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Silk River finale comes to Dartford!

Last Wednesday, 20th September, DAN members joined What If Gallery, Dartford Borough Council, Kinetika, and other Silk River participants on the Dartford leg of the Silk River journey.

We assembled at 09.30 at the Bridge Community School, with the Dartford banner flowing beautifully in the morning breeze. Old, young, and those in between then set off on the long walk up the old tramway which leads to the Long Reach river bank. There we greeted the arrival of the travelling banners from the other towns along the Thames, and added our banner to their number. Setting off back along the tramway, we led the visiting travellers into our town. As we approached, the sounds of song travelled on the wind; we soon came upon a wandering minstrel in the form of a guitar-playing musician, serenading us with songs by Dartford’s famous Rolling Stones. Reaching the entrance to the Bridge Development, we were met by Dartford Bridge Community Primary School, who performed a fabulous rendition of Ruby Tuesday (appropriately near to the entrance to Ruby Tuesday Drive!).

Next stop was the What If Gallery, where Ruth Howard and the What If crew had put on a wonderful Indian exhibition, with images showing the process of making the banners as well as showcasing traditional Indian artefacts. We headed back to the war memorial outside Dartford Library, where a large group of local residents had gathered to witness the ceremonial raising of the flags. Before the flag raising began, we were treatedby the Council to a delicious spread in the ever-wonderful Peter Blake Gallery within the library. Homemade samosas and spring rolls filled our hungry tummies after a long, if enjoyable, walk down from the riverside.

Crowds of children from local schools had gathered outside for the flag raising, proudly carrying their own excellent flags they had made as part of the project. Our final stop was the outdoor theatre (via a little intro to the lakes for those not from the area) where children and teachers were gathered and received certificates from Jeremy Kite, from Dartford Borough Council for their work. The explosive finale then featured a magnificent bhangra performance which it was impossible not to join in with!

All in all it was a great day out – celebrating and exploring Dartford, meeting new people, showing off those beautiful banners and recognising the unbelievable amount of work which has gone into making this a success. Thanks go particularly to Kinetika for giving us the opportunity to be involved in such an inspiring project, the What If Gallery, Ruth Howard and Tanya Outen for all their hard work on Dartford’s banner and event, to Dartford Borough Council, and to everyone else who participated in some way.

What a wonderful experience, which we hope is not over yet. Watch this space for more Silk River related events coming up which we may feature in 😉

Photographs (c) Kate Withstandley

DSTC Community Day – Singing Scrolls Workshop for Silk River Project

Murshidabad artists demonstrating their singing scrolls at a recent Silk River meeting

As part of the Silk River project, we are collaborating with Dartford Science & Technology College on their community day on 19th July to create singing scroll artworks which will be displayed and performed at an event in September this year.

We have recently been working on a project called Silk River, which brings together 10 towns along the Thames in an art collaboration to celebrate 70-years of India’s independence. The What If Gallery and DAN artists have designed and produced a 6m long silk Batik banner to represent Dartford, with the help of Kinetika, the arts organisation who are running the project. The banners from each town (and from twinned towns in India) will be walked along the Thames and through each town on a 5 day walk in September this year – Dartford’s day walk will be on 20th September.

As part of the project, we had a visit from some artists from Murshidabad. They gave us a demonstration of their own traditional folk art form – singing scrolls. The artists paint a scroll of paper with images depicting a story or event. They then compose a song to accompany the scroll, and as the song and story progresses, the scroll is unravelled vertically to reveal the next stage of the story. It was a beautiful experience to watch these artworks in action; part visual art, part music, part performance art, they are incredibly engaging and moving.

Our aim for the community day workshop is for the students from DSTC to create some of these types of artworks in groups composed of art and music students. They will then be asked to perform their works as part of the final walk celebrations in Dartford in September when the silk banners are paraded through the town.

We worked with the students last year on our Plastic Fantastic project when they came along to a preparatory event we had set up as a precursor to our public workshops. They were a cheerful and polite group with lots of creativity and it will be great to work with them again and of course the dynamic and inspiring Alison Medd, Director of Learning, Creative Arts & Performance at the college.

Yoghurt-pot octopuses, a plastic-packed tree and a world map to make you rethink your recycling

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On Saturday 17th we held our second and final Plastic Fantastic workshop. Again, public response was great, with plenty of adults and children creating beautiful works of art from our treasure trove of plastic waste.

Our first guest was an adult, Ann-Marie, who had been sent our way by the Project Dirt newsletter – it was great to meet someone who had come specifically to see us and the project. Her creation was a stunning Indian-inspired elephant, complete with jewels and hand-drawn patterns.

Throughout the day we had a variety of guests, but all were inspired by the opportunity to just get stuck in and create. One girl and her brother stayed for a couple of hours, making piece after piece and adding it to the tree. You could almost see the creative urge pouring out of them!

Drawings/elephants/yoghurt pot caterpillars and sea snakes, CD sun catchers, CD case compositions, crayon pictures and paintings were all added to our tree – both on the branches and on the base.

We also chatted to visitors who were interested in the concept and drawn in by the map sculpture and images in our ‘Ideas Workshop’.

Both the map and tree sculpture are now on display in the Priory Centre Market Place for a week. The barrier we created for safety reasons was also decorated by visitors to the workshop – some with the help of our volunteer artists. They are now adorned with paintings and drawings of sea creatures and plenty of glitter!

