High Quality Art Materials gifted to RAW
Leigh 'Finlee Russell' Saunders was an extraordinarily talented Birmingham based artist, sculptor, musician and film maker. He was a good friend of Alex Vann, founder of RAW and the pair worked together on music and video projects and met through mutual friend, Birmingham singer song writer Rich McMahon, who passed away in 2015.
Leigh created an army of plasticine characters called 'The Smiley Dudes' which spread a message of fun and positivity around the globe. Below is a video of him delivering a hundred Smiley Dudes to children at the Rare Disease Summer Party in 2017.
Unfortunately Leigh lost his battle with cancer in March 2021. We were overwhelmed when heard from the family that they'd like to pass on his art materials so that we can use them with our groups and in that way keep his creative legacy alive.
We'd like to publicly thank the family and will continue to post examples of work on our social media channels using his materials using the hash tag #FinleesLegacy
Above are just a few examples of work Alex has created, either as examples on virtual art sessions with various groups including British Deaf Association, Deaf Plus, Mossley Community Arts Club, or face to face at Percy Shurmer Academy, Birmingham or commissioned work. The Pop Art painting of The Man On The Horse is on show at The Chindit pub in Wolverhampton until August 2021.
RAW Goes National!
Welcome to the latest newsletter of RAW (Real Arts Workshops).
This is our ‘Superhero’ issue as we seem to have done lots of workshops on that theme lately and, of course, most of our colleagues are Superheroes too!
We’ve been working with some other arts practitioners recently, which we love: collaboration is one of our key values along with inclusion. We’re pleased to see recognition for one of our volunteers too.
If you view the above PDF version of the newsletter in Adobe Reader, you will be able to click relevant web links.
Please do get in touch with any queries / feedback on any of the articles or if you think we can work with your organisation on some uplifting and engaging creative projects.
Thank you and stay safe,
Alex, Gary and the team.
Alex Vann from Real Arts Workshops (RAW) was delighted to get the call from Heather Wastie from Alarum Productions, to add British Sign Language and subtitles to the film of her wonderful poem ‘Histrionic Water’.
Alex is hearing and signs to level 6 and sometimes does communication support work in education and has previously added BSL to films and live performances. However, when it came to this project he asked his partner in business and in life, Gary O’Dowd, to do the signing. This is because the words of the poem are so expressive and visual that it made sense for a native Deaf BSL user to perform the poem.
Most people who have studied BSL will quickly learn that it isn’t just about doing things with your hands and arms. Rather, it uses the whole body to communicate and in particular facial expressions and it was felt that a Deaf signer would convey this with maximum authenticity.
When it came to translating ‘Histrionic Water’, it was vital to Alex and Gary that a Deaf audience should understand what it meant. It wouldn’t do just to translate the English straight into hand gestures, like others forms of communication, for example Makaton and Sign Supported English. It had to go further and tell the story and almost act it so that a Deaf audience would understand not just the words but the meaning. Alex and Gary worked on translating the poem on paper first, and Gary practiced and practiced until the poem flowed.
Filming was problematic because Gary obviously can’t hear the poem so Alex had to use hand signals and pointing to sections of the poem off camera. Even then – trying to match the timing of the spoken word was near impossible. So they shot it in small sections, in front of a greenscreen, and Alex had the unenviable task of ‘stitching’ the pieces together in video editing software to match the film of the poem. There are some fades between the signed sections because one thing BSL must do is flow – and not jump from one sign to another.
Initial feedback from Deaf audiences is very encouraging:
Alex Vann from RAW said:
We love working in collaborations with other organisations and artists so when Heather got in touch about this project we were very excited. One of our key values as a business is inclusion so making a film Deaf accessible is right up our street. We hope Heather’s film is a huge success and that we get to work together again in future.
Our annual review video is now on YouTube! Please spend a few minutes out of your day to see all the ways in which RAW has grown in 2019. We have delivered AT LEAST 118 separate workshop sessions, reached 439 people directly with our work and collaborated with at least 19 different agencies
Here are a few standout moments, though these get added to daily!
Here are a few more images from what has been a 'full on' year, delivering high quality bespoke art sessions to all sorts of community groups:
A typical summer with RAW: creating art from nature; sign song performance; an art gallery and University visit; painting picnic benches and meeting the Mayor of Wolverhampton!
We had an amazing (and busy) time over Summer with various activities aimed at enriching the arts experience of young people in the Midlands.
Working with HeadStart Wolverhampton, we delivered the Summer Arts Programme at Low Hill Hub. We are hoping to enter some of the young people into the Arts Award 'Explore' qualification and part of that is visiting and exploring an Arts Organisation and the lovely staff at Wolverhampton Art Gallery facilitated a fascinating behind the scenes visit. Whilst we were there we bumped in the Mayor of Wolverhampton (as you do!) Claire Darke who invited them to visit her parlour a different day. Which we did, see more about that below.
We also worked with our colleagues at BID Services Birmingham again, on a brilliant 'Messy Nature Art' workshop which started with the young people gathering natural materials from a local park and then creating paintings and 3D items. All the young people are Deaf or Hard of hearing and as RAW members Alex and Gary both sign, this is not an issue!
