Bringing art to an audience... one person at a time

Artist Claire Ford showing her work to Edna Roncoe at the project's launch.  Picture: Bruce Rollinson
Artist Claire Ford showing her work to Edna Roncoe at the project's launch. Picture: Bruce Rollinson
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The logic is undeniable: if milk and newspapers can be delivered to your doorstep, why not art?

A new initiative, the first of its kind in the north, that puts a literal interpretation on the conventional notion that good art will always find its audience, was unveiled in the market town of Thirsk yesterday.

The audience there, it was said, perhaps because of age, does not get out to see the art - so for the next two years at least, the artists will bring it to their doors.

The Arts Council has helped to fund the Art On Your Doorstep programme being run as a pilot by the charity, Rural Arts, based in Thirsk’s old courthouse.

It will see five members of the area’s creative community conducting one-to-one sessions with people in their homes, with the aim of finding or rediscovering their creative side and in turn improving their health and combating loneliness.

The project will also see groups of musicians performing on shopping buses to Morrisons.

“We do get a lot of older people who come to the Courthouse Cafe but don’t participate in anything else because they think they have to be arty,” said Angela Hall, director of the charity.

“We will now have artists going directly into their homes and working with them. It might involve painting, photography or digital arts - or perhaps finding ways to tell their own stories.”

The artists and musicians will travel alongside mobile shop suppliers like Pollard’s of Thirkleby, which runs a chicken van in the Thirsk area.

An early trawl of likely participants, who must be 75 or over and live within a ten-mile radius, had been overwhelmingly positive, Ms Hall said.

Thirsk Courthouse is also a performance venue, but a common complaint, she added, was that shows began and ended too late for older audience members.

“We didn’t get a lot of take-up from over-75s so we’re now working with volunteers to stage what we call relaxed performances,” she said. “Tea and coffee will be served and people can get up to use the loo.”

Claire Ford, a 29 year-old digital artist who is one of the creatives making home visits, said: “The word ‘art’ frightens a lot of people. This will make them realise there’s no need to be put off.”

With activities from pottery to poetry on offer, the project was not going in search of passive audiences, she said. “We want to find out what interests them and get them involved - whether it’s with a iPad, canvas or something else.”

The project, which has the support of North Yorkshire County Council and Thirsk Community Care, will run initially for two years and could eventually be extended to other areas.