Images: Luton Arches postcard designed by Cabinet of Curiosity CIC for the ‘Neighbourhood Postcard Project’ (Top) with examples of American greetings cards from the mid 20th century.
We have been carrying out research into our local neighbourhood of Chatham for a Community Development Fund programme we are involved in called First Steps. The programme is for people who wish to initiate changes within their neighbourhood through community involvement. We are interested in using our design skills and experience in running participatory art projects and workshops to improve the built environment with the community. Through discussions with other participants and community groups, a significant challenge with running projects with community involvement is overcoming apathy. Whether this is due to time constraints, lack of confidence or disinterest, lack of community support with projects of this nature can seriously impact upon successful outcome and completion.
As part of our community engagement element of the First Steps programme, We have been researching successful community arts projects that we can adapt into the First Steps programme that are easily accessable for participants as a starting point for community engagement.
The ‘Neighbourhood Postcard Project’ is a global participatory art project, initiated in the USA, that fosters community connection through storytelling exchange. Residents share personal positive stories about their neighbourhood on a postcard. The postcards are then delivered to random people in different neighbourhoods within the same geographical area to break down negative stereotypes and foster a greater sense of community. The Neighbourhood Postcard Project for the Luton district will be the first UK version of this exciting engagement project as it expands across the world.
We have designed a postcard unique to the Luton area of Chatham that asks local residents to share what they love about their neighbourhood. The postcard features the architecture of the railway arches that marks the gateway to the Luton district and Chatham; mapgpies that connect to the geographical location through street names, pub signs and the birds themselves that are a common sight in this town; and a design that draws upon vintage postcards.
The postcards will be made available to residents within Luton through a combination of face-to-face meetings and by locating distribution and delivery points, taking the form of post boxes, in local libraries and community centres. Through this initial first step we hope to find out what makes Luton special to its inhabitants and build upon these positive stories to initiate improvements within the area. We aim to use the programme to initiate funding towards larger projects within their community that will have a direct impact on raising the quality of our local environment.