Young Artists of Higher Coach Road

The Young Artists of Higher Coach Road are a group of children and young people, resident on the Higher Coach Road estate (west of Saltaire’s Roberts Park), who participate in weekly, open-access art workshops. These were initiated at the suggestion of the Higher Coach Road Residents’ Group, and funded for the first year (2016-17) through our Multi-Story Water research project.

The workshops have been run by the amazing Nicola Murray (pictured above with young artist Oliver). Nicola is co-founder of Spongetree – the Baildon-based community arts providers whose motto is “looking after nature and looking after each other“. This was the perfect collaboration, since (in the absence of a community meeting space on the Higher Coach Road estate) the art workshops necessarily took place outside, “in nature”, on the green slopes that lead down from the houses to the riverside flood plain. Nicola lives nearby, and has become a good friend to the HCR community, forming strong working relationships with her “young artists”. The benefits of the workshops to the children have been observed and documented as part of our research process.

Workshops began in the summer of 2016, and continued weekly, on Wednesday afternoons after school, through the autumn and into the spring of 2017 (weather permitting… and with a short winter break during the darkest months). Frequently, workshops have involved the use of natural materials and traditional craft skills to make a variety of extraordinary things. At other times, they have been about brightening up the estate itself, using simple, non-invasive methods like chalking the paving slabs.

The workshop images on this page are courtesy of Nicola Murray and Spongetree. The quoted comments are from parents of the young artists, responding via Facebook to a request for feedback. (Comments appear here exactly as on Facebook feed.)

Disclaimer: We understand that all these childrens’ parents consented to photographs being taken and displayed. If we’ve overlooked anyone, and you wish any image of your child to be taken down off this site, please contact us and we will address this immediately for you (just call Steve on 07504 417323).

“Hannah and Oliver love Wednesday afternoon art club and enjoyed making the short films and they think Nicola is fab xx”

“Archie and Chelsea love going 2 the art group and doin different thing. Wot i like is all the kids go and they all get along and help each other make and do different thing each week. And they all love Nicola.”

“On day 2 day basis some ov the kids dnt get on but as soon as they go to the art group with Nicola Murray they all get along and listen to her they all love her and respect her . . . when I’m there with my youngest and I ask him not 2 do something he doesn’t listen but as soon as Nicola ask him he listens 2 her love it”

“gender, age, race and social standing are forgotten while the kids are there. There is no battle for crown . . . sometimes you wouldn’t believe it was the same kids!” “you have incorporated colour sound texture even screen into the group sessions. A few of the kids have issues with anger, behavioural and mental health problems . . you would never guess which ones if you came to watch they are all treated as equal and expected to behave as equals, which they do. That in itself shows the huge boost of confidence some of these kids have gained throughout the sessions”

Outdoor play and making is central to the Young Artists’ group identity — and has encouraged the involvement of several children who might have hesitated to enter a building. Outside, you can walk away just as easily as you can walk up, so the kids have full autonomy about their involvement. That said, we are also grateful to the HALE organisation (Healthy Action Local Engagement) for the use of their bus facilities during some of the darker weeks of the winter…

Another key location has been the garden fence of 27 Bowland Avenue, home of HCRRG member Ruth Bartlett. In a way, the art group started here … In the spring of 2016, Ruth had begun leaving home-made cookies outside her fence, inviting donations towards HCRRG funds as ‘payment’. Since the children loved the cookies but had no money, Ruth began trading cookies for paintings… and the kids’ enthusiastic responses led to the idea for art workshops.

Eventually, one workshop was dedicated to decorating Ruth’s entire fence…
The completed fence exhibit was “launched” with a special reception for residents and invited guests… (featuring home-made cookies, naturally)

As of the summer of 2017, the funded period for the Multi-Story Water project has ended. Higher Coach Road Residents’ Group is now seeking alternative funding sources to support Spongetree’s work with the Young Artists.

If you can help, please do get in touch!