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We wanted to increase the breadth and scope of creative activity accessible to all adults within Stockton and the surrounding areas, and came up with the idea of running a series of one-off workshops aimed at people who wanted to try something new. Taking place outside of working hours, after 6pm or on a Saturday, our aim was to test a number of workshops to see if there was an appetite for a range of different creative activity.
The original clutch of classes ranged from writing workshops, to make-and-take workshops, to beginners’ skill-based workshops and participant numbers were incredibly encouraging. Over time, the programme has blossomed into a programme within itself: instead of simply finding an appetite for one particular thing, our audiences have actually demonstrated their willingness to try new activities regularly, rather than sticking to one set strand of the Try it at ARC programme.
One of the reasons behind this, I believe, is the willingness to discover, to learn and, more importantly, to play. Although we learn to play at a young age, we are often encouraged to leave that behind as adult life continues – but that willingness to explore and discover remains within us. When we asked participants for their thoughts after the class, one of the resounding comments was that the classes were a ‘nice change’. Creativity in this way has helped adults explore different sides to themselves, and many at the beginning of the programme are signing on to more and more classes just to try something new for a couple of hours – something that taps into that natural instinct. What has also been apparent, is that people respond well to a class if they leave with a finished product – a symbol of their artistic expression and also of their bravery to move outside of their comfort zones. And also, simply something nice for the home, wardrobe or even garden.
Because of this, Try it at ARC will continue until 2017 and beyond in its current format, with new and exciting workshops added each term. Similarly, that desire for fun has been so successful for one strand in particular that we are responding with a regular weekly class: Swing Dance starts Friday 16 September at 6.30pm. We were delighted with the response to this class and after the first one sold out within a week we soon added another to satisfy the demand. Half-way through the next run, ARC and Angeline, our Swing workshop leader, will assess the situation and see where we can go to next.
The future of Try it at ARC and our wider programme of Community Classes look more and more exciting each day...we’d love it if you could join us.
By Aaron Bowman, Business and Community Events Coordinator