Dudley town centre is lacking creative spaces and experiences which are open to all. This leads to an absence of cultural nourishment and relationships that people use to form place-based identity and sense of belonging. This in turn erodes a sense of responsibility and ownership. Through collective insights from a multitude of small experiments over two and a half years, CoLab Dudley had identified that the involvement of creatives would be critical to nurturing new creative spaces and experiences that could help to cultivate a more creative, kinder and connected town centre.
The CoLab Dudley team designed and hosted a series of gatherings to thoughtfully bring together local doers, creatives, makers and all kinds of people who shared an appetite to cultivate a culture of curiosity and kindness in Dudley town centre.
At the first dinner, the team described the direction they wanted the lab work to move; to bring all kinds of interesting and unlikely opportunities for participation and creativity to Dudley High Street. New experiences and pop-up or more permanent creative spaces would be designed and built with local people and with a goal of changing how local people perceive and use public spaces in the town centre – opening up all kinds of new possibilities.
At the second dinner, everyone was invited to share personal experiences of festivals and explore how festivals contribute to culture. We built on this to consider what kinds of change a festival on Dudley High Street could provoke, start or make possible.
At the dinners there was ample opportunity for doers, makers and creatives to meet and talk to each other; resulting in practical support for each other’s ideas and projects, and fertile connections between different ideas and projects.
A Collective of doers, makers and creatives has emerged and went on to co-create Do Fest 2019, which they saw as an opportunity to carry out some low or no cost street experiments to inform future work. Learning drawn from observations and experiences of many doers at Do Fest and affirmed by CoLab Dudley Collective members consolidated previous research around abundance thinking and generosity in Dudley, the power of the out of the place, inspiration from and care for nature, and the joy and connections brought about through low-fi doing together. A new theme also emerged, around beauty as a human right, through playful but bold disruptions of a narrative of decay on Dudley High Street. Future CoLab Dudley work will build on this learning. A collaboration with local creative producers from Fused was nurtured which helped the first two phases of Paint Dudley take place in summer 2019. Local people created an exhibition in a day, took part in signwriting workshops, and during Do Fest 2019 some large, colourful and hopeful signs were added to unloved spaces around Dudley High Street.