This a new arts engagement project and a new collaboration for myself, working with sculptor Rachel Ramchurn, and working in new mediums.

It furthers and continues my art process best hi-lighted by  The Chandelier of Lost Earrings, which is a mass engagement arts project that collected lonely lost earrings and the stories behind the earrings. I co-created the chandelier with Lauren Sagar.

‘A pocketful of treasures’ has been investigating the small little trinkets and treasures we keep which have no intrinsic value, that may hold special precious memories and stories. Looking at different ways to capture the narratives, and represent them both visually and in the written form, working across diverse community groups from many different backgrounds.

We have approached this with our pop up Gallery of Gilded Frames, poetry and using spoken word artists to creatively interpret the offered pocket sized treasures.
So far, we have had a good response to both offered treasures and stories to the Gallery of Gilded Frames and enjoyment of the poetry, and re created treasures.
The project started as a residency within a primary school, working with nursery and reception aged children, (the youngest age group I have yet worked with) creating an interactive wood and resin sculpture for their outside play area.

Following on from this, in the same locality on a public footpath/cycle-path/green area, next to a community garden, called the Fallowfield Loop, we ran a creative family day for all, with spoken word artists, the Pop up Gallery and creation of clay treasures. Supported by Sustrans, and local community groups, Friends of Fallowfield Loop, Incredible Edible and Love-Levenshulme, people were invited to bring and share their treasures and stories, which they did. We worked with toddlers, to teenagers and Grandparents, with English not necessarily the common spoken language.

Poem in frame written by Kay Neeves during the event.

One of my favorite moments being, when David, Sustrans representative and Chair of the Fallowfield Loop, battled with taking down one of the Gazebos in the wind aided by a small group of helpful Asian girls. It was a wonderful comic photo opportunity, I am sure I should have stepped in to help, but they all managed very well.
It was a great day, with a diverse mix of people coming together, happily creating, gardening and hanging out in the October Sunshine in one of their own public spaces.

See the more here:

Based on the success of the Residency and the Open creative family event, having networked with different groups in both Manchester and Nottingham, we are now applying for funding to continue the project, looking at re creating the narratives through sculpture and digital elements, working with both a story teller and a digital artist.


The third of three workshops – The Happy Monday’s Group, held at Inspire Centre Levenshulme Manchester.

To see more on Project –

This workshop was the last of three before we run a showcase for each group in October.  On Monday 24th July we wondered with anticipation what the Happy Monday group would bring and share. Would we discover a common theme with this workshop and the other two?

Both Rachel and I have worked independently with the Happy Monday group before, we knew they were going to be a lively jokey over 50’s group and usually very vocal.

For myself the workshop brought a first time up close and personal experience of the strength and power smell has on the senses! It rather took me by surprise.

Among the many stories shared one woman Janet, who had brought her Mothers face powder compact, explained it was treasured as when she opened the compact the smell reminded her of her Mum. While listening I had a quick sniff and POW there was my grandma almost with me, a very strong sensation of her presence, brought tears to my eyes. It was totally unexpected but also very nice to be strongly reminded of my grandmother.

This was a similar experience for some of the others in the room, one woman explained how her mother’s compact, also precious to her, had unfortunately become buried treasure by a grandchild and once dug up, smelled of earth. (For those in the group, if I have miss remembered the details, please do let me know) Another women told of the special talc belonging to her Mum, which she had kept and periodically used, reminding her of her Mum, and wishing it had not eventually run out.

The group is an over 50’s group with the average being 60+. A lot of the people who came talked of stories and memories of loved ones and brought treasures that held those memories close and dear.

A Locket holding precious memories. The powerful powder smell from a compact bringing up memories.

Rachel, Sam and Christopher (helping out on the workshop) recorded the stories, and having listened to them all now, they are very moving. People have been brave to share them so honestly with us.

Before Rachel and I run this workshop we had wondered would there be a common theme between all three groups. There did appear to be one between the first two groups, which was despite their different situations, was a strong resilience to continue through tough difficulties, with a large dose of living in the moment and having a joke and a laugh. It seems that this very much applies to the Happy Monday’s having to deal with sad life changes when they lost loved ones, developing strategies to continue with life whilst remembering those they had lost. And without a doubt having a shared laugh and jokes, over cups of tea, coffee and biscuits!


