I have just the thing for anyone feeling the need to find creative, hands-on ways to help forge a better world. Anyone feeling a bit like I do…
This September, Sarah Corbett (award-winning activist and founder of the Craftivist Collective) is joining forces with Heritage Open Days (England’s largest festival of culture and heritage) to offer a series of Dare to Dream workshops. The idea is to explore the stories of those who have affected positive change in their community by dreaming of a brighter future. And to ask what we can do to shape the future we dream of.
The power of people
In 2019, Heritage Open Days will celebrate its anniversary with 25 Years of People Power. Against a backdrop of Brexit – a time of unprecedented social division and uncertainty – hundreds of events across the country will celebrate change-makers; those whose visions and dreams have brought positive developments to our society, both large and small.
Alongside festival walks, talks and openings, the Dare to Dream project will explore the power of positive visualisation in effecting change and finding solutions to the problems that surround us. Through a series of ‘craftivism workshops’ designed by Sarah, participants will have an opportunity to think about the issues that matter to them, and how to be an active part of bringing positive change, both locally and globally.
Sarah will lead four free workshops, launching at Dartington Hall in Totnes, where the concept for the NHS was established in the 1940s. Moving to Norwich, Manchester and Durham, each session will take inspiration from local dream-makers whose historic ideas helped to shape a new reality. Local organisers will also be running Dare to Dream workshops around the country, enabling national participation. After the festival, insights drawn from the workshops will create a picture of our dreams and hopes for society in the next 25 years.
Find out more about Sarah
I first met Sarah at the beginning of last year (read my blog post Meet Sarah Corbett founder of The Craftivist Collective). She is a truly inspirational woman and I am full of admiration and respect for her work. So I was really interested to hear about this latest project of hers and wanted to share it with you. As creatives and ethically minded individuals we have so much collective power for good. Let’s get behind this project and the #DareToDream hashtag and help to share the love.
Participants will hand-stitch their positive visions for the future onto fabric ‘dream clouds’, share their creations on social media, and display them in meaningful locations to encourage us all to be solution-seekers and change-makers.
Each Dare to Dream workshop will offer relaxed, thought-provoking discussion and reflection. Sarah has created a series of ‘crafter thought’ questions designed to help participants to dream up their own visions and dreams for change as they stitch their message about the world they wish to live in. These messages are stitched onto ethically-sourced fabric dream clouds and the idea is that they are displayed and shared using the #DareToDream hashtag. Stitching dreams onto crafted clouds might sound fluffy, but the approach is supported by scientific research into how the human brain works.
I asked Sarah how people tend to respond to her workshops and the effects she has seen.
‘It’s hard to capture the impact of people taking part in our workshops but, being there, it can feel transformational for people personally and politically. You can see people walking in with worried foreheads, fast-paced walks to their chairs, fidgeting with their phones or fingers at the table. Then the handicrafts naturally slows them down, the repetitive hand actions regulate their breath and helps them meditate on one of the 3 ‘crafterthought’ questions they have in front of them.
‘At the start you see people frustrated that they can’t thread their needle first time but then they loosen up their tight shoulders and calm their jittery hands. With every stitch people tend to move from powerlessness to hope because if they can make one little stitch after stitch in something physical to make something wonderful and new. It reminds them that they can and do make changes in our world too. It encourages them to think and act more compassionately and strategically as an activist and active citizen.
‘Some people love just being alone in their ‘crafterthoughts’. Others listen intentionally to the conversations people are having around the issues and strategics of the craftivism project they have. Some people share their worries, concerns, questions and plans and are surprised by how much they openly share. Using your hands, head and heart in your craftivism – and having something to look at so you don’t need to make lots of eye contact – creates an environment where people naturally open up.
‘My projects engage everyone differently, as we are all unique and on our own journeys in life. But, stitch by repetitive stitch, my projects and I help people focus on solutions they can be part of to solve injustices. People become mindful of what they are bringing to their activism and everyone leaves more focused, inspired, empowered and more deeply engaged. Clear that they can be part of being the positive change they want to see in our complex fragile world. And that they can do this by using ‘gentle protest’ and craftivism as a positive tool.
The power of quiet and peaceful
With so much anger and division in our society right now, it feels like exactly the right time for these workshops. I suspect there are lots of us who care passionately about the future of our planet and fairness of our society, but don’t feel anger-fuelled activism is for them. Many of us are too thoughtful and quiet for shouting slogans or causing disruption. It doesn’t mean we don’t care as much. There’s a real power in peaceful protest too. Especially when people come together to find their collective voice and explore ways to make it heard. That’s exactly what Craftivism in general, and these workshops in particular, can offer.
The importance of imagination for making change
The Dare to Dream project is informed by neuroscience and positive psychology and the idea is to help address people’s anxiety, fear, negativity and tendency to form silos.
“When we pause and make a conscious effort to imagine our ideal world, we engage our prefrontal cortex – the creative solution-seeking system in the brain.” says Dr Charlotte Rae, neuroscientist at the University of Sussex.
