• Sian


Friday evening was the launch event for a really exciting project in the city centre of Carlisle. FREIRAUM was a project started by the Goethe Institut in Berlin in 2017 (which feels like forever ago instead of just over 12 months). The Goethe Institut paired up 42 cities across the world, and tasked them with exploring the idea of freedom. AWAZ Cumbria, a social enterprise and community development organisation based in Carlisle, was paired with ArtBox, and arts organisation based in Thessaloniki, Greece. They discussed the idea of freedom and identity (inevitably Europe and Brexit also came up) before they settled on the questions; what is isolation? And how do we overcome it?

Like I said, this all happened forever ago – I only became involved with the project in September. I was asked if I wanted to be involved with a project where I could make a zine (I 100% heard the word ‘zine’ and already decided I wanted to do it, regardless of what it was about). Since then, I have been meeting weekly with the lovely curator of the project Jane, who was given the mammoth task of rounding up all of the artists, project managers, participants and collating their hundreds of pieces of work (have you worked with anyone remotely artistic before? We’re not great with things like deadlines. It can’t have been easy).

Projects involved included Blue Jam, and arts organisation working with children in care and schools to create pieces of art and poetry; Carlisle Youth Zone made some collage pieces that I want all framed and in my house, as well as building some fab sculptures, and blending their photos with some from Thessaloniki, to create bridges; a Syrian Refugee programme, where they wrote poetry and took photographs speaking of their experiences; ‘Fellside Freespace’ in Ousby, which encouraged local people to sit together, talk and make music; and finally, a Speakeasy at the University of Cumbria, where people came together to speak poetry, play music and perform while on a live link with Thessaloniki.

The outcome has been a beautiful collaboration of the five different projects, now being displayed in The Lanes shopping centre, in the centre of Carlisle, Cumbria. I lived, worked and studied in Carlisle for three years, so I was so excited that there was a project like this coming to Carlisle. Working together, myself and Jane produced masses of work (like, I thought I did a lot for my uni projects. I had no idea.). The exhibition itself is filled with massive window displays featuring the work from all of the projects, as well as banners installed in The Lanes and the surrounding area as well, featuring the most beautiful quotes, summing up Carlisle exactly. We produced a newspaper, designed to promote discussion, not an argument, which also features QR codes so you can listen to people speak their poetry while you read it and look at the work that has been produced.

It was absolutely terrifying being a part of something this big. It’s been the first big thing since graduating University that I’ve done. It’s forced me outside of my comfort zone a little bit, and I feel so much more comfortable working with clients and speaking both for myself and my work now. It’s also forced me to take a big jump personally (watch this space). Also very excited to say that some of the work is being shown in at the Goethe Institut in Berlin in March! It has felt like such an honour to be just a tiny part of this project. If you’re in Carlisle before the end of February, please go see and enjoy everyone’s work!

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