Rachel and I ran the first workshop along with Sam Orton our storyteller and Matt Voits  helped with sound, (currently doing a PHD at Nottingham University, and volunteers with a refugee group) on 16th June ’17, a warm sunny Friday morning, which stretched into lunchtime. We all simultaneously arrived in the car park, holding bags of art material goodies, treasures, sound recording equipment, evaluation forms and a Plan for the morning. Due to our individual long standing experience of facilitating and running workshops, we knew we may have to change the plan at the drop of a hat. A dynamic flexible plan!

We knew to expect language barriers and it turned out the group could have up to 30 languages between them, often with Arabic being the nearest to common shared ground. The WCE are practised at supporting each other with communication, we keyed into this, drawing more of the group into the project. I had asked one woman who was not too keen to participate if she would help us in supporting those with less English language, she went on to create a beautiful treasure which was based on her hopes for her future, a treasure she did not yet have but fully intended to have at some point.

Victoria (Group Leader) had let people know the week before that we were coming and explained the project, inviting them to bring a treasure along. Rachel had previously been in to meet with the group in November last year to introduce the project idea.

Part of our flexible plan is, we know from experience that people have busy lives, lots going on and may not have time to think about bring a treasure. We were ready with alternative ideas and ways forward to help people think about treasures in their lives.  Other than this the session went to plan with 11 group members attending and the other members taking part in a cookery lesson which would result in lunch at 12.30pm. Between 10am- 11am most of the WCE members went to play Netball in an organised session, Sam gamely joined in to get to know people, whilst we set up. Sam was so impressed with how it was run she intends to take the idea to a group she is currently working with in Manchester.

After introducing ourselves, Sam, Matt and the project, we had samples of re-created treasures based on our own pocket sized treasures to demonstrate the art materials, differnet approaches to interpreting treasures, which we explained with much gesticulating! We emphasised there would be no judgements on creativity, encouraging a freedom of interpretation and expression!

We put some structure in place for the re-creating of treasures, held within in the choice of art materials and the ‘base’ we had for the groups to work with and on. The aim was to give an overall homogenous feel, with much room for freedom to express individuality. Also due to the pocket sized nature of the project we kept the base sizes to just over A5, people being able to make as many as they wanted within the time frame. The group keenly tucked into the art materials, asking questions as they went. The memories of a Mothers  Day handmade card initially inspired some women.

I should explain the layout of the space: it is an open plan area, with a small children’s play area, and a large table for us all to work on, the kitchen being to once side sectioned off, but felt like it was part of the space. People were coming and going, small children were playing and doing what they do best, getting Mums attentions. I found myself gently rocking a pushchair, playing beek-a-boo with a tired baby and chatting about art possibilities all at the same time. Rachel and Mat were recording chatter and snippets of stories that came out naturally through conversation, then asking people to one side of the room to give the more in-depth story behind the treasure being made, if necessary going outside where it was quieter, making sure no babies escaped in the process! The room had a real buzz, focused with an easy fun to it, I loved it!

The stories and treasures: As well as recording the stories, we offered options, people could write their stories down in their preferred language, which we would have transcribed, or we could write them down as they talked.

Here are a few of the stories and comments:

Sam talked to one women, who was struggling to find a positive memory based on her live experience to date, but very seemed to very much want to create a treasure with a story. Through gentle chatter, the women talked of how now she shares a house with 6 other women whom she likes, and saw this as a current positive in her life. She made two art works, one representing the seven bedrooms and one showing the emotional feeling of sharing the house.

Another women, who had not been too sure if she wanted to participate, created a future treasure of a wedding ring, talking of her hopes for the future.

Two women both created a celebration set of drinking cups, a pot, and bowls, used on special occasions. When I asked which direction to photograph the scene from, they explained that the handle faced the Mother at the head of the set. I am hoping I have understood this correctly, and need to re ask the questions on my next visit? The focused time on these can be seen in the tiny details. One of the women said “how pleased she was to be able to remember a happy time, and how it took her mind away from current difficulties.”

Another women, who had been cooking in the kitchen, was keen to create a scene with the sun and clouds, explaining “It’s a journey where life isn’t going to be a smooth thing, it’s a wave, where sometimes you get the happiness and sometimes the sadness.”

