Loudspeaker, Women’s Creative Voices Shared: Sept 2016 - Dec 2022

women drawing with charcoal on a wall

Our Loudspeaker programme supported women in our region facing severe and multiple disadvantages. Safe and welcoming spaces were offered to women who were new to art, artists, our building and city.

By working with our Associate Artists on ten-week projects, women develop self-confidence, resilience, motivation, routine and meet new people through exploring and making contemporary art.

In 2019 a participant said, “Today I’m going home having done group work, and I’m feeling capable, confident, empowered, willing to take risks, and that’s what this does. Thank you for making me feel stronger, for making me feel more confident. Thank you for showing me that I’m worth being friends with, that I can do things, that my opinion is worth expressing and worth listening to”.

The women we worked with on Loudspeaker projects faced challenges combining domestic abuse, drug and alcohol addiction, poor mental and physical health, homelessness, and experience of the criminal justice system. Loudspeaker was free to attend with transport, childcare and access, and translation costs covered.

We worked with a fantastic range of support organisations across the region whose Navigators referred women to us. A Navigator at Women’s Work said, “Both M and P are brand new to the Opportunity and Change Project and struggle quite severely with anxiety. I spoke to the two of them after the session and they absolutely loved it! I could hear such a positive difference in their voices after just one session. M reported ‘That’s my cup of tea!’ and I have never heard P speak so confidently!”.

Women met new people, presented themselves without histories, valued one another’s creative ideas, socialised in healthy, safe ways, and developed self-confidence. In addition, women established routines that helped to reduce loneliness, and attending contributed towards decisions to pursue volunteering, Higher and Further Education, training and work.

Our contemporary art exhibitions offered a unique setting for altering perspectives, seeing things differently and for valuing women’s ideas and voices collectively and individually.

176 women aged between 18 and 63 years from Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, Derby and Derbyshire were supported to attend Loudspeaker projects with some living less than a mile from the gallery, and others up to 35 miles away at the outer edges of Derbyshire.

Each group explored our exhibitions, learned about artistic ideas and processes, and visited other venues to experience the local cultural offer. The women curated pop-up exhibitions at the gallery to celebrate personal and collective achievements. Their celebrations were attended by over 700 people, including family, friends, GPs, Social Workers, referral partner Navigators, community partners, and general gallery visitors.

Some women progressed from attending as a participant, to taking on volunteer Peer Mentor roles. 15 women took up this opportunity and attended training to become confident, supportive, valued members of the Loudspeaker team. Peer Mentors went on to be employed by Nottingham Contemporary as a Gallery Assistant, and as a volunteer with our Families Programme.

Click here to read a summary of the positive impacts that peer mentors had on the people they worked with, and how taking on this role benefited them too.

Lockdown caused by Covid-19 increased the challenges for and dangers to women, regarding domestic abuse, addiction, and mental and physical ill health. The Loudspeaker team transformed projects to online Zoom sessions and posted packs of art materials. Together we learnt how to use Zoom and experienced the exhibitions using Virtual Reality.

Another participant said: “There is something very unique about Loudspeaker… The programme has made me feel heard and seen and as though my voice matters. This has helped me develop my assertiveness and also to speak up against the experiences I’ve had surrounding domestic abuse. I feel that engaging in art provides me with emotional support and will continue with my own work and visiting galleries.”

In 2020 we were proud to receive a 'Highly Commended' Collective Power award in the National 2020 Culture Health and Wellbeing Alliance Awards. Moira Sinclair, a judge and Chief Executive of Paul Hamlyn Foundation, said, "This was a very good example of co-creation, enhancing wellbeing and minimising social isolation. Careful thought had been given to removing barriers to participation, and there was clear evidence of impact."

Loudspeaker was part of the national ‘Building Better Opportunities’ programme through the ‘Opportunity and Change’ project which was funded by The National Lottery Community Fund and the European Social Fund. This was funded through the Department for Work and Pensions to tackle the root causes of poverty, promote social inclusion and drive local jobs and growth.

Before this, Loudspeaker projects were funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation: a partnership with one referring organisation called Changing Lives. They worked with Nottingham Contemporary to develop the project model that was the basis for subsequent delivery as part of Opportunity and Change.

Click the links at the bottom of the page to see the fantastic creative achievements from projects and read some of the comments from the women who took part.

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