“It’s being given its moment!” – An Opinion Piece on the Helium Community Engagement Programme Showcases
In June 2022, Jo Holmwood – Writer, Editor, Cultural producer and Chief Executive Officer (Creative Director) of Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership – was invited to produce a short opinion piece in response to Helium’s Community Engagement Programme showcases.
To this end, she engaged in a series of conversations with the three artists leading the programme and wrote some observations which were set out thematically. Of particular interest were questions surrounding the ‘tension’ between process and production in the context of collaborative engagement. She writes:
“There is an inherent dilemma between process and product, which emerges when engaging in a programme of activity that—within a relatively short period of time—must lead to presentable outputs. A natural question emerges: How to engage the children in meaningful work that is ‘process-driven’, while also keeping in mind the need to produce a showcase at the end?”
Other considerations also emerged:
- What are the best spaces for presentation and who is the desired audience, within a community and arts-in-health context?
- Where does the professional practice of the artist come into the work?
- Are there opportunities for the child to have more agency in the presentation of their work?
- What supports and structures do artists need to maximise the value of this work?
Through her conversations, Jo was struck by the commitment and integrity of all the artists in their provision of a rich, collaborative and process-based experience for the children. In her view, the programme represented a best practice model in the context of collaborative arts practice and within a children’s rights framework. And yet, of course, the work always yields more questions, which are so important for ensuring that it remains relevant and adaptive to the needs of the community it serves.