Wordplay Community Arts began life in a small community centre tucked away in a cold grey corner of the Mocha Parade shopping complex in East Salford. Over cups of hot tea and digestive biscuits, a small group of Salford residents explored their memories and experiences of living in Lower Broughton through different writing activities from poetry to prose, letter writing to journaling, speed writing to poetry sketching. Workshops were led by writers Michelle Green and Joy Winkler, and Creative Director Harriet Morgan-Shami developed partnerships with local organisations (University of Salford, the Broughton Trust, Women Working Together, Salford Museum & Art Gallery, etc), to deliver what was to become an extensive programme of work. As the group evolved, other groups were established across the city and different artists were invited to collaborate with our participants leading to digital storytelling, spoken word events, writing festivals and research projects.
We are now a collective of writers, visual artists and storytellers interested in the power of creative writing and the literary arts to support attachment and well-being. We are particularly interested in working with communities traditionally marginalised from mainstream discourse. Our projects have engaged with a diverse range of people across Manchester and Salford including refugees & sanctuary seekers, single parents, older people living in sheltered accommodation, individuals at risk of experiencing isolation and mental health challenges, primary school children and their families.
In the last few years, Wordplay Community Arts has developed work that celebrates the power of life writing to facilitate both individual identity and community heritage. Recent projects have included commissions by GMCVO to deliver Heritage Tea Parties exploring community memories of growing up in Ardwick, and City of Sanctuary to support destitute asylum seekers to write about their experiences of surviving in Manchester.
Women’s Words is a wonderful opportunity for Wordplay to work with new communities and artists. We will facilitate workshops for both the My Own Story (free workshops for women of Manchester submitting life-writing for the archive) and Words for Women (workshops dedicated to create artwork with marginalised women’s groups) strands of the project, supporting women from all backgrounds to fully participate in the generation and collation of stories. We are so excited to develop work in collaboration with women whose life stories are often at best overlooked, and at worst disregarded as problematic and irrelevant, and will start an intensive programme of workshops in partnership with Women’s Aid, United for Change and Women’s Voices.
These Words for Women workshops will explore the literary legacy of the Suffragette’s protest movement resulting in new artworks that incorporate text and visual art. Lead writer, Michelle Green will work closely with artists Lucy Schofield, Emily Hayes and Suzanne Smith to facilitate participants to write and make using embroidery, printmaking and text art. We are very much looking forward to hearing and giving a platform to the marginalised voices of women that represent Manchester in 2017.
Words supplied by Harriet Morgan-Shami, Creative Director of WordPlay Community Arts.