An experience out of the ordinary

Joanne Matthews, Marketing Coordinator & Interim Programme Producer for Ideas Test’s Out of the Ordinary Places programme, reflects on her experience of working with four communities in North Kent to create new arts projects.

From October to December 2015, Ideas Test’s flagship programme, Out of the Ordinary Places (OOTO Places) invited people in Strood, Isle of Grain, Sittingbourne and Iwade in North Kent to participate in new artist-led projects in their local area. At the core of OOTO Places was a call to action, asking local residents to collaborate with artists and each other to shape their projects by taking part in discussions, workshops and performances. There were 63 public activities, from guided walks steeped in historical tradition to designing monumental billboards; VJ workshops exploring the politics of partying; to creating a new subversive pantomime performed in a historic building.

Some people involved in the projects have never met before; this project brought them together as a celebration – Participant, Sittingbourne

OOTO Places started life back in 2014 with Programme Producers Sam Trotman and Phoebe Davies having a series of informal chats, community committee meetings, info stalls in shopping centres, and lots of cups of tea and chats in the pub! Artists Ruth Ewan (Strood), Mikhail Karikis (Isle of Grain), Lucy Joyce (Sittingbourne) and Richard Houguez (Iwade), were commissioned to connect with groups of people and the locations themselves and work with them to create new art projects.

Out of the Ordinary Places

Entering the project in it’s second phase, as Marketing Co-ordinator and now currently as Interim Producer (while Sam is on maternity leave), I was intrigued by the strong relationships that had already been established in each place. The four commissions were very specific to each location: each having a different history, natural landscape and ways in which to engage with people and place. When the public events got going, the openness and enthusiasm that I saw from participants was exciting. What then went on to be created were four challenging and empowering projects for all involved. The artists maintained a high quality aesthetic as well as offering an enriching experience, evidenced by the number of people who came back again and again to take part.

The project still lives on… It got me involved in art, that has never happened before… art is not just one thing, like a painting… it is about learning about different ways of life. You look at things from different perspectives… – Participant, Sittingbourne

OOTO Places is formally coming to an end, but the legacy will continue with workshops taking place with some of the original participants in Grain and a showing of a final film made by the artist Mikhail Karikis on the Island and at Whitstable Biennale.

At the heart of Ideas Test’s approach to increasing engagement in the arts in Swale & Medway is the idea that by creating inspirational opportunities to take part, people will be encouraged to continue their journey with creativity. With that in mind, we are continuing to build relationships with OOTO Places participants and inviting them to take part in some exciting projects coming up this summer.

If you want to find out how you can become actively involved in Ideas Test commissioned work, contact Jane Pitt.

Blue Skies Trailer 2016 from Lucy Joyce on Vimeo.

For more videos, images and artwork from Out of the Ordinary Places visit www.ootoplaces.co.uk