YORK charity New Visuality has had the past, present and future of Acomb in its sights in Acomb: Time Traveller, a project funded by the Acomb Ward.
Twenty young people have been engaged in lifting the stones of their area and celebrating the history and hopes for the future found beneath “Acomb is a unique place,” says New Visuality director Greg McGee.
“From the get-go, you have the funeral of Roman Emperor Septimus Severus, a global event, in 211AD. The Pilgrimage of Grace, the north’s uprising against Henry VIII, started in Acomb. It’s always had a sense of autonomy, and despite some tough times, continues to celebrate what it is to march to the beat of its own drum.”
McGee points to the meeting hubs used by the team’s teachers and young participants. “Acomb Explore has excellent research and display facilities; Chill in the Community is the perfect place to discuss project plans and find out local stories from the owners,” he says.
Art Camp teacher Herve Ishimwe Ntwali at large in Acomb
“There are unique businesses such as Acorn Meats, which was very popular with the young artists; Joshua, for example, says they have the best pies in York! The history and the contemporary energy was easy to access, and easy for our teachers, Herve Ishimwe Ntwali and Arran Leith, to take photos and collect stories and bring them back to our art sessions. It’s very gratifying to see 20 young people respond with so much creativity to local stories captured in stylish, personalised ways.”
The sessions took place over the course of seven days in March and April as part of New Visuality’s award-winning Art Camp. Participants ranged from children from Acomb schools to learners from the Blueberry Academy, who responded to the art created by Acomb’s children with their own digital avatars.
“Funding always helps in that it secures places for Acomb’s children who would otherwise not come, due to economic circumstances,” says McGee. “I’ve been working with the Blueberry Academy for years, and the quality of support they offer to young people with learning difficulties is wholly excellent.”
Bringing together photography, innovative editing software and digital sketching, the burst of creativity has led to new Acomb artworks such as stylised posters, cartoon characters and online booklets. Posters have been exhibited alongside Specials ska-punk legend and Pop artist Horace Panter’s Beano characters at the According To McGee gallery in Tower Street and will be displayed in locations at this year’s ADAM (Acomb Dance Art Music) Festival on July 14 from 10am to 2pm.
Art Camp’s Herve Ishimwe Ntwali out and about with his camera at Acomb Green
Acomb schools were delighted to participate in the project. Michele Wall, deputy head teacher at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, says: “The sessions this year were an opportunity for our pupils to use cutting edge digital creativity which, due to economic realities, they would otherwise not have been able to enjoy.
“On every level, Art Camp is a fabulous opportunity. The children have been talking about their experiences and proudly bringing their artwork into school. They had a great time.”
McGee is pleased with the legacy left by the work. “We’ve got 20 young people with a renewed interest in their area and we have new stories for Acomb, with new characters and narratives,” he says.
“Sometimes the stories of a place are told by those with the loudest voices and most negative outlook. I like to think that, with the help of the Acomb Ward funding, we’ve helped balance that out with a little creativity and positivity.”