Artist Sharon Darley talks about Artlink’s current project on Hull’s Spring Bank
Artlink is currently working with artists to connect with communities on and near this unique Hull high street. We’ve been asking questions like, is there such a thing as a ‘Spring Bank’ community? What if anything glues the people who live, work or socialise by Spring Bank together? What do they think of the area? What they would like to see happening on their door step? What are their cultural experiences and expectations? What do they think an artists working across the area could bring?
Sharon Darley, lead artist on the project, speaks about her experiences so far:
“This is an important consultation to find out what people who live on and around Spring Bank think about their community, their opinions on public art, and what they might like to see on their street. Spring Bank is a vibrant, multicultural community. The local primary school has up to 60 different languages. The street itself is a major thorough-fair into the city-centre with its own commercial offer of a wide variety of independent shops. Many people have lived and worked on and around the street for many years now. Many areas of Hull benefited from the City of Culture year in 2017; and now, a year later, it is Spring Bank’s turn.
To get the best results, we need to talk to as many people as possible – so far, we’ve spoken with over 400 people. Working as a small team, we are approaching this challenge from more than one angle. Firstly, we have being holding conversations out on the street – stopping passers-by for a few minutes at a time to ask them about their opinions around bringing more art out onto their street; and more generally, how people feel about their community. We’ve also been into each shop on both sides of the street, with a budget of £5 per shop, and bought a wide variety of items to give away to participants, as we work our way through this consultation. Engaging the shop-keepers is an important aspect of the consultation because they are the backbone of the street. Everyone is working hard to make a living, so buying the items, rather than asking for freebies generated trust between us all; and made a small contribution to the local economy.
When we speak with Spring Bank people, the feeling of togetherness within the community is palpable. Words commonly used are: community – diversity – unity – family – love. The sense of community-identity is robust, and the feelings of togetherness are strong. So far, the people we have spoken with have welcomed the idea of introducing more public art to the area. As an artist who is very interested in improving quality of life for people through participatory arts, this is an exciting prospect with a wonderful community. The Spring Bank community’s strong sense of identity deserves to be expressed by the people who feel it most.