Elly Brimacombe, Charity Outreach Director, on DUCFS Local Hub

Elly provides us with a summary of DUCFS' term 1 charitable outreach efforts and outlines the exciting plans in store for the rest of the year.

DUCFS Local Hub was created this year with the aim of building a bridge between Durham University students and the local community through art outreach projects.

Community and positive local impact are at the heart of DUCFS Local Hub. The projects that we will be facilitating are grounded by collaborative artwork and creative self-expression. We have already reached out to a range of local groups and charities, including: local care homes, RT Projects, Horizon Young Adult Carers, Youth Groups, the Wider World Project, charities supporting relocated refugees and asylum seekers. Inspired by Create’s ethos of “empowering lives through creativity”, we truly believe that working together on a piece of art (regardless of one’s creative experiences and “ability”) can help build a sense of community and celebration. Through enabling collaboration on these projects, we hope to connect these inspiring, and frequently unsung, local charities with the student body and each other.

Whilst we have unfortunately had to postpone many projects to the New Year due to COVID-restrictions, we have still been able to make an impact close to home.

A couple of weeks ago we held a week-long food drive for Durham Foodbank’s Christmas Appeal. In just 6 days we collected 71.54kg of donations, which is the equivalent of 90 meals. This collection provides Christmas treats for beneficiaries of Durham Foodbank, including crisps, nuts, chocolate and cakes. We were thrilled by how much we were able to raise in such a short space of time. This is a true demonstration of how every act of goodwill, however small, will always make a difference: single contributions can easily combine to achieve a much greater impact. 

We have also been working closely with Hallgarth Care Home, who will be joining us in some of our projects next term. We have all experienced moments of loneliness over the past year, and can all appreciate that residents of Care Homes have endured a significant change in their lives, with so many unable to see their loved ones for prolonged periods of time. We wanted to provide this community with a small gift for the holiday season. After coordinating with key staff members at the care home, every member of the DUCFS Executive Committee along with DUCFS Creative Reps have decorated a personalised bauble for each Hallgarth resident, with a personalised message to wish them well this Christmas. Using Sharpies, origami and pom-poms, the 39 completed baubles demonstrate an array of creativity, and will hopefully provide some  positivity and colour to the Care Home’s Christmas tree. Following a specific request from the care home residents, we have also supplied some plain baubles for them to decorate.  We can’t wait to see photos of the finished result! 

Next term, we are facilitating three ambitious, COVID-secure art outreach projects.

1. Project Retake (held in collaboration with DU Photography Society) involves Zoom photography workshops with a number of charities across Durham. Participants will build up a portfolio of work with the help of professional photographer and Durham alumnus, Matt Jaworski.

2. Project Realign is a collaborative Mosaic Project which we will be hosting in association with DU Art Society. We will be using photographs of Durham taken by University students and sending sections to members of local charities to recreate. Once all of these sections are put back together they will recreate the original image, highlighting the power of creativity and collaboration.

3. Project Revive is a comic book project in which we will work closely with Horizon Young Adult Carers. Through story-telling, this project hopes to express and raise awareness of the challenges faced by young carers in their daily lives. 

We also have an exciting DJ and music production workshop (in collaboration with Durham DJ Society and DH1 Records) and an ambitious outdoor mural project in the pipeline.  Watch this space…!

I cannot emphasise enough how easy it is to get involved with these projects and with DUCFS Local Hub. Whether you consider yourself creative or more logistically inclined, or have an affiliation with one of the charities with whom we are working, there is a role for everyone! You can help in a full project, or just for a couple of hours.  Any time you can give will be enormously appreciated.

Please get in touch if you have any suggestions of local charities for us to reach out to, or if you would like to join a project next term. This year has been a challenging one for us all in our own varied and personal ways and I truly hope that DUCFS Local Hub can be a platform for us all to reconnect, to meet new people and to strengthen our Durham community.