Stanley Halls has taken arts and crafts online during pandemic

MARY LITCHFIELD reports on how a South Norwood arts venue has managed to extend its reach of workshops over the past year

The Connecting Communities project is bringing together young and old

At the Stanley Halls, the “new normal” has seen the South Norwood arts venue have to make significant adaptations to the way that it operates since the coronavirus pandemic.

Unable to have real, live audiences for its mix of music, comedy and theatre performances or crafts and other workshops in the past year, the re-branded Stanley Arts has taken many of its shows online, while their Croydon Young Creatives project is hosting a number of sessions for young people to make packages for local care homes.

A series of seven sessions are being led by Sharon Kanolik and artist Nadine Fletcher, and take place over Zoom for 14-to-21-year-olds.

“We wanted to work with a group of young people to do something for local older people and local people who are shielding,” Kanolik said.

The care packages contain poems, comics, doodles and a variety of other crafted items which are designed to bring a little joy into a lockdown life. “Whoever is reading them will, hopefully, feel a sense of cheer and positivity,” Kanolik said.

“They’ll read something that makes them smile but also something that hopefully will make them feel connected to younger members of their community.”

The workshop participants develop skills while allowing them to take a break from the pressures of home-schooling and studying. Participants are encouraged to remember the positive things that have happened, despite it being a time of tragedy for many.

“For each of us, even if they’re really small, tiny things like when you have a conversation with a neighbour that cheers you up, or you see a great show on Netflix, or you eat an ice cream,” Kanolik said.

A Lottery grant has enabled to get equipped to stream performances and workshops via the internet during the lockdown

“Sometimes there’s so much change or uncertainty. So, we’re really trying to provide something that feels positive and that celebrates the positive things that are happening in our communities”.

Stanley Arts is also running other activities, including a hip-hop dance class led by Bird Gang Dance Theatre. At the end of the project, participants will create a short music video that will be shared in the local communities.

These online workshops were made possible by funding received from the National Lottery which allowed Stanley Halls to invest in streaming technology to ensure community sessions could continue to connect the young and old.

Stanley Arts is now looking at ways to continue these community projects in person.

“We feel like creativity is for everyone,” Kanolik said.

Everyone can join in and it really doesn’t matter if you don’t think that you’re a creative person, because we think that everyone has got something to offer.”

To get involved in Stanley Arts’ workshops visit:

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