We think their artwork looks great:
Messy Nature Art
We ran the Messy Nature Art session again with the young people at Low Hill Hub and again we were impressed with the results
We also got them to paint the picnic benches outside which were looking a bit worse for wear!
Knife Crime Prevention
An important issue to us is the prevention of knife crime. We have developed a highly creative and interactive workshop around that which gets young people asking themselves questions about their own paths: where they see themselves years into the future, what qualifications they will need to get where they want to be, who their role models are so that they can make positive decisions about their own futures. We used the huge interactive graffiti screen at Low Hill Hub, created a pop up art gallery with anti knife pledges and integrated sign language into it too. Here are a few pics:
Day Trips to Wolverhampton Art Gallery, The Mayor and University of Wolverhampton
We wanted to take the young people out of Low Hill Hub on a cultural visit to the Art Gallery - as this would broaden their horizons and also go towards Arts Award evidence if they decided they'd like to do that qualification which is recognised on the government's framework. We had a fascinating behind the scenes tour from the senior curator, Carol. We learnt that there are about 18,000 items in the gallery collections, some of which have to be stored in stable humidity because they are so old, delicate and fragile.
The young people then got a tour of the galleries, made drawings of what they saw and asked LOADS of questions!
While we were at the gallery we bumped into Mayor of Wolverhampton, Claire Darke, who was happy to come and talk to the young people. she invited them to her parlour and as she and RAW founder Alex Vann are both University of Wolverhampton alumni we combined a visit with the university where the young people saw Alex's design 'Support Life' which was part of the Wolves in Wolves project. They made drawings of the sculpture and asked Alex questions about it. Again this can go towards their Arts Award qualification.
Here are a few pictures from the day:
A Song for Low Hill
We were pleased to be invited to the Bushbury EMB annual festival. We had a stall doing arts activities for young people who drop in and we also performed a brand new song 'A Song For Low Hill' for which our regular group had learnt sign language for.
Here is a YouTube clip of the performance:
...and a few photos from the day and of the artwork the young people created for the lyrics so everyone in the audience could join in singing.
Working with BID Services Youth Club
May 6-12th was Deaf Awareness Week in the UK. RAW delivered several projects including one with BID Services Youth Club, Birmingham based around Deaf identity. It followed on from an earlier project we ran with adults in Wolverhampton where we created a giant (5ft high) cardboard sculpture of signing hands, decorated with posters, drawings and words made by Deaf and hearing people (see photos at the bottom of this blog).
Young people with the final giant signing hands, now in the reception of BID SERVICES.
Some of the brilliant creative work being made.
Deaf Awareness at Mossley Community Arts Club
Our very own #DAWRoleModels2019 Gary O'Dowd led a Deaf Awareness session as part of our regular Community Arts Club on Tuesday evenings, 4.30-6.30pm at Mattesley Court, Walsall.
Giant signing hands for DeafFest 2019
A slideshow of closeups of the artwork created by mixed hearing and Deaf people at our joint Art Day with Zebra Access at Newhampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton.
The sculpture will be on show at Deaffest at Lighthouse Media Centre 17-19 May 2019. RAW will have at stall 10am-4pm on Saturday 18th May. Come and meet us!
We are excited to be working in association with Deaf organisation ZEBRA ACCESS on a unique art project at Newhampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton WV1 4AN.
The day starts at 10.30am and finishes at 3.30pm with an hour for lunch (there is a cafe on site or you can bring your own). We will be making a 3D sculpture using recycled materials - exploring Deaf identity, culture and experiences. There are craft activities for children too. Hearing friends and family are welcome.
This is a free event but please email email@example.com or text him on 07472 958534 to let him know if you are coming.
2019 has seen us working with a wide range of ages already. We love to hear the stories from adults and also enjoy when they take ownership of their own work. Some examples of our work with the older generation are here.
Greetings Cards at BID Services: Gary led on this session at Deaf Cultural Centre in Birmingham. The artists used traditional card making techniques such as decoupage and collage as well as new technology – typesetting and sourcing images online which can be printed off during the session to create truly bespoke cards for loved ones.
Presentation to ZEBRA ACCESS Coffee morning at Lighthouse Media Centre.
We made a Wish Tree and Deaf people wrote on tags what they’d like from a potential Art Club. We also encouraged them to make small drawings which were hung on the tree. Despite many protestations of ‘I can’t draw’ I think you’ll agree the results beg to differ. It was really encouraging to see such imaginative work and watch this space to see if we get to produce more work with the Zebra Access group.
Card making at Pensnett and Brierley Hill Active Retirement. Similar to the session at BID Services, this time we met a secret poet. A 92 year old gentleman wrote and recited his own poem about the pros and cons of drinking spirits! It went down a bomb with everyone – a real tonic!
Alex Vann is an all round creative. He formed RAW in 1997 out of a University project and restarted it in 2018 after working as a graphic designer for agencies and in-house for many years.