Heart of Glass commissioned artist Shelia Ghelani to work with the older residents at Parr Mount Court (96 flats) and Heald Farm Court (172 flats and bungalows), housing schemes managed by Helena Partnerships in the borough of St Helens in Merseyside.
Participants were invited to take part in singing, craft and conversation, and were asked to put forward their own ideas on how to reach out to other residents in their communities. The number of people involved grew weekly as neighbours began to get know each other a little better as they explored the thresholds and boundaries that exist in their communities.
Ghelani has since developed a project focusing on out-of-the-ordinary gestures. The opening workshops saw participants create individual floral invitations, which were hand delivered to each of the properties within the scheme.
The cryptic hand printed note dropped through letterboxes offering everyone in the scheme the chance to ‘Join Us’ – on a specific date, but no location was offered. This created a talking point, whereby participants and staff were able to share more detail about the forthcoming event. Newcomers to the project came out to join early participants and see a cellist and violinist perform.
As well as creating gestures for their neighbours, the two schemes also exchanged gifts with each other. Cards, letters and gifts were delivered between the schemes, introducing the participants to one another ahead of a gathering of both groups at a final celebration event. 268 teacups, designed by residents and Sheila Ghelani will be hand delivered to every household in the schemes – as a gift from the project and its participants.
There have also been photography workshops were residents have featured on images telling their neighbours something about themselves. Ghelani said: “The project has been surprising. I certainly didn’t expect to be making designs for teacups with the participants and I’m sure they weren’t either. “There was a real highlight when we were able to bring both the schemes together for a cup of tea and also to take the art to residents when they weren’t able to attend weekly sessions in the main common rooms.”