“Neuroscience research shows that when we feel threatened, the habit-based centres of the brain drive automatic behaviours, shutting down opportunity for new thinking. This project engages the creative, conscious, planning system in the brain – the prefrontal cortex – opening up mental space to consider what actions we can take for a better future. Research has also shown that when we encounter something unexpected, such as a carefully-crafted cloud in a perhaps incongruous place, the brain generates a ‘surprise signal’ called ‘prediction error’. This is a very potent way of grabbing our brain’s attention, and pulling us out of habit-driven, automatic thinking into conscious, active, consideration of the situation. By combining active pursuit of positive goals, with the unique fabric cloud format of messaging, your Dare to Dream activity makes use of these known neuro behavioural strategies to create effective change.”
“Throughout history, real change has come from those who have thought differently, dreamed big and believed solutions are there to be found. Dare to Dream offers a chance for everyone to think about how we can all positively shape the future, and make our dreams for a fairer, happier society become reality.”
What’s on when
Sarah is delivering 4 Dare to Dream workshops:
- 13th September in Totnes with Craft Revolution and Dartington Hall https://www.eventbrite.com/preview?eid=65669040869
- Sunday 15th September Norwich with The Forum https://www.heritageopendays.org.uk/visiting/event/dare-to-dream-norwich
- Saturday 21st September in Durham https://www.heritageopendays.org.uk/visiting/event/dare-to-dream-workshop-in-the-miners-hall-durham
- Sunday 22nd September in Manchester with People’s History Museum https://www.heritageopendays.org.uk/visiting/event/daretodream-craftivism-workshop
There are a further #DareToDream craftivism events around the country 13-22 September led by local organisers. Find an event near you here.
How to get involved
If you can’t make any of the scheduled events but would like to get involved, look out for Sarah’s Craftivist Collective ‘Dream Making Kit’ which will be available from October. Or, why not set up your own Heritage Open Day local craftivism event next year? Because we can all be changemakers in our own way. Craftivism is a way to help make a better world whilst safeguarding your own wellbeing and sustainability.
It feels like exactly the right time for this, don’t you think? It’s easy to feel somewhat defeated by the amount of hate, over-consumption and injustice in the world isn’t it? I know I have. Helping at my local food bank means I have seen first hand the very real hardship faced by so many people right now. Safety nets have been removed and vulnerable people simply fall away. Literally down and out. It makes me feel ashamed of our so-called civilised country. Growing numbers of children depending on charity during the holidays because they go hungry without their free school dinners.
Then there’s the devastation we’re causing to our planet every single day. We’re living during a climate emergency, and still the colossal daily waste continues. It’s easy to feel hopeless and defeated. I know I have. What’s the point in blogging about sustainability and creativity when so many people simply don’t care, I’ve asked myself many a time. Then I’ll meet someone inspirational and something shifts. I feel excited to share what they’re doing with you, the From Britain with Love community. We’re a community that values creativity and ethics. Made up of people like you and me. And that’s when I realise just how valuable and important it is for us to come together as we do.
The support and good heartedness of our sizeable, and growing, community makes it all worthwhile. We’re the people who can make a real difference. The creatives. The quiet, contemplative people who care. We may not shout but we can come together and make ourselves heard.
Get all the information you need about the Dare to Dream workshops here https://www.heritageopendays.org.uk/visiting/unsung-stories/dare-to-dream
About Heritage Open Days
All events are free, including access to many sites that usually charge for admission.
Heritage Open Days is coordinated and promoted nationally by the National Trust with support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, and run locally by a large range of organisations (including civic societies, heritage organisations, and local councils, community champions and thousands of enthusiastic volunteers).
Heritage Open Days is England’s contribution to European Heritage Days, taking place across 50 countries. Other events in the UK are Doors Open Days in Scotland, Open Doors Days in Wales; European Heritage Open Days in Northern Ireland; Open House London.
For further details, visit www.heritageopendays.org.uk
About the Craftivist Collective and Sarah Corbett
Sarah Corbett is an award-winning campaigner, author of How to be a Craftivist: the art of gentle protest, and founder and Creative Director of the global Craftivist Collective. She grew up in a low-income area of Liverpool and was born into an activist family. Her TED talk ‘Activism Needs Introverts’ has been viewed over 1 million times.
The Craftivist Collective is a social enterprise providing products and services to help individuals, groups and organisations around the world learn and take part in ‘a gentle protest’ approach to craftivism (craft + activism), and transform the way people practice activism in more emotionally intelligent, creative and kind and effective ways.
Previous craftivism projects have addressed mental health, living wage and climate change amongst other issues. Their projects have helped change laws and policies, as well as hearts and minds.
They have worked with Save the Children, Unicef and Mind, have helped create the new Girlguiding craftivism badge, as well as collaborating with Secret Cinema and V&A, amongst others.
For further details, visit www.craftivist-collective.com
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