Toynbee Hall produces practical, innovative programmes to meet the needs of local people, improve conditions and enable communities to fulfil their potential.
We make a difference by developing local programmes that have the power to become national solutions.
Last year Toynbee Hall enlisted the support of over 400 volunteers to make a difference in the lives of more than 6,000 local young people, families, adults and older people.
East End Exposures
In September 2005, the William Wates Memorial Trust awarded Toynbee Hall £6,520 to enable a six-week programme of after-school photography and art clubs in three East End primary schools investigating how the children perceive their inner city environment.
The schools have higher than the national average amount of children qualifying for free school meals, a robust indication of child poverty in the UK.
To provide up to 60 disadvantaged and marginalised children aged 10-11 years with a new and otherwise unavailable opportunity to:
* build self-esteem and aspirations through creative expression,
* learn new skills,
* discuss their perception of the local area,
* foster appreciation of local heritage and of the role of various ethnic communities in making the Tower Hamlets of today.
Art Volunteer Co-ordinator, Anna Aapola enlisted the support of three local artists as facilitators and 10 volunteers to offer this opportunity to 44 local primary school children from the following three schools, John Scurr Primary School E1 (20 children), Old Ford Primary School E3 (12 children), and Ben Jonson Primary School E1 (12 children).
Each school group was assigned a facilitator and met weekly to participate in after school activities designed to introduce the children to expression through creative media and to use the results of their photography as a springboard for discussions around street-safety and anti-social behaviour to gain an understanding of how local children perceive their area. Please refer to the enclosed workplan for outline of weekly activities.
The final images have been on exhibition at the new Whitechapel Idea Store in the café area. In January the clubs visited the exhibition with the facilitators and volunteers bringing along their family members and friends. Each participant was presented with a certificate in recognition of their achievement.
With the support of the Arts Volunteer Co-ordinator, three facilitators and ten volunteers, the children:
* took 650 photographs of their local area with disposable cameras,
* created a series of 3-D models and drawings based on their photographs,
* discussions took place using the photographs, models and drawings as a springboard to explore the children’s perception of their local area,
* assembled three A0 mind maps
The children’s contribution has been recognised by the schools in their newsletters, by the Idea Store which has housed the final mind maps exhibition for 6 weeks and by East End Life, Tower Hamlets’ main weekly newspaper, which featured an article celebrating the exhibition (see enclosed article ‘Kids catch their world on camera’).
Impact on the children
On completion of the programme the children were presented with feedback forms, three of which are enclosed with this report. To summarise from the forms: the children very much enjoyed the activities and learnt important skills including street safety – “
* Creative activities
The children engaged with photography, model-making and drawing with enthusiasm. They were especially thrilled with the opportunity to use disposable cameras out and about in the borough and to learn new ways of taking photographs.
This kind of activity proved especially popular with the children who tend to do less well academically. In this environment they could shine and excel.
* Weekly discussions
The children were given the opportunity to externalise their fears and perceptions of the local area using creative endeavour as a channel for informal discussion around issues such as street-safety and anti-social behaviour.
The children were as ever extremely enthusiastic and responded well to being listened to and having their opinions recognised by trusted adult role models.
Each group of participants were taken to the Idea Store to see their final mind map on display. The impact this had on the children was to feel a sense of pride and achievement and that their work and their views were recognised by all the visitors to the Idea Store.
This is extremely important in terms of fostering aspirations. Tower Hamlets has above average levels of child poverty which in turn is linked to poverty of aspiration and of opportunity. The children we work with are thrilled to have the opportunity to try something new and to excel outside the formal classroom environment.
From the children:
“This was the best club ever! Even better than the cooking club.”
“I learned how to draw maps and always find East, West, South and North.”
Ben Jonson Primary
“I really liked photographing outside! I learned what is in my area.”
Old Ford Primary
From the volunteers:
“It has been one of the best volunteering experiences I’ve had! This has been a really good example of how volunteering should be – in the community, well run, and using volunteers appropriately – oh, and fun!!”
Volunteer at John Scurr Primary workshops
From the Whitechapel Idea Store:
“It has been really fascinating watching how people get quite immersed in the maps. They look really great up here.”
Mark George from The Children’s Department
What we learnt
The children exceeded our expectations in terms of the degree of enthusiasm they showed during the activities.
One of the aims of the project was to enable local primary school children to express their feelings about their area and to learn from their views. Toynbee Hall is well placed to learn from and act upon children’s perceptions through the range of existing programmes and through the development of new programmes to benefit the community.
In discussions the children were unanimous that they felt the area wasn’t particularly safe. The issues they highlighted as important to them included the noise, low street-safety and a lack of safe outdoor areas in which to play.
We were surprised however at how positive the children were about aspects of the area. We were especially struck by how highly the children rated the sense of community in their local area and the importance they gave to family and friends.
The grant from the William Wates Memorial Trust has enabled us to run East End Exposures as a pilot project. As a pilot, it is imperative we evaluate the programme to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the original model.
In terms of strengths: feedback from children, teachers, volunteers, facilitators and the Whitechapel Idea Store have been exceptionally positive and encouraging. The programme model was successful in achieving our objectives, particularly in terms of achieving the mind map and prompting informative discussions amongst the participating children. We would not therefore change the original model in future East End Exposures programmes.
In terms of weaknesses: on a practical level we learnt that disposable cameras can produce disappointing results from photographing during November afternoons. To avoid disappointment and increase the number of successfully developed photographs we would aim to either:
* use disposable cameras but run the programme over months with longer daylight hours,
* or introduce the use of digital cameras.
Whilst we had no problems recruiting and training enthusiastic volunteers, we were unable to involve all interested parties in the programme due to delays in receiving clear Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) checks. Whilst this was disappointing, we have learnt to begin the process of submitting CRB forms earlier.
Where we go from here
The pilot project has proven a great success. We would like to take this opportunity to thank the Trustees of the William Wates Memorial Trust for enabling us to provide this experience to local children.
Your support, combined with the success of this initial pilot has secured additional funding from Awards for All to deliver a second East End Exposures project in the next financial year. Moreover, we very much hope to continue to offer the programme in coming years subject to funding and look forward to keeping you up-to-date on our progress.