The sculptures were formally opened this morning by the Mayor and Mayoress of Dartford, and will be on display until Sunday 25th September.

Dartford Arts Network would like to say a massive thank you to everyone who has made this project possible – including:

Ellandi / Project Dirt / The Priory Centre / Wickes Dartford / Dartford Borough Council / Mayor & Mayoress of Dartford, all our workshop participants and of course, all the DAN volunteers who have worked incredibly hard to make this a success. Thank you all. 

If you would like more information on how to get involved with future projects, or how to join up and become a member, please email us at hello@dartfordartsnetwork.com, message us on Facebook, or tweet us @dartfordarts

 

Filling the Tree!

A huge thanks to everyone who came to our public workshop in the Priory Centre on Saturday, we had a fantastic time and our plastic wishing tree is now looking beautifully full.

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We were overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of the local shoppers, and barely had a quiet moment all day. The children loved it, and so did the adults – we even had some impromtu face painting from one dad who got stuck in!

So many beautiful and individual decorations were made for our tree – each one unique and carefully crafted by concentrated little minds. We have lots of stunning CD sun-catchers, dazzling as they spin and the light hits them, plastic elephants from milk bottles, plastic lid octopuses, plastic bottle tulips (which make great flowers for our tree branches!), yoghurt pot caterpillars, and much more. Some children went fully freestyle and one young chap created a beach scene within his yoghurt pots – very creative!

We chatted with people in our Ideas Workshop about where our plastic goes and how it can end up in the bellies of sea creatures through our mismanagement of waste. Our plastic bottle map helped us to convey this message, and was an eye-catching focal point to start a dialogue with passers by. One visitor was so moved by the images in our unit, that she immediately photographed them to share on social media in order to, as she said, ‘raise awareness’. This is exactly what we hoped for in creating this project, and being able to see the message about waste and recycling having an impact, both through art making and through discussion, was a great feeling.

We have another workshop coming up this Saturday 17th September. Same time (10am – 4pm) same place (Priory Centre Market Place).

Our first workshop was so successful that we used up most of the materials which we had collected for both workshops! We will be spending this week collecting more, but if you are planning to come along on Saturday and have any of the following at home going spare, please do bring them along – clean and dry please!.

  • Unwanted CDS
  • Plastic bottles (any type)
  • 2pint milk bottles

The map and tree sculpture will on display in the Priory Centre for a week following the workshop on Saturday. There will be an official opening by the Mayor & Mayoress of Dartford on the morning of 19th September at 10am. Do come and see your work be admired by the Mayor, and spread the word to friends and family.

See you on Saturday!

First Plastic Fantastic Workshop Success!

On 20th July we at Dartford Arts Network undertook an art workshop in preparation for our Plastic Fantastic project in September. Hosted by the Priory Centre in their Market Hall area, the workshop was attended by GCSE art students from Dartford Science and Technology College as part of their Community Day.

Our Plastic Fantastic project was originally intended to have 2 public workshops, both in September. But this was a chance for us to test the logistics of our workshop plan, employ some extra hands to help us to make the elements of our ‘map’ sculpture, and also to engage with the local community and make useful contacts.

We split the ten students in 4 groups and provided 4 separate workshop areas for varying tasks. These were as follows:

Workshop 1 – Filling CD case ‘vases’:
Sue brought along a number of pre-made plastic display cases made from old CD cases. The students were asked to either make a painting for the case, or to fill them with ‘found objects’ which they chose from a selection of plastic waste which Sue had beachcombed and collected. These cases will eventually be stacked to make a display wall behind the map.

Workshop 2 – Cardboard land contouring:
We brought along some pre-cut out areas of map and cardboard sheets with the layers marked out for creating the cardboard land contours of the map. The students were asked to carefully cut these out and being building up the layers.

Workshop 3 – Decoupage sea:
Students were taught how create sheets of beautiful blue decoupage (decorative collage) to build up the sea base of the sculpture.

Workshop 4 – Discussion / Feedback / Breakout
The students were encouraged to spend 10 minutes looking at material information and facts about the sustainable issues our project is trying to highlight. We then asked them to write/illustrate on paper how they feel about it, and to communicate thoughts and ideas they may have about it. The information we have gleaned from this can be used to inform our September workshops and perhaps be included in the final works.

There were 3 Dartford Arts Network workshop volunteers – Kate, Sue and Julie – as well as Alison Medd, the student’s art teacher. We were also lucky to be joined by Miriam Burke, an art researcher conducting her Phd on exploring sustainability through art.

Apart from being great publicity for the project and allowing us to test-run for our September workshops, the day was thoroughly enjoyable. The students were a joy to work with, getting fully involved and creating some wonderful pieces. The passing general public were very interested and enthusiastic about what we were doing, which is a positive sign going forward.

The next step is to continue putting together the elements of the map sculpture, ready for its display on 18th Sep, as well as focusing on preparing the Wishing Tree for the public workshops.

The two workshops in September will be open to all ages and abilities, and will centre around making decoration for the wishing tree (which will likely be made from waste pipe) which will be displayed somewhere in the local area after the workshops.

To find our more, or to sign up for the workshops, please email us at hello@dartfordartsnetwork.com

All images (c) Kate Withstandley Photography

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