These past two weeks we have been beginning our community engagement in Waddington. Artist Simon Grennan and I have been visiting local community groups and schools, holding both art workshops and general introductions, which may result in meeting people who would take part in our oral history programme. We started by visiting Waddinton pre-school last week, and working with the young children getting them to draw their favourite place. This information will be combined with other residents’ significant places in Waddington which will influence Simon’s ideas for his permanent artwork, which will be made at the end of the year. The pictures that were made by the children will be put on display at our main event, which is taking place on the 24th June.
After pre-school, Simon and I went to the coffee morning, taking place in the Waddington Community Hub. We talked to many residents, many of whom had lived in the village for over 60 years. We asked them for their significant places and in return heard many stories of life in Waddington that helps to build an impression of the village which Simon will then portray in his later works. We heard a great story from a woman named Irene who moved here to Waddington to marry her boyfriend stationed at the RAF base:
She lived in Kent until she was in late teens, and met her now husband from the RAF. Her husband was stationed back to Waddington and lived with his parents again in their RAF hut near the village hall. When Irene moved up there to get married, she hadn’t been out of Kent before so didn’t know what to expect and was put off when her husband said that his mums house had 13 rooms. She was worrying how to behave when she got up there, and recalled many conversations with her best friend about how she was going to use all the different types of cutlery. When she arrived at the wooden RAF shack she realised that some of the rooms were basically cupboards. She recalled her first meal there eating a yorkshire pudding swimming in gravy, while sitting outside with their plates resting on a card table; she was so happy she wasn’t marrying into wealth, but was almost sick from the disgusting food!
This week, we held some art workshops in the two schools of Waddington: All Saints and Redwood. We gave the pupils two exercises; first they had to draw their significant place, and then draw a character that represents Waddington for them. We had a wide range of answers to this second question revealing the glorious eccentricity and imagination of the childrens’ minds. Many took the question literally and drew a creature with houses for limbs, others used physical features of the village to clothe the character, like using roof tiles for fish-like scales and locally grown wheat for hair. It was a very rewarding experience and the exercise was useful for the children to challenge them to imagine a personification of their home. Here are a few examples: