Written by Appetite Director Gemma Thomas
On 18 July, Appetite and many colleagues from 38 of the other Creative People and Places programmes from across the country were invited to the House of Commons to celebrate with our colleagues at Arts Council England and our MPs. We were hosted by the Rt Hon Dame Rosie Winterton MP and heard brilliant speeches from Dame Rosie Winterton MP, Darren Henley, Chief Executive of Arts Council England and on the podium, they were joined by our very own Tess Tainton, a previous volunteer and Supper Club member (our community decision-making group). We could not be prouder of that.
Tess has been sharing her story with Arts Council through a blog and a podcast, and it’s amazing to think about the effect of our day-to-day work, care for people and our passion for the place we work – Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme – has on individuals and communities.
“It’s been a long journey from not being able to speak in a group of people to speaking into a microphone in the Houses of Parliament. I’m still a little confused and in disbelief that it actually happened. It was odd, fantastic, inspirational, and ever-so-slightly surreal. My lasting memories (aside from just being in the building itself) – seeing people I’d not seen for a long time, the amazing feedback I had after speaking, Wedgwood cups, and – perhaps most significantly – feeling comfortable being in the room with those who were there with me.”
The privilege of a job like mine and ours at Appetite is that we support small and monumental change on a daily basis and because it’s our mission to get people in Stoke and Newcastle to experience and be inspired by the arts; we see and feel the change. It’s messy, profound, emotional, challenging and epic all at the same time. That’s what moments like this are about and as a Stokie, I couldn’t be prouder of what we do with, for and in partnership with a huge collection of people, partners and stakeholders.
Thank you to Jo Gideon, MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central for coming along to support our celebrations in the House of Commons.
I was joined by Ayad Al-Ani who we met through Appetite Builder Brendan Davies in 2013/14 at Burslem Jubilee, who then became an active part of Supper Club, and is now a collaborator on our Lunch Club for asylum seekers and refugees, making sure we provide the warmest, safest welcome with arts at its heart.
“Reflecting on the Creative People and Places (CPP) 10 Years Event at the House of Commons, I look back on the past ten years of my journey with Appetite. I am struck by the profound transformation that has taken place within me, with Appetite, and with the other people who shared the activities. A decade ago, I embarked on this adventure with little knowledge or interest in the arts, my focus driven by different passions. However, the CPP 10 Years Event held at the prestigious House of Commons served as a powerful catalyst, marking a turning point that would endorse my perspective, a perspective of mine about art that Appetite has redefined.
“Witnessing the convergence of Creative People and Places programmes at such an esteemed venue was a testament to the tremendous growth and impact of our shared journey. The event radiated an electrifying energy, sparking discussions, collaborations, and celebrations that transcended the boundaries of traditional art. At the start I was a bit anxious from having to be amongst others I haven’t met before. As I mingled with fellow enthusiasts, artists, and visionaries, I found myself immersed in a dynamic ecosystem where art seamlessly merged with social networking. I recognised (and was recognised) by at least 7 people from different previous activities and projects! The symphony of diverse voices, each resonating with a unique story, reinforced the profound influence of CPP in cultivating a rich cultural landscape.
“Personally, the CPP 10 Years Event illuminated the profound shift that has not only occurred within me, but with Tess who I met a decade ago, now she’s speaking at events such as these! The art, which I once regarded as peripheral, had now become the focal point of my work, a source of inspiration for my social interactions, and an integral component of my aesthetic identity. The event catalysed a deeper exploration of artistic expressions, nurturing a newfound appreciation for the interplay of colours, shapes, and emotions. As the House of Commons echoed with laughter, conversations, and the melodies of shared experiences, it became evident that CPP had not only ignited a spark within me but had also ignited a revolution in how art was perceived, cherished, and embraced by our community. It’s a decade of transformation!” Ayad Al-Ani
We were really pleased to have a visit from the Arts Council team to our base at the New Vic in Newcastle-under-Lyme on 11 August, and a collection of people we work with came together to share their experiences, long and short-term, of Appetite’s work and told their stories of what difference the programme of work has made to them.
Tess’, Ayad’s and the 25 other stories and testimonies I’ve had the opportunity to share recently are theirs, each unique, and I have no doubt that there are thousands of other stories in Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme and millions across England due to the investment that’s come since Arts Council England created Creative People and Places: thank you!
I’m changed after working with you all in my hometown for nearly 11 years and you’re all the reason we do it. Thank you to every person who has tried something new with us and I can’t wait to meet you if you haven’t taken the chance yet!
Share your story, or try something new!
Find out about volunteering opportunities with Appetite by contacting our Volunteer Coordinator, Sammy, by email email@example.com or call/text 07951357389
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