Claudia and Neve are two of the founding members of Chelmsford Creatives. Since 2018, they’ve helped deliver fourteen projects and events, alongside other local young people. With the programme approaching the finish line, Claudia and Neve reflect on their experiences and say goodbye to Chelmsford Creatives.
Meeting with a large group of new people for the first time is always a daunting prospect. Most of us had never set foot in Chelmsford Museum, and weren’t really too sure what to expect from a ‘creative collective for young people’. We probably didn’t realise it at the time, but from day one we were drawn out of our comfort zones, encouraged to think collaboratively, and challenged on our idea of what a museum was or who it was for.
We know from experience how important it is to offer young people opportunities to engage meaningfully with local museums and arts organisations. Chelmsford Creatives has helped generate young people’s enthusiasm for civic arts and heritage which is easily overlooked by both sides of the table. Our projects have boosted community cohesion and cultural inclusion, helping to reduce social isolation and loneliness in younger generations, particularly relevant during COVID-19. And importantly, Chelmsford Creatives has provided skills development for everyone involved, broadening our horizons through unique professional and personal experiences which probably wouldn’t be possible in any other setting. Chelmsford Creatives has truly accomplished something great.
During the first event we organised with Chelmsford Creatives, Claudia was given the task of creating a tour and delivering it to the public as part of Heritage Open Days 2018. This was a challenging task and was something new and exciting, nothing like anything she’d done before. Preparing and presenting a tour of the museum was tough, but the feedback we received was great. Meanwhile, Neve hosted an arts and crafts table for younger museum visitors. We’ll never forget when one of the kids made Neve a bracelet from pipe cleaners as a thank-you, a small but early marker that we were making an impact at the museum.
Chelmsford Museum’s refurbishment provided an opportunity for us to curate our own exhibition, which would be showcased in the new displays. Our chosen exhibition theme was the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. Whilst it seemed like a strange decision, we chose this theme because it was relevant to Chelmsford’s history as the birthplace of radio. Without the radio technology developed and built in Chelmsford, space travel never could have happened. In the end it worked out perfectly since we were able to attain a very generous object donation from local space engineering company Teledyne e2v for the museum’s permanent collection.
The months leading up to August 2019 were hectic to say the least. After installing our exhibition, the museum reopened after a £2.2m refurbishment, and we had the task of planning and delivering the summer festival. Culture in the Park was a massive event, bringing together over 20 local community groups to celebrate Chelmsford’s cultural diversity, most of whom had never worked with the museum before. We were given tasks such as coming up with themes, organising who and what we wanted to include, designing the flyers for the event, promoting the event on social media, and much more. Being involved in such a large project was both challenging and rewarding. Tough not only in the planning, but also in the actual delivery. Most of us had never worked on an event before, especially one as big as Culture in the Park. Our months of hard work paid off as we managed to attract the largest event audience in Chelmsford Museum’s history.
The museum has organised multiple trips as ‘thank-yous’ for the efforts and energy we’ve invested in Chelmsford Creatives. There’re so many moments we will cherish from these experiences, but some of our favourite memories are wandering through the V&A galleries together, stopping regularly to recreate statue poses. And who can forget Sammy and Robyn’s accidental matching outfits at Hampton Court Palace.
Our most recent and final project, BOREDOM-19 is definitely the project we are the most proud of ourselves and the group for being able to pull off. Initially I think we all thought about ‘boredom’ so much that it became tough to escape the concept of boredom itself. However, once we had completed the initial research tasks and had agreed on a collective theme, everything else fell into place. Seeing each others’ faces over zoom was something to look forward to during the long boring days of lockdown, and it was certainly a needed distraction from my parents (sorry mum!). Everything was done through online platforms. We whittled down external submissions from other young people and decided layout, design, artists we would like to work with, and created our own pages for the zine, as well as all the little details in between. After a much anticipated process, we had created something unique that we are all truly proud of: a piece of art that brought young people across Essex together throughout one of the most turbulent periods of our shared history.