As part of our first NEXUS event in October, we asked Jody Raggo of the Witham and Carlton Neighbourhoood Action Group to discuss how his experiences with Transported have led to the organisation’s latest art project in Boston. The group was recently successful in applying for a £15,000 Grants for the Arts bid. See the Q&A session with Jody below.
Q For people that don’t know Boston, can you say something about Boston, what sort of place is it to live?
A Boston is a town full of heritage and, in recent years, has seen a high number of European Communities move into the town due to the rich agricultural labour market associated with the town. Boston is a place with a lot of community spirit with some beautiful architectural buildings and is especially a bustling town on market days.
Q What do you think are some of the challenges or things that need to be done to improve life in Boston?
A Due to the high number of migrant communities coming into the town within a short space of time, there has always been the challenge of community cohesion within the town and integrating these communities within the indigenous populations. Due to the increasing budget cuts in local government, there is a challenge for the community to take pride in their own area and to take some responsibility for its upkeep.
Q What do the NAG do?
A The Witham Central & Carlton Road Neighbourhood Action Group works in partnership with various service providers such as Boston Borough Council, Lincolnshire County Council and Lincolnshire Police to tackle issues such as street drinking, fly tipping and littering. The group also undertakes various environmental projects to make the area a better place to live.
Q How did you get involved with Transported?
A The group nominated the B&M Walkway as a potential area for Transported’s On Your Doorstep programme. The B&M Walkway is an extremely busy pedestrian route used by tourists coming into Boston Town Centre from both the bus and train stations. However the area was a very run-down and uncared for area which could potentially give a negative first impression of Boston.
Q What has been the impact of the On Your Doorstep programme?
A The On Your Doorstep programme has had a tremendous impact on the B&M Walkway area and has seen it completely transformed into a beautiful area. The area now consists of a number of gardens, bird boxes, insect hotels and artwork designed by award winning horticultural designer Jeni Cairns. The nomination of the area as part of the programme led to a larger project called ‘From Station to the Stump’ which looked at improving the initial visitor experience. The project saw a number of banners designed by Zaneta Belasicova being installed within the area along the visitor route.
As a result of the On Your Doorstep Programme, at the Royal Horticultural Society’s East Midlands In Bloom awards, the Judges Award for 2016 was presented to Boston for “the transformation of the B&M open space”, recognising the enhancements made at this site alongside the installation of a mosaic created by suffers of Dementia.
Q What are the group doing now?
With support from Transported, the group have been successful in gaining a £15,000 Grants for the Arts bid from the Arts Council to undertake a spiritual successor to the ‘From Station to the Stump’ project called ‘From the Stump to the Sluice’. This project will invoke the group’s environmental message with a combination of arts activity by commissioning an artist to create a series of beautiful, inspiring and themed cast metal finials made from melted down aluminium cans. The project will commence with Arts Workshops in early 2017 with the finials hopefully being installed by June 2017.
Q If there was a group that were thinking about taking on an arts project, what would you say to them?
I would encourage anyone to undertake an arts project. It is not as daunting as many people think it is. Art can take many forms from garden design, to mosaics to vinyl prints and would encourage any group to undertake an arts activity within the area. The possibilities are endless. In the last couple of years, with support from Transported, have shown me how art can inspire people and can transform an area and has inspired me to come up with some more innovative ideas for arts projects that can transform the town and hopefully inspire people to undertake arts activity.