ARC Stockton Arts Centre

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This August I had a load of fun at ARC, and even if I say so myself, I helped make some amazing things happen. I found myself in the privileged position of being an artist in residence without having to make any work, just play!

I wasn't playing around with ideas for a new show though, but was making a space in ARC where playing could happen. Everything I did was free and was about inviting everyone to join in and get creative.

For me, the best way to mess about with a whole lot of fun is with stories -  making them up and sharing ones already made.

So everyday for three weeks lunchtime turned into Storytime with Luca.

Storytime’s were free and were initially for young children, but as the days went on, it became clear that everyone, no matter what their age, loves a good picturebook!

Together, we sat opposite the Box Office and invented worlds, heroines, heros, baddies and characters in between, there were lots of monsters too. We ran away from giants (Sally Grindley’s ‘Shhh!’ was a big hit) and we were grossed out by Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes.

But no matter how incredible these stories were, after about half an hour the wriggly bottoms started (the younger readers of course!) and the pictures on the walls suddenly got more interesting than they were before, so at this point, we put the books down and ran off with our own imaginations instead.

Amelia who is three, wrote out her lovely stories in colourful pens and introduced us to Gaston the Ladybird, who was just brilliant. We met robot dogs that live in the sea under the mountain in the clouds, the purple moon girl and pirate sharks, to name just a few!

Some days I read stories to myself. That wasn’t as fun, but it was a great opportunity for conversation with the curious passers by.

Mostly, Storytime was made up of children 3-10 with their parents and/or siblings. With the wisdom of hindsight, I would have loved to have done an older Storytime too, especially for 18+. But what I did do instead was run some creative writing sessions in the café for all ages called Write and Bite.

The Write and Bite sessions in No 60 weren't quite as busy, but the sessions I did have with some lovely people were truly scrumptious. One of my favourite sessions involved Donald who is a regular at Silver Tai Chi goer, and Leslie who leads the Silver Shapers class. Together, we had 45 minutes to make up different writing exercises, which was interspersed with lovely cups of tea, and we had a good old natter about why we write, and we all promised to write a lot more. 

I also spent a lot of time joining in with various Silver classes and attended the Staying Out group and the Creative Age group too, and got involved with some brilliant craft activities. I got to know all of the lovely participants, which was amazing.

It was an incredible thing to have the space and time to be an artist in a building and to actually focus on connecting with people, and listen to their stories and thoughts about everything from politics and art, to what their favourite thing to do on a Tuesday afternoon is.

I wanted to record all of these conversation so that each group had a way of finding out about each other, as somethimes the different group path's don't cross. So this is where the idea for 'Our Book' came from. 'Our Book' is a scrapbook of people’s drawings, poems, ponderings and sketches from people who take part in ARC's classes and activities.

So now, whoever comes into ARC can ask the Box Office for 'Our Book' and join in our story. Please do pick it up and write something in it and join our special story, we'd love to hear from you!

Luca Rutherford