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York St John University collaborates on digital arts project to spark creativity in lockdown

Published: 13 January 2021

A woman holds a book of colourful artwork towards the camera

Bradford’s Mind the Gap Theatre Company and York St John University have developed a creative, hands-on resource that aims to give vulnerable and marginalised people access to creativity and the arts. They are now looking to support community groups to engage with the Creative Doodle Book Project.

The Doodle Book was first developed in 2019 by Matthew Reason, Professor of Theatre & Performance at York St John University through a collaborative research process with Mind the Gap. Using a series of playful tasks and activities to encourage creativity, thought, and reflection its aim was to support Mind the Gap’s learning-disabled artists to reflect on their theatre practice and encourage personal independence.

The Doodle Book came into its own during the first lockdown of 2020 when Mind the Gap successfully piloted an at-a-distance delivery with its artists.

“When lockdown hit, we had to drastically adapt our activities and find different ways to connect with our artists. We needed to continue providing opportunities for positive creative expression and connection,” says Mind the Gap’s Senior Producer Deborah Dickinson.
“Together with access champions Totally Inclusive People, we began online sessions using the Doodle Book - they were an instant success and we felt it was important to roll it out further and give others access to this fantastic resource.”

Following a successful pilot scheme with four community groups from around the country, the two organisations will work to develop the Doodle Book as a model of inclusive, physically distanced practice. The process will be accompanied by adaptive, accessible resources to reach individuals otherwise excluded from digital arts activities.


“The pandemic has been particularly hard on organisations working with marginalised or vulnerable people,” says Professor Matthew Reason.
“During 'normal' times, the arts have a vital role in supporting resilience through providing opportunities for positive creative expression. During the Covid19 crisis, it is even more vital to find ways for everyone to express their creativity in community contexts and find digital solutions.”

The project will work with community arts’ groups and adopt a collaborative approach to provide a structure that can grow and be expanded at scale.

The Creative Doodle Book Project is free, and the team is looking for more community groups with which to collaborate over a four-week period between mid-January and July 2021.

Participating groups will receive:

- support from Access Champion Vicky Ackroyd
- a Doodle Book for each group member
- up to four online interactive activity sessions
- models for working on and offline or across the two
- access to online resources

“We are very excited to be able to deliver this free project to those who need it and will benefit from it,” concludes Deborah.
“We aim to provide evidence of the importance of creativity to support wellbeing and personal agency particularly during a time of extreme uncertainty.”

For more information visit www.mind-the-gap.org.uk

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