ever performance of incredible Standing at the Sky’s Edge, as well as Life of Pi and Barber Shop Chronicles; to work with Sheffield Doc/Fest to attend the opening night of the 2019 festival at the City Hall; and Sensoria Festival at their wonderful Robin Hood in the Loxley Valley event (thanks Manor Community Transport!) as well as the wider festival, and lots more. These were all very special things to share together.
Other fantastic and brain-stretching experiences include working with the fabulous real-life storytelling organisation ‘Tales of Whatever’ to create and run our own very special Tramlines all-dayer festival ‘Out on the Wiley Windy Moors’ featuring incredible local folk acts such as Dogwood Rose and Andy Whitehouse - this event featured free ice cream, tea and cake - and managed to do that rare thing where joyous dancing mixes with ‘not a dry eye in the house’ - all in the sanctuary of the cool and calm Broomhall Centre whilst the wider Tramlines Festival burbled like a brook all around us, only moments away.
These things were all magic to be part of but perhaps my greatest privilege was organising a meal for about 100 people on Christmas Day 2019 who might otherwise have been alone on the big day. This was across 2 South Yorkshire Housing Association sites simultaneously on opposite sides of the city, supported by amazing volunteers from Harworth Brass (who serenaded everyone with sweet sounds as they arrived) Sensoria Festival, Sheffield Theatres, the Terminus Initiative and many more. It was an honour (if an slightly exhausting one!) to share Christmas Day with everyone involved and something that has certainly lodged inside my heart - I definitely recommend volunteering as part of something like this to anyone who might have not done it before.
Finally, the events of 2020 and now 2021, brought much change and affected the Sparks project in nearly every way. One incredible constant in my life over the last year has been working with the Talking About Our Generation steering group towards creating an intergenerational arts festival together, originally planned to take place at the the brilliant DINA and the beautiful Abbeydale Picture House when things started to open up again and now scheduled to take place online in May (take a look at the website to get involved!)
This is a group of 3 people aged over 50 who have helped me shape plans and told me wonderful stories first in person and then over zoom - and a more kind, interesting, inspiring and supportive group you could not hope to meet, let alone work with. The hope you’ve given me for the future and the things you’ve taught me about music, history, politics, changing the world and treasuring connections across age groups - to learn from each other to support our communities and younger people in society is something I will never forget.
Working at Ignite has further opened my eyes to everything happening all around us and I will continue to fight for people who experience the barriers to support and the health inequalities that can cause people to become socially isolated. Thank you to everyone who has supported us - we couldn’t have done it without you.