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- The Arches Project, Birmingham
Started by Evette Edmeade in 2010, The Arches Project, is a community arts programme that gives emerging and established artists an opportunity to hone and showcase their talents.
It is also a space to raise awareness of the issues faced by the local community and provides programmes on Mental Health and raising awareness of Black History.
The project has been hit hard by the pandemic and the decision to impose a local lockdown and then Tier Three restrictions across the Midlands. Evette said: “Now we are struggling. You’re thinking ‘how long can this go on?’ It’s difficult because there’s no clarity. Nevertheless, we know that we must remain hopeful. Lockdown has had an enormous effect. Our users come here for activities and as a by-product the centre acts as a means of mental relief through creative activities. With this pandemic, it’s made it so difficult for us to reach people. We have a presence online and are able to communicate by phone or email, but it really is having a devastating effect on people’s well-being.”
The Arches Project closed its doors during the pandemic and the team was unable to get any grant funding to continue its work. Evette said: “We needed help and so we approached the Arch Company, who agreed for us to have a rent-free period. Our Portfolio Manager Louise Osborne has given us lots of help and support, which we’re really thankful for. We’re going through a very difficult time. I’m from a Christian background and look to my faith to get me through. My motto is to ‘pray, be kind and stay focussed’. Our service users are important to us and we can only do the best we can to sustain what we have. We encourage them to stay positive, stay safe and look after each other.”
Evette’s husband, Clem, started working at the arches in Adderley Street when it was a powder coating factory in the 1970s. Powder coating involves spraying powder onto metal and then heating it to get an even surface covering – items such as radiators and fridges are often powder coated, but you may not realise it. Clem later became the owner of Contract Powder Coating and as a result of the financial crisis in 2008 re-housed the company, making the railway arches its new administrative base. Evette felt the arches were rich in history and offered a great space, so she opened it up to the community. The Arches Project grew by word of mouth, through passers-by, colleges and groups who were involved in mental health projects in the city.
Evette said: “The pandemic has brought the need for the project more to the forefront than ever before because staying indoors is affecting people mentally. I do feel that the whole community values what we do. It’s a way of escape and a way to socialise with other people. Come in and paint, draw, play music and craft poetry. Producing art and music is a great way to express yourself and have fun! We’re under the railway arches and it’s a place where people can be free to paint. We normally host four exhibitions a year where the general public can view and enjoy the works of art produced by the artists. It gives the users something to work towards and increases their confidence to create.”
Adderley St, Bordesley, Birmingham