Time was running out, some group members had just arrived, others still carefully creating, lunchtime was near, the crafting table was needed to be turned back into a dinning table. The group members wanted to continue, the decision was made that people would just find a space to eat lunch. Lunch was like a buffet party, with mingling, chatting and a relaxed informality. The food was delicious. Despite the language struggles, crying babies, toddlers running around and the many other difficulties the Women’s Cultural Exchange group between them possibly encounter, the warmth and acceptance of us and the project A Pocketful of Treasures was impressively energetic. Feedback from Victoria, who also took part, was very positive, as she had been encouraging and working towards the women looking at their past, and then moving into the present and possible future, as well as practising English language skills. Feedback from the Women was very positive, they had much enjoyed the session, creating and having their individual stories recorded.




Fantastic news, Rachel Ramchurn and I won our Arts Council Funding bid to carry out a Research and Development phase of our Project – a Pocketful of Treasures.

Over the moon! Thank you Arts Council England.

We have been collaborating together to develop this project over the last two years, alongside our own work. The idea had always been solid, but with other funding and organisations behind us it felt like it just had to happen.

It is a project investigating the individual stories, memories and moments behind pocket sized treasures, trinkets of little or monetary value that are very precious and meaningful to the holder.

We want to unlock all those unexpected stories hidden within the treasures.

Long term, we are looking into different creative ways to re represent the stories and treasures as a mass participation artwork, through visual, auditory and interactive artworks. Hopefully reflecting back to viewers and those who participated common human themes that we all share.

First up we are working across three different community groups to start this process, who have kindly and bravely agreed to be part of the project.

The Cultural Women’s Group, Nottingham Refugee Forum

The Speakeasy Aphasia group, Bury

The Inspired Peoples group for over 60’s Manchester.

We wanted to work with three very different and diverse groups to really hone how we work with people and gather their stories. We wonder if people’s stories and treasures will show shared common themes of humanity.

After creating The Chandelier Of Lost Earring, with Lauren Sagar, an art work where  peoples lonely earrings were collected to created, an unexpected outcome was the amount of stories people sent with their earrings. People really wanted to tell their story and have it captured somehow within the artwork.  

After this I became particularly interested in how stories and narratives can be woven into participative public art works. 

The new and exciting part of this project also is to investigate how we can use digital elements within artworks, develop an interactive format to incorporate the stories along with personal treasures.

This could be a steep but thrilling learning curve for us both.  


Myself and Artist Rachel Ramchurn have been discovering the delights of collaborating, although we may both agree the writing of funding bids falls into the ‘not so delightful’ area.

The ‘A Pocketful of Treasures’ event we ran on the Fallowfield Loop, an idea that started with a simple ‘why don’t we………….?

Several months later we had worked with two other artists and four community organisations and film Student Connor Wheelan, who volunteered to make a film documenting the event, which due to his student / work schedules is as finished as it can be. I have decided the film finished or not should be viewed as it stands being part of the Event giving a sense of the day we all had.

Short Film – a Pocketful Of Treasures

This unfinished film represents for me: capturing a moment in time, possibilities of where it could go, and learning taken from organising a large public event. Connor had some initial direction and the freedom to also approach the event how he saw fit, utilizing his strengths and building on any skills he wished too.

This has made me ponder on the wonder of collaborative process, and where it can take you.

I remembered being a teenager one Christmas and my own lack of collaboration whilst putting up the house decorations with my Mum, a very creative person. A yearly event where the house was taken over by brightly coloured lengths of crepe hangings and shiny stuff. My creative nature had outed itself, I had very clear and different ideas of how I should decorate the house, and rather non-collaboratively, I had no time to listen to my Mum’s ideas. Owing to my Mum’s greater wisdom and outstanding tolerance, she backed down (yes it really was two creatives at logger heads) allowing an installation of a coloured crepe spiders web bat cave rule over the Christmas dinner festivities.  The ceiling was much closer to the dinner table that year!

My Mum had already fully grasped via raising children, the greater part of the creativity, allowing process of ideas, even if not ones own, the joining in and enjoying the ensuing happening. I clearly was a typical teenage control freak at that age and did not understand what could be gained from collaboration.

Having had my own children I do share putting up the Christmas decorations or just leave them to it, I have loved the lope sided one colour Christmas trees!

I have realised that within the context of a collaborative work, deciding which ‘bits’ are the boundaries and where chance can happen, is a good way forward, giving a structure to evaluate by.

Allowing new ideas, chance happenings, freedom and spontaneity, creates a dynamism, a momentum moving creativity forward, the work being positively process led.

Learning to let go of one’s own perceptions of outcome, (you may not even realise you have them lurking and clinging on inside your mind) gives way to achieving possibilities not imagined or foreseen.  A control freak free zone. Exciting times!

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