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5 min read

Local Connections

5 min read

Local Connections

‘Local Connections ‘ is a collaborative project between artists from Print Van Go, the travelling Print Studio and the Local Link Tipperary Bus Service. The project ran from August to October in 2020 along a number of the Local Link Tipperary routes.

Invitations were sent to the bus service communities inviting them to participate in a series of conversations, printmaking and bookmaking activities in order to promote creativity and storytelling. Each week a new ‘how to’ creative booklet or zine was produced which was then made available through the bus drivers and at selected bus stops. Project packs were also posted out to people who had signed up to a mailing list.

The aim of the project was to explore the significance of our local bus service and tap into its potential to capture and share the stories and experiences of the people and the places it links. Other project aims included making arts and creative experiences more accessible to a wider audience while building a deeper knowledge and understanding of how the community interacts and connects with place, landscape and local environment.

Above:

Aoife Barrett, Print Van Go

"What we really wanted was to create a playful space for community and public participation in order to share and champion local stories, personal histories and local as well as celebrating the diverse voices in our community"

How the project was delivered

The original concept was to engage with the community around the Local Link bus service through printmaking workshops and creative sessions along the bus routes. However, as with everything in 2020, the Covid 19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown and restrictions meant that physical interaction was not an option, the artists had to re-imagine the delivery of the project. The target audience was Local Link Tipperary users, mostly older people living in rural areas and from the start the intention was to deliver something safe for all involved. Rather than going online which wouldn’t have met the needs of the community, the artists went back to the drawing board to consider what they had in their toolkit. It was decided to use printed materials and objects themselves to open up conversations with the community while sharing creative experiences with the Local Link staff and bus users. In an effort to develop a more effective project under these new restrictions the artists looked at engaging other local artists’ in the areas, developing community conversations, the collection of stories and place based research, and tools suitable for people of all ages.

The first stage of the project included a series of six creative activities. These were delivered in the form of ‘how to’ ‘zines’ that shared ways of working from home using minimal materials, most of which could be found around the house. The activities included a series of instructions on how to print at home using household equipment, instructions to make a no sew travel pouch, a history of play and how to make your own dice and instructions on rubber stamping. The aim of the ‘zines’ or engagements was to start initial conversations and encourage participants to share their stories and skills as part of the project. The hope was that people would take their zines and be inspired by activity, skill share or story and encouraged to share their thoughts using the postcard attached to feed back into the process.

Aoife Barrett of Print Van Go, spent time travelling on the bus and meeting passengers at various bus stops. She listened to peoples stories and noted their different interests and capabilities in order to refine the project and themes of each ‘zine’. Her encounters with people were usually one off engagements and in between these engagements. Aoife also spent time talking to drivers, observing drawing and taking notes. Gradually the project unfolded and threads emerged. She heard stories of journeys, walks myths and legends, finding ones way, family and place connections, patterns routines and habits.

As the project developed into the second stage the activities were inspired by local stories and experiences shared from the community. The second set of engagements took the form of a ‘Local Connections Broadside’ Each week the broadside featured and different story, myth, local knowledge or activity created in response to the stories people had shared on the bus or in some cases written by members of the community themselves. Some of these contributions were developed through phone calls or socially distanced meetings; others were submitted from people via the post or email. Entries included local myths, artworks, recipes, local history local walks feedback on what people had been making and doing.

The third stage is a Local Link Letterboxing activity with a locals guide to the county. The idea of these successive stages was to involve the participants and collaborating community in the design and production process where possible in order to keep the collaborative process while still having a final output.

Output

Overall a series of 12 publications have been produced. These included 6 creative activities and 6 broadsheets. Over 100 were produced each week and were distributed across the county of Tipperary on different Local Link bus routes. Throughout the project Aoife herself, was intrigued by the collecting of this diverse mix of stories and wondered how she could tie them all together. She was interested in the people who made up the local Link Tipperary community, who they were and where they came from.

For the third and final part of the project she wanted to trace this invisible link between the communities and bring together a loose narrative of everyone she had interacted with and everyone that had shared something for the project. She wanted to give the participants stories back to them in some way, to celebrate and highlight the experiences of all ages and the importance of these services that connect people while still meeting the health and safety guidelines.

It was late in the project when the decision was made to design a Link Tipperary letterboxing activity, an outdoor treasure hunt/activity linked to the bus routes. The idea was to create something that would be easy to use, extremely mobile as well as saying something about the lives of the people about the places and people linked by the bus service. The intention for this activity is to act as a creative invitation to others as well as an artistic output. The project will culminate in the launch of this letterboxing activity in early spring.

Project development

Through the use of the printed tools and materials the Local Connections project has begun to unravel and explore ideas around storytelling and practices of sharing with people around the community. Aoife shares her printmaking technique with the bus community and in return they shared their stories with her and others. Still ongoing due to the recent lockdown measures, the third and final stage of the project has been postponed until early next year. A series of custom made ‘rubber stamps’ inspired by the stories that have emerged throughout the project will be placed in small weatherproof boxes in publicly accessible on different bus routes. The boxes a small notebook and inkpad which participants can use to make an imprint of the letterboxes stamp in their personal notebook, and leave their own mark on the letterboxes ‘visitors book’ or logbook as proof of having found the box and a Local Link Tipperary’s passport book. The original idea of creating a locals guide to the county which would accompany this letterboxing activity will also be held as part of the project. The aim of this activity is to offer a peek into the process of exploration and exchange of experiences that took place throughout the project. The intention of the stamps is to interweave the diverse voices of the people that make up the Local Link Tipperary community while celebrating common ground and that creates this sense of place.

Print Van Go will also be exploring a number of ideas suggested form Local Link Tipperary staff and project participants to develop the project further in 2021 through the letterboxing activity and running tours and workshops around a collected archive of stories. They are also exploring the possibility of the project being rolled out as a pilot in other counties.

https://m.facebook.com/LocalConnectionsTipperary/

Lead Artist Aoife Barrett Print Van Go https://m.facebook.com/printvango

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