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Map with markers showing where CCC projects took place across the country. Hard Times Require Furious Dancing in Birmingham is in the midlands and highlighted with a pink markerBirchfield and Welsh House Farm are two communities in the Harborne area of Birmingham, consisting of multiple council estates and a number of tower blocks.

During the 19th century, industry flourished in the city, generating wealth for the surrounding suburbs, but since it died down in the early 20th century, many communities in this part of the Midlands have faced deprivation and economic challenges. Welsh House Farm estate is now one of the most deprived areas in Europe.

Here, members of the Creative Civic Change project Hard Times Require Furious Dancing share their experiences of the programme.

Joy from the grassroots up

The Hard Times Require Furious Dancing project owes its name to a poem by Alice Walker and brings together two of Birmingham’s most disadvantaged communities – Birchfield and Welsh House Farm.

Our vision focused on the things we felt were most important to drive Creative Civic Change in our local area. Furious Dancing could mean many things, but it has joy, intent and creativity at its heart. We are two communities intent on furious dancing in hard times in order to bring joy as well as create and make change.

We worked with artists and arts organisations to find new ways of engaging our diverse and vibrant communities. We also advocated for the promotion and funding of arts, creative and cultural activities at the grassroots level, particularly to enable minority groups such as migrant women, the elderly and families with special needs to access art, creative and cultural activities.

We supported families from disadvantaged backgrounds and aimed to raise the aspiration of those with life challenges to succeed, whilst reducing or removing barriers to participation in the arts.

The visit to the motor museum was an excellent day out, not what we expected but much better…The staff brought back so many memories which was good. That’s what life is all about –  sharing.”

How creativity changed our community

Over the three years of the project, Hard Times Require Furious Dancing has successfully engaged disadvantaged and discriminated members of our community and created opportunities to participate in the arts.

We organised theatre visits and inspirational trips to craft markets, helping to bring people together; commissioned a renowned black artist to tell the story of our two communities through photography; facilitated artist residencies in schools; set-up dominoes matches for elderly residents and even planted bulbs and created flower beds to bring colour and a sense of pride into two housing estates.

During the COVID-19 lockdown we kept the project going by organising pop-up play sessions and doorstep music concerts. We also developed online creative resource packs and ideas for people to download.

Our diverse, vibrant and interesting communities are always at the heart of everything we do.

“I am usually very nervous about being in crowded places, but the trips to the Birmingham Rep have been absolutely wonderful…I do not have to worry about finding my own way back home. That is special.”


Adlin’s story

Through Hard Times Require Furious Dancing, I was offered an opportunity to volunteer at Westminster School with community artist Faith Pearson. Throughout the residency I observed and gained knowledge of how to plan and create activities and apply them to the school curriculum.

I gained a good understanding of organising materials and engaging with children, getting them involved in mixing colours and making items from re-cycled material. I was also supported by the artist Heather Morison and put together a “Let’s Get Crafty” pack to be distributed to parents and families during the lockdown.

Children painting and drawing patterns on flower pots

I am currently undertaking a digital photography course whilst being mentored by Heather Morison. Heather has helped me with the application process in which I have submitted a photographic image for the Birmingham Ikon art gallery and my work was successfully excepted for an exhibit. This journey has allowed me to expand and learn new skills.

I am now preparing and planning for the exhibition at the Ikon. The support from Hard Times Require Furious Dancing has been invaluable to me as I continue to grow as an artist.

Thank you for bringing music to us during the pandemic, it was a welcome surprise! We watched from the balcony; the kids loved it.”

Looking to the future

To mark the end of our three-year Creative Civic Change journey we commissioned a review and redevelopment of our website. This was to create an archive for the work we undertook over the three years, and to create a portfolio to help us acquire funding in the future.

To build on the legacy of our project, we are planning to further develop our website with the aim of showcasing what we did in the project’s three year duration and to help raise funding to continue the work of Creative Civic Change.

There is a lot of creativity in both our communities and this needs a great deal of support. We want to ensure continued access to the arts and culture for disadvantaged and often ignored groups in our communities. We also seek to expand our networks with local artists, arts organisations and funders who genuinely want to work with and support grassroots creative organisations that put residents at the very core of engagement.