An exciting creative arts project – which aims to help bring communities together and tackle loneliness throughout Staffordshire – is taking place at Blythe Bridge.

The ‘Crafting Communities’ project is being delivered by Staffordshire County Council’s Libraries and Arts service with funding from Arts Council England.

The project will be run by local artists and makers in selected libraries and community spaces, offering people the opportunity to get together and explore how they can help others through crafting, all in a safe, sociable and open space.

Paper and stitch artist, Jennifer Collier (main image) will be working at Blythe Bridge Library & Community Centre, where she will be encouraging people to experiment with simple making techniques using found and recycled papers to tell a story. Sessions will be suitable for all abilities where everyone can have a go and enjoy the experience of sharing ideas and making together.

Jennifer said: “With a practice rooted in books and paper I’m excited to start working within the beautiful, bright space at Blyth Bridge Library. We’ll be exploring its archives and sharing the stories of the community groups I will be working with.”

Victoria Wilson, Cabinet Member responsible for libraries at Staffordshire County Council said: “We’re all very excited about our crafting communities project. Our libraries and arts service have always been using the arts to keep people entertained and exploring new skills and this will help us build on that work.

“We know that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on communities but we’re hoping that through this project we’ll be able to help bring people back together once again and help combat loneliness. We’re grateful for the funding and the involvement of local artists and makers and look forward to getting started.”

Crafting Communities will also be taking place further afield in Barton Under Needwood, Rugeley and Perton.

Clay artist, Joanna Dawidowska will be in residence at Barton Under Needwood Community Managed Library, where she will be inviting people to take part and create a new piece of artwork for their library. Joanna wants participants to feel at ease by taking part, using clay to express feelings of their own identity and sense of place.

Joanna said: “I feel honoured to be chosen as one of the artists for the project.  There is so much inspiration in Barton-under-Needwood and I can’t wait to get to know the community, their stories and heritage. I look forward to sharing my passion for clay, wellbeing and everything creative”

At Rugeley library, local artist and illustrator Ruth Allen will be working with families and children to get them inspired by stories. She’ll be exploring a variety of fun drawing and making techniques which can be worked on as an individual piece but also as a collaboration, bringing the community together.

Ruth said: “I am really looking forward to working on this project. Encouraging the local community back into their library through discovering new craft activities, sharing ideas and instilling confidence whilst making new work.”

Artists Phil Duckworth and Ben Sadler will be in residence at Perton Library. They will deliver a programme of experimental activity where people of all levels of experience and ability are welcome to take part and try new techniques, using a risograph print machine to make print multiples such as cards, calendars, notebooks and artworks.

Duckworth and Sadler said: “We’re looking forward to working with people in the Perton area and welcoming people to the library to take part in creative activities. We’re keen to work with people who might not consider themselves creative, as well as those who already have creative interests.”

The project has been made possible thanks to public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

People can find out more about the project at  www.staffslibrariesculture.wordpress.com/crafting-communities

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